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So, between 1911 and 1914, Cubism evolved from the notion of form based on volume to the notion of cinematic form which breaks, once and for all, the perspective unity of the Renaissance.

Robert Delaunay even had the intuition of a synthetic form which would replace the form which remains static and fragmentary, whether it is shown in perspective unity or in a multiplicity of points of view. Of course he is still in space, he is still too visual, of that there is no doubt; he is too much dominated by the play of sensory impressions but, nonetheless, he suspects the existence of something new; he begins to touch it, he proclaimed it aloud in his Disques Simultanés. And that seems to me to be profoundly moving nowadays, when I believe that I have good reasons for understanding what I could not grasp then. In saying this, I shall probably surprise many people who think of Robert Delaunay as he is today, once again seduced by the descriptive image. So much the worse for them if they cannot recognise that Delaunay in 1913 announced the end to which Cubism was working. As for myself, I admit that the more I deepen my understanding of the problem of form posed categorically by Cubism in 1911, the more Delaunay's work reveals its worth. And that is why I conclude, freely, that among all of us at that time, it was he, sustained solely by gifts of the first order and by his own abundant high spirits, who came closest to the truth.

Behind that exuberance of colour, beneath this fondness for monotonous discs, beyond all that vulgar modernism, there was the longing for heaven, for what Mallarmé calls l'azur; the vision of plasticity in time, complete, definitive, circular, astronomical. Delaunay played with suns and moons like an amazed child. And I am delighted now to be able to find this work already established behind us, incomplete perhaps, but nonetheless big with the future because it was free-spirited and adventurous.

What Delaunay had to contribute could not, at that time, have been used by anyone other than himself. He was ahead of his time because he had no reason for restraint. To open the window to let the light flood in was a reckless thing to do. Immediately the representational elements of the analysis of form were consumed and a new form, unknown and still, for the rest of us, inadmissible, began to turn, freely. The immobile had been changed to mobility.

We were still attached to the representational image. We cut into the form, the different angles from which it could be seen, the perspective. The object turned in our hands, we turned round it. We were tortured by this mystery of form. Delaunay had no worries of this kind. The object - he saw it as being like something that turns (11). We could not agree with him, with an idea of plasticity of this kind, all the more because he was still unable to free himself from a certain atmospheric effect, he tended even to exaggerate it. However, I repeat that he saw, all at once, an esemplasticity that was something radically new; or, rather, he announced the return of an esemplasticity that had only been known to certain periods of the past whose cast of mind was the opposite of that which none of us was yet able to renounce. And without such a renunciation no clear understanding is possible - exceptional intuitions have no future; the most painstaking work of analysis will for ever be in vain.

(11) Later, in, for example, the unpublished second part of La Forme et L'Histoire, Gleizes would insist on the etymological definition of the word 'Universe' as the 'one that turns'.

To sum up, here is what seems to me to emerge unquestionably from this pre-war period:

On the one hand painters like Braque and Picasso, to whom we should add Juan Gris, living and travelling apart, already fallen into the hands of the picture dealers. They had passed through the analysis of volume, the analysis of the object (12), and were beginning to touch the plastic qualities of the flat surface, the material of painting as it is, independent of anything else.

(12) The word object here signifies the external appearances of the thing represented. Later Gleizes would insist that this should only be referred to as the subject. The object is not something that the painter is copying but the real thing with which he is engaged in the act of painting, i.e. the painting itself.
On the other hand, in the breach, engaged in the battle, Jean Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Fernand Léger and myself, taken up with a research into weight, into density, volume, the dissection of the object; studying the dynamism of lines; beginning to sense the importance of the real nature of the plane.

Robert Delaunay, finally, insufficiently disciplined to linger over such analytical researches, but possessing an exact intuition of what the destiny of Cubism was to be.



Between 1914 and 1918, there was the war, and the dispersal of the painters. But it obliged a work of profound reflection which would contribute to the constitution of that new cast of mind opposed to what is still the predominant cast of mind - a new cast of mind, necessary prerequisite for any really fundamental change. For its part, through the continued development of its technical means, Cubism was enabled to arrive at certain important truths. It became obvious that the flat surface was itself to be the starting point for the painted work. The word plastic which, up until then, had been thought to be exclusively to do with volumes in space - whether real, as in sculpture and architecture, or reduced to trompe l'oeil, as in drawing and painting - evolved a more solid and definite, palpable meaning. It began to correspond to the real nature of the senses. It appeared that, in the end, it depended not on a support that was purely intellectual but on the support of those materials that correspond to the direct, immediate experience of the senses - materials on the basis of which form, changing the directions of its movement, will change its dimensions (13). The meaning which plasticity had lost when it believed itself to be inseparable from imitation, and from the perspective mechanism which conditions it, was found again, thanks to the simple recognition of the raw plastic material which the painter has at his disposal - the flat surface.

(13) 'La forme, modifiant ses directions, modifiait ses dimensions'. The explanation of this comes in Gleizes' Essai de généralisation which includes a lengthy discussion of the emergence of the three dimensions from a point changing direction - to line, to plane, to volume. Gleizes, arguing at once against the fake three dimensions of the representational picture and also the attempt to evoke a multidimensional space, proposes that the new painting will incorporate time which, far from being a fourth dimension, is of a nature altogether different from that of space. 

Men like Jean Metzinger and Juan Gris wanted to find true, solid rules - rules which could be generally applied - on the basis of aspirations which were still unsure and ill co-ordinated. They did more than anyone else to fix the basic elements. Painters who had been there right from the beginning, it was certainly they who were able, before anyone else and better than anyone else, to fix the first principles of the order that was being born (14).

(14) The association of Gris and Metzinger is very important. Gris may have admired Picasso more than he admired Metzinger, but there can be no doubt that his own practice was closer to that of Metzinger and that, in the initial stages (Gleizes is generous in saying that Gris was 'there right from the beginning'), he was following Metzinger's lead.

I have often said what I think about these two men. Gris' importance goes far beyond the apparent frigidity of his paintings - consequence of his refusal to use the subterfuges of talent to gloss over the things of which he was ignorant. But everything he knew he said, clearly, and his work is a rich source of lessons for young painters who cannot, if they have any respect for the craft they have chosen, believe that painting is at the mercy of irresponsibility masquerading as genius, a mere cover for incurable intellectual laziness. Gris has set, for the conscience of the craftsman, the noblest example I know. His example is the proof that painting will deliver its secrets only to those who approach it after having committed themselves, internally, to a vow of patience. Gris did not work with the ease of a virtuoso. He always had difficulty in the construction of his paintings; he was not a great colourist, able to manipulate the subtle games of nuance. But what an intelligence he had, what knowledge, what wisdom, what prudence.

Simultaneously with Gris, Jean Metzinger, whose limpid intelligence I was able to appreciate when we wrote Du "Cubisme" together, worked, with great erudition and with remarkable precision, to lay the foundations that are indispensable for the true technique of painting. The others - and I assure you that I include myself among them - continued their researches in an empirical fashion, with successes or failures depending on greater or lesser degrees of talent or good luck. But Metzinger, clear-headed as a physicist, had already discovered those rudiments of construction without which nothing can be done. I affirm that in a spirit of perfect freedom, taking no account of the generally accepted version that has been devised by interested parties and spread by the thousand incoherent elements that go to make up the main currents of public opinion. I wish to establish the true history of Cubism whose beginning was not a matter of mere chance, something dependent on a throw of the dice, but clearly linked to that revaluation of all the values of whose absolute necessity no-one in these days can be in any doubt.



For that very reason, then, I have to say something about the intrigues which have succeeded in substituting for the true history of Cubism an apocryphal version which is principally calculated to satisfy the needs of the old cast of mind, the one that is disappearing, to comfort it with the illusion that it still has some life in it.

During those terrible years which followed each other, one after the other, between 1914 and 1919, the representatives of Cubism were dispersed and tormented by thoughts of what the future might hold, and Cubism itself was condemned by the means that were typical of the time - the pressure of patriotic calumnies (15). Under the circumstances, it was unable to resist the advances that were made to it by the fashionable world, the world of snobbery (16). It thought, perhaps, that by accepting such patronage, it could ensure its continued existence. One after the other, the Cubists moved into the artificial world of those circles where, more and more, money was becoming the sole possible title of nobility. And Cubism could be said to have 'arrived' if, reduced to a mere matter of individual fantasy, it had no other end in view than the realisation of a successful career.

(15) An account of this 'patriotic' wartime campaign against Cubism is given in Kenneth Silver's book, Esprit de Corps, which, however, gives a highly distorted view of Gleizes, presenting him as having surrendered to the patriotic fever of the time.

(16) The main representative of this 'world of snobbery' making advances to the Cubist painters was Cocteau. Cocteau was godson to Jules Roche, Mme Gleizes' father, and had come to know Gleizes, through the still unmarried Juliette Roche, prior to the war. Mme Gleizes claims that it was Gleizes who aroused Cocteau's interest in Cubism. There is an important wartime correspondence between them, Gleizes painted Cocteau's portrait, and they planned together a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to be performed by the Medrano Circus in Paris. Gleizes in his Souvenirs speaks affectionately of Cocteau but on his return to Paris in 1919 he was deeply upset by the nature of the influence Cocteau was exerting in artistic circles and broke off all contact with him, to the extent of insisting that if his wife, Cocteau's childhood friend, did not also break off contact he would leave her. This was the more remarkable since at that time friendship with Cocteau - and Cocteau certainly wanted to remain friends with Gleizes - was an important means of achieving social and commercial success.

I do not want to expand on the quick role-changes assumed by particular individuals. I only want to focus the public's attention - inclined as it is to wander - on the circumstances, in the hopes of helping people to understand what followed.

The enthusiasm snobbery was showing for the obscure, unintelligible side of Cubism (though it turned against it almost as soon as it had taken it up) naturally roused the interest of the commercial world, who began to see in it a possibility of expanding its normal activities. Like the manufacture of guns and of poisoned gas, Cubism excited an appetite for wealth. But it was a rather more delicate investment. The unstable character of the world of the snobs had for a moment conjured up an illusion in the minds of the businessmen but, almost immediately, they were disappointed. The money invested did not give a quick enough return. Apart from some gullible nouveaux riches and certain professional collectors, the necessary clientèle did not emerge. Stocks built up and stayed in the vaults and back rooms. The international organisation of the commercial exploitation of works of art was opposed, fundamentally and morally, to the Cubist venture. It decided that Cubism had to be given a meaning which harmonised with its own interests, present and future. It explained it, managed it, obliged it to accept the return of everything against which it had struggled from the moment when it first appeared (17). With the comforting arrival of peace, the world of the snobs which, only a few years previously, had only been interested in the worst confections of the academy, and which had only taken Cubism up by chance, now returned to its true self and the moment was not far off when an academic art, adapted to modernity - that is to say, with all its own virtues systematically sabotaged - could be offered to it with some prospect of success.

(17) For Gleizes, the problem had been posed long before his engagement with Cubism. In 1906, he had been one of the founders of the Abbaye de Créteil, a community of artists trying to secure their independence from the pressures of economic necessity. On his return from the US after the war he attempted to establish an artists' union that would strengthen the independence of the artist in relation to the dealer. In 1927, Gleizes took up the idea of the Abbaye again with 'Moly Sabata', in Sablons, in the Rhône Valley.

These tendencies were greatly intensified in the period immediately following the war. The growing authority of all sorts of dealers, the more and more irresistible process by which all the values of the spirit that could not be turned into money were discredited, the insecurity of life taken as a whole, which made any long work requiring patience impossible - these reasons and many others have produced the apparently incredible state of affairs which prevails at the present time, which everyone complains about though they do not dare to try to account for it as it is. During the war, instead of keeping offstage and manipulating political puppets whose role would have been to give an appearance of decency to the work of robbing the public purse, the speculators had taken over the ministerial seats themselves so as better to be able to follow the course of their affairs. After the war, the same thing happened in the field of works of art.

When will the interests - all too obviously commercial - which claim the right to control the arts be called to order? As they wish they give such and such a turn to events, and the undiscerning public swallows it. They act like sedatives on the conscience of the young artists and like stimulants on those who buy. These last few years, an astonishing degree of cynicism has been reached, and the propaganda means employed pass all imagining. Dealers write, often under pseudonyms, with the purpose of deceiving the reader, books and articles to vaunt the merits of the merchandise they hold; they run so-called art reviews which are no more than catalogues for their shops; they form partnerships with papers, with reviews, through publicity contracts, in order to give a glossy appearance to their goods in their quest after buyers. The critics, with very few exceptions, are in their pay. With the complicity of a state that is overwhelmed in debt and which closes its eyes so long as it is given its share of the spoils, the markets are falsified by a speculation on works of art which imposes the fantasy of fictitious bids to push up the prices in the public sales (18).

(18) Gleizes had only recently had some experience of this, when Léonce Rosenberg, whom Gleizes found the most sympathetic of the art dealers, offered to push up the price of his pre-war painting La Chasse, which was coming up for auction. Gleizes replied that he rather wanted to buy it himself and therefore wanted the price to be as low as possible. The reference to dealers who 'write, often under pseudonyms, with the purpose of deceiving the reader, books and articles to vaunt the merits of the merchandise they hold' is probably aimed at Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler whose influential book Der Weg zum kubismus was written under the (not very heavily disguised) pseudonym, Daniel Henry.

The result is that a set of historical circumstances as easily verifiable as those which accompanied the rise of Cubism remains unknown to writers who, whether out of ignorance or idleness, act as agents for these daring entrepreneurs. What books have been written on Cubism during these past few years have - perhaps without the author's being aware of the fact - been dominated by the influence of the galleries and the bulletins of the public sales because that is where they have gone to look for their information; when it would have been just as easy to have gone to the Bibliothèque Nationale to consult the still hardly yellowed collections of newspapers from 1910, 1911 and later, to have a real documentation on this historical movement that is so important,

It must be said: the continual changes of direction that have taken place since 1919 in the world of art have done nothing more than record the panic of the galleries. The artist who, more than anyone else, should be above considering the needs of economic competition, has, unconsciously, lent himself to all sorts of manoeuvres for pushing prices up. The artist's attitude towards the dealers is disturbing. The dealer demands and obtains an absolute obedience. They are cruel ages, those in which the traffic of goods becomes the only reason for living. Already the confusion is enormous - what will it become if no-one is willing to condemn this trafficking in the works of the spirit.