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Albert Gleizes

The Problem of Light

An untitled exercise by Albert Gleizes, c1932, a time when he was researching 'cadences', the movement of colours round the rainbow, inspired by the pre-war achievements of Robert Delaunay.

'The Problem of light' is extracted from Gleizes's book Homocentrisme. Gleizes wrote Homocentrisme in 1935 and submitted it for publication to the journal Les Cahiers du Sud, a journal which covered a wide range of interests but was mainly known for its engagement with poetry and philosophy. Getting no response he wrote to the editor, Jean Ballard, who replied in December 1936, apologising for the delay and suggesting that while they could not publish the whole text they could publish a substantial extract on the subject of light. He suggested the title 'Le Problème de la lumière' and this appeared in the Cahiers du Sud in March 1937. Gleizes self-published ('Éditions Moly Sabata') the full text of Homocentrisme later in the year.

Ballard's explanation of why he could not publish the full text is interesting. He says that it had been circulated among the 'conseil des lecteurs' and 'My friends have given the most different opinions on this subject, depending on whether they belonged to the class of intransigeant agnostic minds or, like [the poet Joë] Bousquet, to that sort of mind that is inclined by a sympathy mixed with curiosity towards Ecumenism.' It is Bousquet who has suggested publishing the extract. He gives part of Bousquet's written advice and continues: 'Having got used through the tendencies of recent philosophy to not using the word 'mind' [esprit - word which covers both the English meaning of 'mind' and 'spirit'. Since the English word 'spirit' seems to me to have no meaning outside a very specific context I prefer the word 'mind'] with the meaning given it by theology, and which is more or less the meaning you give it, we have on the contrary the habit of seeing mind as an aspect of matter, or vice versa. This is the monist form of philosophic thinking, which is the one supported by science; you show it yourself in your essay [last phrase underlined by Gleizes with a written comment which unfortunately - very unfortunately! - I was unable to decipher]. This prompts me to avoid presenting our reader with the fundamental conclusion of your essay and on the contrary proposing to him a part whose argument is no less rigorous and which is probably what is essential in your text, I mean the whole part which has to do with the problem of light.'

I hope soon to put up a translation of the whole Homocentrisme but 'Le probleme de la lumière' was published as a separate essay in the collection Puissances du Cubisme, prepared for publication by Gleizes but only published after his death. This implies that Gleizes thought it useful in its own right, especially for the reader Ballard has in mind who is not situated in any particular religious world view.

From colour to light
A function of the mind
Three stages - space, time, eternity ...
... in the practise of a craft


The modern physicist
Particles and waves
Functions of the eye
The 'living experience of the rainbow'

The full text can be downloaded in Word format here