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Once we have understood the nature of these two techniques, we can begin to see many signs of such a process of change in the disorders suffered by that spatial technique which is still the basis of the instruction given to painters - to all painters, to those of an academic turn of mind as much as to the rest, to those who pretend not to like such methods and think they are free of them when all they have done is take a few liberties with respect to them. Certain small disturbances, more serious than they seemed to be at first, took place in painting throughout the nineteenth century. They appeared in the work of that century's best painters. A tendency to renounce the spectacular side of the painting in favour of craft values, to apply the colour according to scientific principles, to make of the painting an object, to raise easel painting up to the level of wall painting. All Cubism did in the twentieth century was to accentuate such indications at the same time as, helped on by circumstances, it became a possible means of realising the IDEA, still nebulous, which was striving to assume a positive form. An idea that implied everything that had been forgotten at the time of the Renaissance and which truly involved Man, in his totality, with his differing natures and his destiny. An idea that, in the compost of the spatial period as it rots, was to bring on the seeds of a new rhythmic period.

As far as the idea is concerned, the very first phase of the history of Cubism was of negligible importance. It was still casting sideways glances at Ingres, at Raphael, at the Renaissance. It was conformist and not moved by any very radical impulse. A twist of the helm and all eyes turn in another direction. Another phase begins, more interesting. Single point perspective comes under attack, the 'subjects' are divided and shown from different points of view. The painters begin to talk about the 'total image'(14) a vague intuitive awareness of the 'object'. Multiple perspective was in itself a protest against painting defined as an art based on space, that is to say, static. An aspiration towards mobility begins to appear and to appeal to the eye. The eye is required to enter into that collaboration which is necessary if it wishes to emerge from the torpor to which it had been reduced at the insistence of the single point perspective of the Renaissance; painting makes a legitimate claim to be regarded as an art of time. Without its having been consciously intended, is there not in this choice an analogy to be drawn with the multiple perspective which is regarded as an object of reproach among the painters of the fourteenth century? Starting with an understanding of time divided into cadences, the painters of the fourteenth century turned to a time divided according to natural appearances. The Cubists, starting with the static space of single point perspective, also turned, in order to break away from it, to a time divided according to natural appearances. A new phase was about to begin, a period of concentrated research into the OBJECT. Abandonment of images and attempts at a formal organisation using only the means afforded by the picture plane. Breaking up the plane into surfaces of different sizes reduced to geometrical forms. Sometimes certain indications of figures appear in this assemblage, obtained with the help of a few lines and several suggestive points. In the following stage what has just been acquired is accentuated. The means are perfected which eventually, will enable the realisation of the objective painting. First realisations of combined translations and rotations. The painters Juan Gris and Jean Metzinger are the first methodically to formulate their use. By the combinations to which they give rise we come back to the studies which I have just discussed of Villard de Honnecourt. The parallel is so clear that it struck visitors to the exhibition of manuscripts held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1937. I remember hearing someone exclaim in front of the sheets that were exhibited: 'Cubist drawings!' This remarkable similarity derives from the same state of mind. Villard de Honnecourt started from rhythm, but he did away with cadence - that is to say, with number; and so, to make drawings of the images and spectacles of nature which would appear to be logical, he passed through a stage in which he was interested in geometrical figures. The Cubists, going in the opposite direction, with a confused feeling that images did not hold the solution to the plastic problem - still at this moment searching blindly to make contact with the rhythm - reached those austerer regions of geometry in which the images of things seen in nature disappear.

(14) The term is used by Jean Metzinger in his 'Note sur la peinture', Pan, n° 10, Oct-Nov 1910.

I think that the transition from the spatial period to the rhythmic period has now been explained sufficiently clearly that there is no need for me to insist on it further. The signs can be seen in the conflict that is taking place between what belongs to the one and what belongs to the other. What occurred in the past is being repeated now in front of our eyes but in the opposite direction. And for any thinkers who are truly free there is material there for thought. Cubism, then, is something other than just a collection of painters. In it, there is AN IDEA which has been suppressed and which, since the nineteenth century, has been working its way through painting, attempting to emerge again into the daylight.

We could stop the history of Cubism at this moment at which translation and rotation have been formulated and applied methodically, since it is very shortly afterwards that the initial team breaks up for good. Cubism realised everything that it potentially embodied. That is a lot, but it is not enough. Neither for the idea, which is not yet sufficiently revealed, nor for the painters, who are not satisfied with translation and rotation. Their talent demands more. Since the commentators did not come to their aid, certain Cubist painters gave up and, by means more or less devious, returned to the image. All that was left of the researches in which they had engaged was a state of unbridled subjectivity. But there are many who will continue to serve the idea and, step by step, try to understand its requirements, willing, in order to do so, to dim the bright lights of their talent.



An element which will be called upon to play a role in the resolution of these problems has existed since 1913 - the rainbow. Robert Delaunay was the first to recognise its importance. Robert Delaunay, who died prematurely only two years ago, who has been thoughtlessly forgotten, and whose energetic temperament was better suited to colour than to the elaboration of form in drawing, painted since 1913, basing himself on the principles of the colour circle, canvasses in which rainbows danced and interwove with energy and vigour. Certainly, Delacroix, the Pointillists, the Nabis had seen the value of the colour circle, but they could only use it indirectly because they had to subordinate it to the spectacles and images of conventional drawing. Delacroix saw and understood what could be got out of it, plastically, by presenting it crudely, as the representation of a rainbow. The researches of the Cubists, being more intellectual and more abstract, could not be reconciled, above all at the point at which they found themselves at that time, with the exuberant turbulence of what was offered by Delaunay. That is why for ten years it seemed that no coming together was possible, neither for Delaunay nor for the Cubists. But as the possibilities of translation and rotation were developed, the need to go beyond them made itself felt.

Robert Delaunay: La femme à l'ombrelle (La Parisienne), 1913, size painting on card, 80.5x58.5 cm, Musée L'Annonciade, Saint Tropez

Once surpassed they turned into circular, concentric movements. And it was thus that what had long seemed irreconcilable came together by virtue of belonging to the logical development of FORM. On one side the development of Cubism properly so called, starting from the SUBJECTIVE picture space of the Renaissance, created by perspective, to finish with an OBJECTIVE picture space derived from the totality of relations between the extensions chosen ON the plane surface of the wall. On the other hand, Robert Delaunay's anticipation of the moment at which the aspirations of the translations and rotations could be resolved. The difficulties, which had seemed insurmountable, opposing what was sought for by the Cubists and what had been realised by Robert Delaunay, disappeared. Colour and drawing became inseparable. Static colour relations corresponded to the measures; their development round the colour circle corresponded to the cadences; and the rhythm found its fulfilment in light, of which the resonance was given by grey, the fullness of black and white. Through the rainbow, the cadences, liberated, were able to affirm the totality of their nature. Around the central construction, based on preparatory combinations of translations and rotations, they gave rise to a crown of concentric circular movements which achieved their realisation in the rhythm. The object is thus reconstituted in its integral nature. The idea has emerged into the daylight. We can now see it clearly. It is not new, even if it really and wholly constitutes a revolution. Revolution: revolvere - to change - to integrate - to restore. It is the key to understanding the rhythmic, ascending, religious, traditional epochs of human history. It stands in total opposition to the subjectivism of the spatial periods. (15)

(15) The technique summarised here is described in more detail in Albert Gleizes in 1934. See fn 3 above. 

Gleizes: Terre et ciel, 1935, oil on canvas, 145x145 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon (ex coll. André Dubois)

The crown of concentric circles which Robert Delaunay used with ingenuity and passion became the normal means by which the combinations of translation and rotation could be resolved; and this is the means by which painting can rise to the highest level of the rhythmic technique. The analogy with the glorioles and halos of the Christ in Glory at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe is flagrant, also with the spiralling undulations of the oriental sculptures of the earliest periods, and with the lines organised in successive waves that we find on the Celtic stones. In the course of its researches, Cubism, in the service of an idea, has shown clearly, in the different stages by which it has passed, in a way that is unquestionable and in an order whose validity is strikingly evident, the transition from the spatial - classical - technique to the rhythmic - traditional technique. Against a state of mind dominated by the senses it opposes a state of mind dominated by the spirit. The secret of the spiritual work lies in the rhythmic technique, not in the adoption of more or less stylised attitudes. It lies in the object not in the subject.

At the time when I wrote Painting and its Laws: What should come out of Cubism, it was still possible to entertain some illusions about the future of the West. Is it still possible today? Now that it is no longer only in the spheres of artistic and intellectual activity that the contradictions at the heart of the materialist, spatial principle are felt ?


The pursuit of the IDEA, which Cubism seemed the latest to embody, has not been in vain. It has produced a traditional, objective technique. Universal and religious, it can only hope to find its full application in the service of a community that, itself, has also recovered its traditional principles - the sense of the Divine, consciousness of the human, a knowledge of objective reality from which derives a right appreciation of measure, of cadence, of rhythm and of their practical applications; in a word, all the religious, Christian values. We are not yet there; but this is what seems to be prefigured in the convulsions with which the world is shaken at present. Let us have confidence and hope, despite the violence of the storm.

And while we are waiting, let us try to improve - by which I mean to realise ourselves as far as possible at the stage we have reached and with the means we have at our disposal. Painters who are persuaded that we have some parts of the truth, let us act in such a way as to increase them, through a work that is disinterested. The rhythmic technique has not yet been used as it could be. So far, we have gained little enough from it. We must continue and try our own experiments with it. For it is essentially human, from the fact that it allows us to realise the object, which is the whole man. To make is something other than to speak. To act and to comment on our impressions are opposites, as are form and the figure.

From an engagement of this sort, convincing works can emerge, varied according to the different gifts, knowledge and quality of the painters. As useful for himself as for those who, full of good will, look at them with the desire to enter into them. 'Enter into them' is certainly the word. We cannot keep our distance from such works as we are obliged to do with pictures based on perspective space. We are compelled, by the action of our sight, reclaiming its prerogative of movement, to follow the different directions they offer to the mind. The individual soul finds in them its own recollections and out of these are born meditation and contemplation. Measure, cadence and rhythm have more to offer the mind than the exterior, spectacular appearances which, speaking only to the senses, can only engage the lower intellectual and emotional faculties.

Before 1914, one of our most determined enemies, in a moment of particular lucidity, declared that the reason for his detestation was that he saw in us: 'the return of an ignominious spirituality'(16) I admit that at the time we derived no satisfaction from this remark. We had too many inhibitions with regard to any kind of spirituality. Now I am obliged unreservedly to admire our enemy's clairvoyance. I have so many reasons to forget that he intended it as an insult and to remember it as if it had been offered as a homage.

(16) 'Louis Vauxcelles in Gil Blas' - Note by Gleizes

                                                'Les Méjades', Saint Rémy de Provence,
                                                December 1943