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(a) Here we see how a craft which has its own, well-defined discipline, can be devitalised by literature, which makes of it nothing more than a sort of writing, which suppresses the evolution of form for its own advantage, which sees no more than the lowest common denominator given by the element of description. This is the drama that is staged in all societies when they are at the point of death. Once the evolution of form is exhausted, incoherent declamation and oratorical effects are given their head. The death of an old man whose last energies are concentrated with a remarkable force in cries and in lamentations that are all the more terrible because they are born from his inability to control what is happening around him - this is a powerful image by which we can understand the very same process when it takes place in the death of the group, macrocosm to the individual microcosm, a phenomenon that occurs on a scale greater than that which is familiar and known to each of us taken as individuals.

Literature, left to its own devices and to whoever takes a fancy to indulge in it, is the last means of expression available for the opinions of those civilised persons whose scholarly formation knows nothing else, and who have no idea of the authority that can be felt in a manual craft, which restrains the senses, disciplines them, adapts them to respond automatically to the Rule, and imposes upon them the relative but necessary measures of concrete reality. Painting, which is as much dependent on its own technical means as any craft, has believed itself to be a vehicle for description, and thereby became an offshoot of literature. Hence the naivety of those painters who seek and are flattered by the applause of littérateurs, whose incompetence is plain to see once the esemplastic work rises to the achievement of form in the conditions that are natural to it. Back


(b) I know of no study of works of art in which one feels that the meaning of this game of ebb and flow has even been suspected. Studies of this kind are usually written by men who know a great deal but who are lacking in culture with regard to the nature of form. So that a great mass of erudition merely serves to conceal the rigorous conditions of biology to which all the formations of the external world are subject, with works of art as simply their highest expression.

Understanding is also made impossible for other, more sentimental reasons. Instead of sacrificing everything to the truth, we often sacrifice the truth to momentaneous interests or opinions. It would, for example, be disheartening to have to admit that Catholicism today is coming to its natural end, and that the nation too has lived a complete cycle of existence. As we lack faith, we do not see how these two decrepit forms could possibly die to be reborn in the spirit. So, all studies of the evolution of works of art are obliged to celebrate the merits of immobility.

The origins of Christian art have been much studied since the 19th century. So far as I can see, in France, only Didron [8] has clearly identified the two aspects of Christian art - that before the 13th century, in which the spirit rules, and that after the 13th century, where matter becomes ever more oppressive. No-one apart from him has had sufficient freedom of spirit to search for the key to this phenomenon; and no-one at all has felt that it was essentially a matter of biological necessity.

The idea of form has only been imagined in immobility; not for a moment has anyone asked if it could perhaps be seen in mobility. So, the Past has always been judged on the basis of this current idea of form, considered as unique and definitive. To it, we have reduced what, because we do not understand it in its own nature, we have considered to be a mere groping about in the dark. Emile Mâle [9], the best and most sympathetic of modern scholars, is helpless when he has to explain the technique of stone-carvers and image-makers prior to the 13th century. He can see only the graphic influence of the manuscripts. And he is not the only one. The studies of these questions done by churchmen show to what extent the initial spirit of Christianity has lost its force. Since the days when the Old Testament and the New were bound together in a single volume, we have quite forgotten that what separates them is their two dissimilar characters - the first that can only be read in the immobile because it is divine in its nature, the second having to be read in mobility because it is human in its nature. Back

(c) I say that because it looks as though we shall have to revise the attribution of spirituality given to music and that of materiality given to the arts that are called plastic.

In the order of the evolution of the creative act, music is the nebulous state, while architecture is the accomplishment [10]. Architecture is infinitely more a spiritual expression than music, more mobile within itself, like a flame when it is compared to water. It is of the divine order because it gives the most complete idea of the present, that attribute that cannot be changed by time. Architecture is man contemplating the creative divinity in the finite and the infinite of His nature. The fact that the elect who are capable of this kind of contemplation are so few should at least give us grounds for thought when we see how the materiality of music touches men and animals alike so very easily. What Pythagoras has said on music proves nothing because at that time Greece was already passing into its immobile, materialist position; it was moving away from the mobile, spiritual youth that characterises the period prior to the 6th century BC. The Christian phase seen between the 5th and the 15th centuries will be a better guide. We must recognise the enormous importance attached at that time to the architect, master of his work, the builder par excellence. The whole hierarchy of the western world was structured by him. How many were the saints who were only raised to the dignity of their sainthood because they were architects. The decline of the architect was the mark of the decline of the Christian world. Back


(d) Unity, then, is not a property of that which we call space. Rather, it is more of the nature of what we call time. The picture in perspective is dominated by space, the form is fragmented because it is episodic. In those structures that are now going to be painted on the wall, the form will be determined by time. It will be complete because it will be developed in a framework with clearly defined limits. A bit of a landscape, a person seen passing by, only appear before us in a moment of space. The sun, the moon, a planet, or any of the stars, appear to us as circles because we are sufficiently far removed from them to be able to possess them in their nature as forms, in time. Up until the 13th century, form-time, circular in its nature, was a confirmation and application of the state of mind that had been taken up. It signified that mobility was the nature of man and of the world about him. After the 13th century, spatial form, perspective, more and more expressed the opposite state of mind. It signified that the immobile was going to be taken up as the basis for every act of reasoning.

The two words space and time have no absolute meaning. They are two words used for convenience.

No scientific system can ever pretend to arrive at any truth on the basis of these two words. They are two states of mind corresponding to two ways of feeling. If the reasoning is controlled by the senses, space emerges from their impressions which have been slowed down and which, for the moment, we will call immobile because we don't like to be difficult or to push our critical effort too far. If the intelligence controls the reasoning, time emerges from the successive interlinking that we will call mobile - which, with regard to life, is already a great improvement. Out of all this, two possibilities of formal realisation can be conceived. Form may depend on one of two positions - space, and time [11].

That is what seems to me so surprising (and what makes me admire the painters more and more the better I understand the problem) in the researches, intuitive at first but becoming more and more conscious, of the Cubists and Futurists of 1911. They were expressing an aspiration, whose tendency it was to totally overthrow the sense-based convention of spatial form and to replace it with that, whose legitimacy is already much more widely accepted nowadays, of the form required by the intelligence, ordered according to the nature of time.

No-one should imagine that in speaking this way we are abandoning the domain of painting. The idiotic character that is attributed to painting at the present time is merely a means of preventing it from developing esemplastically, according to its nature. If, instead of being one of the liberal professions, painting were once again to become a living force, the practice of a craft, invariable in its nature; if, instead of in state academies or independent schools, its principles had to be found through a hard apprenticeship in a workshop; if it hadn't been totally distorted by the literary arteriosclerosis that typifies the world about us - the natural end for the movement of the walking man to the seated man - then we would hear much less chatter about aesthetics, genius, sensibility, those figleaves of incompetence; the false idea of art for art's sake would wither away; painting would not even begin to be a temptation for that crowd of beings who are incapable of living a healthy, balanced life and who finish by believing themselves called upon to make sensational revelations because they do not understand the emotional disorders that are an inherent part of their weakness. Painting could thus once again become a noble craft, open to the intelligence, with its hierarchy, based on the value of each and everyone, in which each and everyone has a role to play according to their capacities. Everyone would have need of it, because the needs of men never change and never will change, even if they come to be perverted in old age. And, finally, I repeat that none of this is new and nothing can be gained by denying it or sneering. This has been in the past, and it will be again in the future. Back


(e) See how representational perspective leads to mechanisation. The image fixed in the camera box by photography is a result of an intellectual state that does not believe that the eye is capable of appreciating cadence. For a mechanical invention is never anything other than the concrete manifestation of a state of mind. There is nothing fortuitous about an invention, a discovery. They are something other than a mere means to satisfy needs or desires. In other circumstances, when the intellectual state was differently orientated, we had no need for the mechanical applications of which we are now so proud. Photography is the result of an idea that could only develop in an intellect that has forgotten movement, mistaking the effect for the cause. What is so very typical is that it was imagined by a painter. That painter working with his little invention was being far more original than plenty of painter-mechanics of our own time who are still using canvasses and colours. This invention took place at the beginning of the 19th century. It seemed to provide a scientific proof - what idiocies have been pronounced in the name of this credo ! - of the retinal image. Above all, it rendered insupportable the representational image, which was unreal, and often without any apparent resemblance to the real.

At the end of that 19th century that was so credulous with regard to the senses and yet still so fertile for the spirit, we see mechanics offering the eye, immobilised by the single perspective point, a strange, ingenious paradox of movement, making a succession of instantaneous images cleverly linked one with the other pass in front of its stupor. The cinematograph did not free the eye. It demanded yet more renunciation; it weakened its personal action, its organic autonomy; it wearied it and exhausted it, reducing it to a state of ankylosis. Representations, which had already replaced nearly all of our esemplastic activity, passed before it in the same way that the precarious state of sound passes before the ear, which cannot receive external impressions in any other way. In sum, the cinema works in a way that is quite contrary to the nature of the eye. The life of this admirable organ has been destroyed. It is like the little car that had to take the place of paralysed legs. It may be a mechanical wonder, which does their moving for them by means of an external impulse, but it has no possibility of bringing life - a movement - back to those inert organs. So, the cinema, with regard to the biology of the eye, is its last enemy. It could only ever have been conceived for an eye that was already totally impotent, and its industrial expansion at the present time is a morphine that will put a definite end to its existence as the INTELLECTUAL ORGAN, which is what it was called in the age that was that of the youth of the Christian group. Back



(1) 'Peinture et Perspective Descriptive' - the reader may like to bear in mind that wherever I use the expression 'representational perspective' , the original is always 'perspective descriptive'. 
(2) 'Plastique' is a crucial word in Gleizes' thought which I often translate using Coleridge's word 'esemplastic' - 'to shape into one'.
(3) For Gleizes' use of the word 'intelligence' and the distinction he draws between 'intelligence' and 'intellect' see e.g. Cubism and the General Culture.
(4) This word, used here in a derogatory sense, is used in a much more positive sense as the title of one of Gleizes' most important books.
(5) The expression seems a little odd. Gleizes may have in mind the passage in Augustine's Confessions in which, reflecting on time, he suggests that it is a function of consciousness: 'It seems to me, then, that time is merely an extension, though of what it is an extension, I do not know. I begin to wonder whether it is an extension of the mind itself.' (Book XI) 
(6) La Forme et l'Histoire, written shortly after the present text identifies what I assume is meant here by 'Latin' as 'Gothic'.
(7) Gleizes is here thinking particularly of the 'Nabis', Paul Serusier and Maurice Denis, and also perhaps of the Benedictine 'School of Beuron', all of whom practised, and argued in favour of, a simplified, hieratic, flat style of representational painting. 
(8) Presumably Adolphe Napoléon Didron (1806-1867), author of Iconographie chrétienne: Histoire de Dieu, Paris, 1843. Didron also published a translation of the 'Mount Athos Painters' Guide' by Dionysius of Fourna which Gleizes was to use at a later date. His son, Édouard Amedée Didron (1836-1902) was also an art historian, as well as an artist, specialising in stained glass. 
(9) Émile Mâle (1862-1954). Best known for his L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France, translated into English as The Gothic Image, Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century. Gleizes' La Forme et l'Histoire begins with a critical discussion of Mâle's way of understanding mediaeval art.
(10) This idea of an 'order' of plastic acts going from the most transient (dance, music, the spoken word) to the most permanent (painting, sculpture, architecture) is developed by Gleizes in his Cubisme: Essai de Généralisationand L'Inquiétude: Crise Plastique, both written in 1925.
(11) This will later become the basis for the distinction Gleizes will draw between 'figure', as the image in space, and 'form', which takes account of time.