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Braque and Picasso pushed this independence as far as it would go during the first period of Cubism, but, in their case, there is something more than just this movement in a direction that had been fixed since the time of the Renaissance. Their pictures were still deformations of an essentially descriptive and atmospheric base, but, as they reached the limits at once of the break-up of the image and also of the two dimensional geometry which held the work together, they began to touch something of a more substantial nature. They dared to introduce the papiers collés - different materials, sand, ripolin, imitation wood and marble, printed letters. This was a real challenge to the Renaissance cast of mind that had not been superseded merely because the external appearances of things were being expressed metaphorically. It was a development that really merited an outburst of indignation because, now, there was every reason to feel that the supremacy of the picture was being threatened. Yet it passed, if not unnoticed, at least unappreciated. Everyone, on the other hand, got worked up over the deformations of the descriptive image, which didn't do anything to compromise the future of painting such as it is conceived as much in the academy as it is by the independents. I would go so far as to say that, even now, people see nothing in Cubism other than these changes in the descriptive element, without being able to imagine what has already been achieved beyond them, on the other side. There, it is the solid ground of painting determined by its technique, form for its own sake, in its compete, real, esemplastic nature, that counts. But that was, and still is, too simple for minds for whom progress can only occur as a matter of increasing complications.

But, whatever people might say, it was these real elements - papiers collés, sand, imitation wood etc - that were the truly daring innovation. They compelled the development of an approach that was genuinely esemplastic and which, dependent as it was on the technical means employed, was inevitably bound to produce a return to the spirit of decorative painting. Builder's decorating, which requires only artisans with no 'artistic' aspirations, is all that remains, because it is indispensable, of the great decorative painting of the past. After the Renaissance, since wall-painting was no longer needed by architecture in its decline, it had to disappear and the little there was of it that was still indispensable, was done by ordinary workers who, deprived of the stimulus of any higher values, confined themselves to using only its most rudimentary technical means. What ambitions they had to rise above this level led them to emulate the artist-painters who had been completely divorced from them since the seventeenth century, in descriptive imitation, and so they developed methods for giving an illusory appearance of wood or of marble. That was itself another factor in the degeneration of the housepainter's craft. But, by introducing those modest imitative elements - these materials that were incontestably part of the technique of the craftsmen - into the picture, Braque and Picasso courageously began a work of regeneration (25). They broke with the prejudices that had so long kept the artist and the artisan apart from each other: the framed picture for the salons of a privileged class, large scale decorative painting for the masses.

(25) And there should be no mistaking the fact - it was Braque who, because of his origins, was the person really responsible for these very important initiatives. Picasso only borrowed what Braque had lived. What Picasso had lived was, alas, to return in all its glory in those intellectual works which give such pleasure to the literary people and snobs, to whom his truly great works are as inaccessible today as they were in the past. The son of the builder's decorator and the son of the teacher in an art academy have each revealed themselves according to their origins - that is what the proclamations of a publicity machine that has lost all restraint cannot hide from free spirits not yet completely abandoned by their common sense. [Note by Gleizes]



Metzinger, Delaunay, Léger and myself, more respectful than Braque and Picasso of a drawing that would be generally accessible, less willing to disappear into a metaphysical fog, attached a crucial importance to the verticality of the picture plane. Independently of that analysis of the descriptive aspect which occupied, and preoccupied us, we attached great importance to the general composition seen as a matter of construction. We wanted the spectator to have the impression of a whole, through the simple disposition of light and dark. The anecdotal side had, mercilessly, to give way before the organised painting. It seems that we didn't do too badly. The habit of seeing the painting only in the light of the story it had to tell was so strongly established that we were usually accused of being illegible. At the same time, we changed the generally accepted dimensions of the picture - the easel painting seemed to us to be too small given the dangers implicit in what we had undertaken. We needed a certain fullness in the surface space if painting was to become itself. This fullness undoubtedly imposed changes on our technique. The visible brushstroke, which had had its place in a small picture, became problematical in the expanse of a great canvas. We all struggled against the fluttering effect which it imposed on the painting. Delaunay even used size and wax, difficult techniques, incompatible with the small, delicate Cézannean brushstroke. Little by little, the notion of form was restored to the plane surface of the painting. Once again it became esemplastic, it learned how to be realised independently of the description of something other than itself in an illusory space. And so the technical means too had to correspond to the nature of the plane surface, free from all those complications into which they had been led by the cult of the picture - free, finally, to express an esemplastic reality that would be mobile, in response to the needs of the spirit - a reality of which any spectator, of whatever social background, or no matter what intellectual capacity, could become conscious through the intermediary of the eyes. A natural reality is not just the property of a few. It is given to everyone, and everyone, according to his faculties, can get something out of it. And this isn't a new idea. It is what lies at the bottom of the story of Orpheus, whose poetry touched animals and plants as well as men. So, the artist was giving way to the artisan, the picture was being subsumed in decorative painting, and that meant that metaphysics was being chased away by physics. The imagination was, once again, learning how to move.

All the Cubist painters managed to reach this stage, the stage of decorative painting. The means that they had to develop in response to problems of a purely technical order required the progressive elimination of the perspective - that poor stage manager whose only role was to provide a suitable setting for the descriptive element. But it takes such a long time to finally get rid of prejudices that most of the painters felt apologetic about the consequences of their researches instead of openly making a virtue of them. The contempt with which decorative painting was regarded was so great that that they felt ashamed, they, artists, to be associated with it. By one of those absurd non-sequiturs that are so characteristic of our time, everyone was full of praises for the great ages of art - ages which were dominated by architecture, and whose painting and sculpture were therefore entirely decorative; but this was not enough to persuade them that their scorn for decorative painting was merely a matter of habit. And I think they are still quite unconscious of the contribution they have made towards the return of an order that has once again become necessary, and that this is the reason why, by anticipation, they are great.