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The commercial interests of the time understood it better than they. Only because commerce - in what is in it that is most general and, consequently, most necessary - is addressed not to a so-called chosen élite, but to the widest possible human public. So it could see all the benefits it could obtain from the means that had been developed in response to the technical problem. It saw how the imagination of the masses could be seized by the wonderful appeal of new forms. So, necessarily, it adopted Cubism both in its intentions and in its technique. Today, while everyone continues to abuse Cubist painting, declaring it to have been a terrible mistake, they are all, everywhere, agreed in recognising that 'the aesthetic current that has transformed contemporary taste, was born in the context of proper artistic painting, though it really had nothing to do with it. Cubism is, in fact, at the origin of the whole of the modern style. But in the context of pure art, it is an obvious nonsense.' I take this quotation at random from a provincial newspaper where I read it recently - Lyon Républicain, 9th February 1928 - but it is the leitmotif that can be heard everywhere as soon as the aesthetics of what is called 'the modern' is under discussion. Thus, although they are compelled to admit what is blindingly obvious, they insist that what was the cause of it all was only a mistake. They drew a distinction between 'art', presented without any qualification, and that specialised field which is called 'pure art'; in other words, the life of the whole - real, popular life - is not true life. It is the negation of true life.

So. In all the various initiatives that are being undertaken wherever large scale commerce exercises its influence, Cubist painting is the only sort that can hold its own. The modern decorators are not yet fully conscious of the fact. But once an architect appears with sufficient spiritual force to again become the master of the whole work that he was in the past (and he will appear sooner or later, the age, whose whole cast of mind is in disarray, is already carrying the seed) he cannot, without compromising the unity of his idea, do other than to turn to the Cubist painters if he wants to introduce painting. So we can conclude that Cubism has broken through the barrier that was put up between art and that sort of painting that claimed to be more pure - easel painting. If there has been a mistake, it is a mistake on the part of those who still do not understand that, already, in the renewal of contemporary taste, the western world, wanting to renew its life, is beginning to change its cast of mind, the very shape of its way of thinking.



Such have been, up to the present day, the great changes undergone by what, around seventeen years ago, was called Cubism. The men whose names I have given did not, at that time, see the great importance of what they were trying to do; even less had they any notion of the consequences this effort would have, or that, in the end, it would escape out of their control.

Cubism, then, was not an exceptional event in the more or less continuous curve of the history of painting. Plenty of writers have tried to explain it, justifying it, or declaring it to be undesirable, according to their own particular fancy. Too much literature, good and bad, has flowed by on the subject without its real nature being clarified. The painters too have preferred justifying their own personal attitudes to admitting that, quite independent of their own capabilities, there was a world waiting to be rediscovered. Commercial interests, terrified of the prospect of bankruptcy, have told deliberate lies. But what do these details, the sort of detail that is inherent to life, matter? Life is not just a matter of conflict. It is also able to bring such conflicts to an end, and already Cubism, after long years of patience, is recognised as a living force. Life and the necessities imposed by the painters' technique have now joined together in rejecting aesthetics and 'pure art'.

The exhibition of Decorative Arts held in Paris in 1925 (26) clearly showed to what extent the perseverance of the Cubists had been rewarded. This exhibition proved the influence of the external appearances of Cubism in the relatively superficial field of utilitarian and commercial applications. Some day people will begin to realise that Cubism is more than just a matter of appearances, and then they will take the trouble to ask what are its principles. They will no longer be content with the final result as it appears in front of their eyes. When that happens, the foundations of a new esemplastic consciousness will have been laid. But I can only speculate on how the reconstruction of the world will then be undertaken.

(26) This was the exhibition that gave Art Deco its name.

Until that time, Cubism will continue its development. If, one after the other, the men who had the distinction of launching it are overcome by weariness, after battles which never seem to be decisive, there will always be younger elements ready to take their place. Already there are those who are bringing to it new strength and an equally fervent conviction (27).

(27) Gleizes has in mind in particular his own pupils - Ynaga Poznansky, Mainie Jellett, Evie Hone, Robert Pouyaud - and also the pupils of Fernand Léger, in the classes he held in Amédée Ozenfant's Académie Moderne. They included Marcelle Cahn, Otto Carlsund, Francizka and Thorvold Hellersen. All these 'younger elements' were included in the illustrations to Kubismus.

The great decorative painting which characterises all the religious ages followed the directives of the architect because those ages were aware of the need for construction. They were always realised on the basis of that idea of form whose existence the scholars of the romantic period suspected. That is why these were also the ages of the epic, the great song that draws the whole community along in its wake. The other periods of human history - those that resemble the period that followed our Renaissance - begin as soon as the world has come to the end of its period of growth, and is no longer capable of being moved by the epic spirit of adventure.


Serrières 1928
Le Rouge et le Noir, 1929

Reprinted in Albert Gleizes: Puissances du Cubisme, Chambéry (Eds Présence) 1969