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Painting is painting.  It has its limits, and its nature obeys rules - rules which are general, and rules which are specific to its own sphere of jurisdiction.  The general rules derive from its humanity.  The rules which are specific derive from the painter.  Man and painting are related.  I think it is important to be conscious of the fact.  

Let man, and let painting, then, begin by knowing themselves and then, afterwards, they will be able to recognise each other, easily.  It is already a fine thing to be able to proclaim excellent intentions.  To banish the subject, then, is very commendable.  But we still have to pass from the negative to the positive, and that is where the difficulties begin.  The first step, from which all the others follow, is to know the direction that must be followed.  For that, we must know from whence we come and where we are, what we are, and why we are right intuitively to reject the subject.  I have tried in the course of this essay to bring some light to this debate, which, for the moment, appears to me to be very confused.  Am I wrong to assert that, once the subject is disposed of, it is painting as object  which comes back, once again assuming the control of its own destiny?  

I am sure that I am right, and my certainty is based on long experience.  I have long been a participant in this business of the elimination of the subject, which was not something that just occurred spontaneously, but was the normal result of a series of well-directed, scrupulous efforts, in which several, and not the least, of the painters of my generation played a part.  The young painters of today need to understand what these efforts mean and to retain from them what is of value.  That is what will enable them to go beyond the realm of good intentions and really to free themselves from the hold of the subject in its most dangerous form - subjectivism.  They will find, in what their immediate predecessors have discovered, all the elements they need to realise the object, which is painting.  What is left to them is the best part, the part which falls to those who follow the first explorers of new territories.  Even though these territories are not as new as they might seem!  It would be better to say - territories that had been forgotten and have once again been found.  

I have tried at the same time to stress the importance of those nineteenth and twentieth century painters who, following on from Delacroix, explored the foundations of painting which his genius had uncovered.  Leaving to others the task of studying their individual personalities, I have only been interested in asking of each of them what link he represents in the uninterrupted chain of discovery that has led to the needs of the present day.  That, to my mind, is the most truly human part that each of them has played, much more important for the lasting value of their work than those accidents that appear on the surface, which may be more seductive in the eyes of the chroniclers, but which can only be of any profit if they are placed strictly within the solid context of the craft.  

Painters who truly desire to build painting - the object as opposed to the subject - on something other than sand, have more to gain than they can possibly imagine from considering, freely, what has been done in the past - a past which, in reality, is still very much with us.  We never part from zero.  It is only through the purest naïvety that we can imagine otherwise.  It is much better to clear the ground which is already available to us and to accept, joyfully, what we have in common.  Above all, when it is good and true.  That can save us a lot of time lost wandering about in the darkness of the ruins.  We quickly learn how to orientate ourselves and to know where we are coming from and where we are going.  

Nor have I hesitated to affirm the two necessary conditions of painting, translation and rotation, which, since painting is essentially a manifestation of the eye, derive from the nature of the eye, once it too has renounced the subject to form the object.  I refuse to regard the painter as someone who is, by definition, crazed, even though this sort of abdication of responsibility has, against all reason, been called for in the name of our sensibility and personality.  That is why I have thought it would be useful to insist on the two distinct natures of rest and of movement.  I have only wanted to help the man become painter to acquire a little consciousness of himself, of his own reality, so that, knowing himself, he may be able, through work and through perseverance, to be free in his act.  Of course, one can never know oneself sufficiently.  One is never entirely master of what one does, and the most premeditated work always holds surprises and imponderables.  And then this constant aiming at perfection, which never, during his whole life, gives the artist any rest, is it anything other than the imperious, underlying need to go beyond himself?  And can that be done otherwise than by constantly renewed efforts to realise in consciousness what exist only as potencies, virtualities, in the unconscious?  

To conclude, I wish to say again how great is my admiration and my respect for the giants of the classical mode.  They were of their time.  If, today, we turn away from them, it is because the state of mind which they embodied has run its course.  The atom, and the general decomposition that surrounds us, can leave us in no doubt on the matter.  'One does not carve rotten wood' is a Chinese proverb.  Let us think of other things, pass on to what alone can bring about the return of forms that are of the nature of life.  Let us be seeds, infinitely small as they are, but nature naturing and real presence.  Let us not say, when we want to try to affirm that we are real, 'I think therefore I am'.  Let us simply affirm our reality by saying 'I am', and let us grow through the conjugation of the verb in action: 'I was, I will be'

And, painter, let painting be for us and for others, a witness of this active reality.  Turning away from the subject, which is only an illusion, let us, determinedly, bring forth, out of our own material being, the object.

Les Méjades  St-Rémy-de-Provence  October 1948