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Mme Gleizes on Poznanski

It is more or less at this point that Poznanski appears on the scene. Although Gleizes had announced that solid principles now exist that could be taught, he himself was not much inclined to be a teacher. He never taught in any of the 'academies' that had sprung up in Paris providing a useful income to painters making a precarious living. At the end of 1921, however, two young Irish painters - Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett - appeared on his doorstep and insisted that they wished to to be initiated into the principles that he had announced in Du Cubisme et les moyens de le comprendre. Gleizes reluctantly gave in to them. According to Gleizes's wife, Juliette Roche, the very next day, as soon as he learned that Gleizes was taking pupils, Poznanski rushed to Gleizes's studio in Puteaux (a suburb of Paris) to join them.  

A very short piece in the memoirs of Mme Gleizes is the best source I have for Poznanski. She says that she had known him before the war 'around 1912. He was then twenty years old and lived alone in Paris in a large mansion ('hôtel') that he had decorated himself with a sense of fantasy that was entirely Polish and the most exquisite taste. At that time he was a young oriental prince, madly in love with the fashions of the time ('follement mondain') and ostentatious but gifted with a considerable "slavic charm" and greatly in demand in Paris, in Rome, in Berlin, in London.'

Mme Gleizes - Juliette Roche Gleizes - came from a very different circle from that of Gleizes himself. 

Her father, Jules Roche, was an important figure in French politics, a minister in nearly all the governments of the Third Republic in the period leading up to the First World War. Her memoirs describe meetings and conversations with Aristide Briand, Churchill, Wilhelm II. Her world was the world of Marcel Proust, literally so. She had been from childhood friends with the Comtesse de Greffühle and Robert de Montesqiou, often seen as models for Proust's Duchesse de Guermantes and Duc de Charlus, though Juliette Roche thought Proust's characters were slanderous distortions of the originals. She had also been childhood friends with Jean Cocteau - Jules Roche was Cocteau's godfather. She was herself a painter but she had been formed not among the Cubists but among the 'Nabis' - she had been friends with the painters Odilon Redon and Felix Vallotton.

It is easy to see Poznanski - this young, ostentatiously wealthy Jewish-Slavic aesthete as part of this world. She says that he worked during the war as a male nurse ('infirmier') 'with plenty of devotion and courage.' This could also link him to the 'beau monde' of the time. Another of Juliette Roche's friends was the high-flying socialite Misia Godebska, who organised an ambulance service at the beginning of the war.  Frederick Brown's biography of Cocteau gives an amusing account (he says 'Cocteau's nursing outfit was designed by Paul Poiret', the very fashionable couturier) but he also says Cocteau behaved heroically and both he and Misia Godebska were made fully conscious of the horror of the war. Another ambulance corps, also involving Cocteau, was organised at the end of 1915 by the Comte Etienne de Beaumont who, through Cocteau's influence during the war, became a major patron of Picasso. I must stress that the suggestion that Poznanski may have been involved in either of these ventures is pure speculation on my part.

Mme Gleizes describes Poznanski as 'a sort of saint who could not see anyone in the slightest difficulty without flying to their rescue.' She says that when she joined up with him again after her return to Paris 'he was still just as delightful ('séduisant'), installed with his mother in a fine apartment on the Champ de Mars, surrounded by valuable pieces of furniture and rare things, just as sociable as before but above all Christian, obsessed with a need to save everything that could be saved and to bring a world that still called itself Christian back to Christianity. He became very enthusiastic about Albert Gleizes's ideas and his art and the two became excellent friends.'

She does not tell us under what circumstances Poznanski converted to Christianity but she does say that he was a Third Order Dominican. Gleizes had converted to Christianity in New York towards the end of the war, though it was not until much later that he developed any very formal commitment to the Church. It should be said that at this time, when Poznanski was, so Mme Gleizes says, 'enthusiastic about Albert Gleizes's ideas', Gleizes was writing articles sympathetic to the Russian revolution in the left wing journal Clarté and was also involved with a small group called 'Les Veilleurs', whose religious concerns were more inclined to esoteric philosophy than to mainstream Christianity.