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Old 05-02-2012, 06:13 PM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger
(Artist of the Month)

Jean Metzinger, photograph published in 1913, Les Peintres Cubistes, by Guillaume Apollinaire

Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), was a French artist, painter, theorist, writer and poet. His early works, from 1902 to 1904, were influenced by the Neo-Impressionism of Georges Seurat and Henri Edmond Cross. Between 1904 and 1907 Metzinger worked in the Divisionist and Fauve styles. From 1908 he was directly involved with Cubism; both as a leading artist and principle theorist. Metzinger, following Picasso and Braque, was chronologically the third Cubist painter. He was a founding member of the Section d'Or group of artists, and together with Albert Gleizes, wrote the first major treatise on Cubism in 1912.

This year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Du "Cubisme": Thus Metzinger's Artist of the year designation, something that should be shared with Albert Gleizes (for whom an invitation to present here I would gladly accept).

Metzinger was in many ways an exemplary avant-gardist: intellectually acute, athirst for originality, culturally elitist and ambitious. It will be shown that these various factors coupled with his early interests in mathematics (geometry especially) impelled the novel approach visible in these early works. He is best known for his contributions to modern art as a member of the Cubist movement; less known for his contributions made to modern art prior to the development of Cubism. For this reason I have payed particular attention to the period of his work extending from 1904 through 1908; his Neo-Impressionist, Divisionist and Fauve phases, directly preceding Cubsim. Indeed the geometric fracturing of both color and form that would soon be associated with Cubism is observed in his pre-Cubist paintings, and can be extracted from the few words attributed to Metzinger circa 1907. In another way, the intelligence, sensitivity and lucidity displayed throughout the artists Cubist period (and indeed reflected in his writings) was already present in the early works, as too, it will be shown, in his Post-Cubist works, which include those later works that followed until the end of his life (also emphasized below).

By 1908-1909 Metzinger experimented with an extreme fracturing of form characteristic of Cubism, and soon thereafter with complex multiple views of the same subject ('mobile perspective'). In 1910 Metzinger's style had transited to a robust form of analytical Cubism. (See Joann Moser, Pre-Cubist works, 1904-1909, and Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press).

Included are some of Metzinger's works from his Cubist period, especially those produced during the crucial years, roughly 1909-1914, and others leading up to 1919. Between 1920 and 1924 his intent had changed as he transited from Cubism to a form of painting that was Neo-Classical yet highly stylized. But his return to lucid representation did not mean a return to nature approached naturalistically. Metzinger himself, writing in 1922 [published by Montparnasse] claimed quite confidently that this was not at all a betrayal of Cubism but a development within it. (Christopher Green, Cubism and its Enemies, Modern Movements and Reaction in French Art, 1916-1928, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1987. See also Jean Metzinger, 'Tristesse d'Automne,' Montparnasse, 1 December 1922, p. 2). Metzinger's brief neoclassical period (between 1922 and 1924), often overlooked by critics, is also highlighted below.

From 1924 to 1930 Metzinger's work developed in parallel with the 'mechanical world' of Fernand Léger. Throughout these years Metzinger continued to retain his own marked artistic individuality (as he had always), with firmly constructed pictures, brightly colored and visually metaphoric works, consisting of urban and still-life subject-matter, with clear references to science and technology.

Following the mechanized paintings of the late 1920s, until his death in 1956, Metzinger turned towards a more classical approach to painting with elements of Surrealism and Cubism; the artist was evidently still concerned with questions of form, volume, dimension, relative position and the relationship between elements, along with ethereal geometric properties of space. Several works from this period (which saw him involved with a voluptuous Greek woman by the name of Suzanne Phocas) are reproduced below. The works of this period—perhaps to a greater extent than his Neo-Impressionist paintings leading up to 1908—have been imprudently neglected by critics, curators and art historians. It is shown below why such neglect is imprudent. By placing emphasis on both Metzinger's pre-Cubist period and works realized from the 1930s onward, it emerges that the artist was indeed an innovator throughout.

Following his Neo-Impressionist, Divisionist and Fauve period (1902 to circa 1907) to the year of his death in 1956 Metzinger worked in a Cubist style with epochal deviations into geometrically experimental forms of classicism, and otherwise, unlike others of his entourage, never found that Cubism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

A note on the dates: Very few painting by Metzinger are dated. In may cases the dates are suggested via exhibitions. Metzinger's Portrait of Delaunay (reproduced in black and white below) was exhibited at the 1906 Salon d'Automne in Paris, for example, leading to the belief that it was painted in the spring or summer of 1906. Adding to the difficulties, as Metzinger's dealer Berthe Weill pointed out, he changed his painting style frequently at the time. (David Cottington, Cubism and its histories, p. 61).

For the sake of convenience and time, some of the text that accompanies the images below comes from the Jean Metzinger Wikipedia article and references therein, along with the State of the Modern Art World: The Essence of Cubism and its Evolution in Time, from which much of the Wikiepedia text was extracted.

Another point to make: I have not hesitated to add a statement, critique, or opinion (personal material) beneath each of the images below, something which I was not able to do in writing the Wikipedia article, where all material must be sourced and neutral. For this reason I have taken great pleasure in writing this document, which is, as far as I've been able to find, the first in-depth glimpse to be found online of Metzinger's work spanning his entire career as an artists (with several works that appear for the first time on the Internet, and other images rarely found).

Also, as a further commemoration to the artist, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Du "Cubisme" (and as a backup source) an expanded version of this document will be placed online in the form of a blog: Jean Metzinger, Divisionism, Cubism and Post Cubism

I would like to thank ~JON (Wetcanvas Administrator) for extending the invitation to participate as a presenter of 'Artist of the Month' in the Abstract and Contemporary Forum.

Jean Metzinger
Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism, Fauvism

Jean Metzinger, 1904, Landscape, oil on canvas, 54 x 65.1 cm, The Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Following the early death of his father, Jean Metzinger pursued interests in mathematics, music and painting. By 1900 he was a student at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, working under Hippolyte Touront, a well-known portrait painter who taught an academic, conventional style of painting. Jean Metzinger, however, was interested in the current trends in painting.

It is unclear whether Metzinger made the trip to Paris in 1901 to see the van Gogh retrospective exhibition. However, it would not be unlikely that Metzinger was already familiar with the work of van Gogh. Following his first exhibitions in the late 1880s, van Gogh's fame grew steadily among art critics, dealers, collectors and artists. After his death in 1890, memorial exhibitions were mounted in Brussels, Paris, The Hague and Antwerp.

This landscape—which at first appears closer to Metzinger's 1907 style—bares a date, unlike many others. There exists the possibility that it was signed and dated on the verso at a later date. If indeed this painting was realized in 1904 it would be quite significant, for the influence of Paul Cézanne is quite visible, as well as that of van Gogh (though less than his 1902-1903 works, not reproduced here). Recall that avant-garde artists in Paris began reevaluating their work in relation to that of Cézanne primarily form 1907 onwards, following exhibits of his works at the 1906 Salon d'Automne, and especially after two commemorative retrospectives that followed his death in 1907. There was, however, a retrospective of Cézanne's paintings that had been held at the Salon d'Automne of 1904; the year this painting by Metzinger was executed (again according to the date inscribed). Metzinger too exhibit in the 1904 Salon d'Automne, as he had in the spring of that year at the Salon des Indépendants. Metzinger's early interest in the work of Cézanne (prior to 1907, and indeed prior to 1905), suggests a means by which Metzinger made the transformation from the Neo-Impressionism of Henri Edmond Cross and Georges Seurat (from whom his 1903 painting owe a debt) to a highly personalized form of Divisionism, evident in this work and others that lead up to 1907, before the advent of Cubism. In recognizing the significance of Cézanne early on, Metzinger was already a precursor, favoring the abstract qualities of larger brushstrokes, vivid colors and the peculiarities (at the time) of non-Euclidean geometry; something increasingly visible in his painting of the following year.

Something had only just begun.

Jean Metzinger, 1904, Le Chemin à travers les champs, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm, private collection

Much as the Ackland Landscape, Le Chemin à travers les champs pays tribute to the work of Cézanne: broad omnidirectional brushwork, flattening of perspective, geometrically simplified, sphericity, overlapping planes, and an overall abstraction of subject matter.

Already under the influence of Cézanne (known as the father of modern art) in 1904, Metzinger had arguably anticipated works such as Bäume (Arbres) (Trees), by Georges Braque, 1908, and related works considered a proto-Cubist (such as Houses at L’Estaque and Le Viaduc à l'Estaque).

Metzinger sent three paintings to the Salon des Indépendants in 1903, and subsequently moved to Paris (123 rue Lamarck, Montmartre) with the proceeds from their sale. Following from the relative success of his entries at the Salon, he supported himself as a professional painter from then on. He exhibited regularly in Paris from 1903, participating in the first Salon d'Automne the same year and taking part in a group show with Raoul Dufy, Lejeune and Torent, at the gallery run by Berthe Weill. At this time, the dealer Georges Thomas, known as Père Thomas (whose prestigious Parisian gallery was located on the foothills of Montmartre, Boulevard Rochechouart), was greatly interested in Metzinger's work. (Jean Metzinger, Le cubisme était né: souvenirs, Éditions Présence, published 1972, p. 33). Père Thomas was known for exhibiting works by such artists as William Rothenstein, Charles Conder, Toulouse Lautrec and Paul Gauguin. However, to his discredit, Thomas refused works by Vincent van Gogh in 1888 that were presented to him by Theo van Gogh. (Correspondence by Theo van Gogh addressed to Vincent van Gogh, 23 October 1888)

Not quite Neo-Impressionist and not quite Fauve in nature, Le Chemin à travers les champs appears to be flanked between the two, at a time in the history of art (in retrospect) when all was about to change.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1904, Marée Basse, oil on canvas, 32.3 x 40.2 cm, private collection

Marée Basse may have been painted at Croisic in Brittany, a sailing and fishing harbor with an extensive beach close to where Metzinger was born (Nantes).

This painting is clearly a species of Neo-Impressionsm, with its broad pointillism, its juxtaposition of purely squeezed colors and its subject matter painted En plein air. Metzinger's composition is not dissimilar to Goerges Seurat's 1885 composition of the same subject, entitled Bateaux, marée basse, Grandcamp (Low Tide at Grandcamp), but the technique is not the same. In the foreground Metzinger places contrasting colors that vibrate one next to the other (cadmium, cobalt, Cerulean, emerald, manganese, phthalocyanine, prussian blue). Metzinger's boat is placed practically at the center of the canvas (something that one is taught never to do), creating a sense of structural equilibrium diagonally and symmetrically across the canvas. The axis of symmetry is the larger of the two masts, which cuts right through the center of the picture. Other object revolve around the boat like satellites gravitationally bounded to a star in a labyrinth positive and negative space, of light and reflected light, of earth, water and sky.

Metzinger's Marée Basse also bares resemblance to The Blue Boat (1899) by Henri-Edmond Cross. However, upon close examination the difference overpower the similarities. What Metzinger has achieved in his rendering of the subject is equivalent to the elegance of mathematics, where intrinsic aesthetics, inner beauty, generality and simplicity (here in the economy of chosen colors) are valued.

Jean Metzinger, 1904-1905, Bord de mer (The sea shore), oil on canvas, 64.5 x 91.2 cm, Indianapolis Museum of Art

In this view of the Mediterranean shore, arcs of violet sand encircle the bathers, creating a lively pattern with the undulating edge of the turquoise sea. Source

The sea shore, according to Joann Moser, may have been painted at a popular resort by the name of Houlgate, where alluring stretches of fine sandy beaches and a boardwalk extend to the base of a mountainous formation known as Les Falaises des Vaches Noires. Though this suggestion has not been independently confiirmed. Indeed the Les Falaises des Vaches Noires presents a different topology, with spiked peaks, rather than the rounded crests visible in Metzinger's seascape. More research would be required to determine the exact location.

An interesting feature to emerge in Bord de mer (The sea shore) is that of the three figures (lower right) enjoying the sights and sounds of Metzinger's oil on canvas. This, as far as can be deduced for the available images of Metzinger's 1902-1904 works, is the first time that the human figure appears in his paintings. The apparent subservient role of the figures in this painting is contradicted by the cadmium red of their attire, and equalled only by the red highlights of the mid-ground cliffs. Even the sailboat, which counter-balances the threesome, compositionally is relegated to a tertiary role.

The Fauve palette, emerging Divisionist technique and relative simplicity of Bord de mer combine to produce a unique taxonomy in early Neo-impressionism at the outset of the 20th century.

Jean Metzinger, 1905, Nature Morte, oil on canvas, 38 x 47 cm. Private collection

Here, in contrast with Landscape (1904), the influence of Cézanne is not so much in the brushstrokes as in the perspective. Though the table bares the signature of standard 2-point perspective, the fruit bowl and glass appear as if they are pictorially dislocated from the surface upon which they are placed (as if they may fall off at any moment). This gem of a painting, although modest in dimension and classic in subject matter, is rather unique in its combination of Cézannesque geometry with a purely Divisionist brushstroke along with a quasi-Fauve combination of warm colors and cool reflections.

When Jean Metzinger painted Nature Morte (1905) his Divisionist technique had its parallel in literature. According to the artist himself there was a characteristic alliance between the Symbolist writers and Neo-Impressionism. Each dab of color was equivalent to a word (or "syllable"). Together the pigments formed sentences (or "phrases") which translated the various emotions that nature would pass on to the artist. The whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. This is an important aspect of Metzinger's early work, and as noted further, an important aspect of Metzinger's entire artistic output. And the fact that he, then, coupled Symbolist/Neo-Impressionist color theory with Cézannian perspective was already beyond not just the preoccupations of Signac and Cross, but beyond too the preoccupations of his avant-garde camaraderie. (Metzinger, ca. 1907, Georges Desvallières, La Grande Revue, vol. 124, 1907).

Here for the first time in Metzinger's oeuvre, a woman has become the paramount source of inspiration, the leading protagonist. He no longer had solely his own thoughts to embody.

Jean Metzinger, 1905-1906, Baigneuses: Deux nus dans un jardin exotique (Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape), oil on canvas, 116 x 88.8 cm

Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape signified more that just the incorporation of a new geometry that would free Metzinger from the confines of nature as any artwork executed in Europe to date. This indeed was Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism even, albeit in a highly altered form. It went far beyond the decomposition of spectral light at the core of Neo-Impressionist color theory. It went far beyond the teachings of Cross or Signac. Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape contained "iridescences" and certain "aspects of color still foreign to painting". It contained a "chromatic versification", as if for syllables. The rhythm of its pictorial phraseology translated the diverse emotions aroused by nature (to use the words of Metzinger, circa 1907). It no longer represented nature as seen, but was a complete byproduct of the human 'sensation.'

The traditional approach stresses the fact that Matisse referred to 'cubes' in connection with a 1908 painting by Braque, and that the term was published twice by the critic Louis Vauxcelles in a similar context. Interestingly, however, another critic by the name of Louis Chassevent used the word "cube" in 1906, but since it was made with reference to Metzinger and Delaunay rather than to Picasso or Braque, its significance has not been explored.

In 1906 recognizing the difference between Metzinger and his contemporaries Louis Chassevent wrote: "M. Metzinger is a mosaicist like M. Signac but he brings more precision to the cutting of his cubes of color which appear to have been made mechanically." (Robert Herbert, 1968, Neo-Impressionism, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)

The bilateral symmetry inherent in Two Nudes is striking (even if only as an approximation). The geometry is solidly constructed but the equilibrium is unstable or short-lived. Each tile of pigment (blue, red, green, etc.) juxtaposed one next to the other form a section of the painting. Each section of the painting (containing between 10 of 50 'tiles' dominated by blues, reds, greens, etc) respectively form the total image. There is no smooth transition between each section. The painting is divided, fragmented, splintered or faceted into series, not only of individual rectangles, squares or 'cubes' of color, but into individual planes or surfaces delineated by color and form, already pointing towards Cubism.

That is not say that Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape belongs synthetic Cubism. It does not. The subject is viewed from only one angle, from one point of view. There is no 'mobile perspective.' But a departure from nature it was, and a departure from all that had been painted to date it was too. A precursor its style was, to be sure, one that would resurface in the works of Metzinger (Gino Severini, Robert Delaunay and others) several years later, within the context of Cubism.

Jean Metzinger, 1906-1907, Landscape with Fountain, oil on canvas, 53.3 x 73.6 cm, private collection

Landscape with Fountain, visibly painted at the same location as Matin au Parc Montsouris, further testifies to Metzinger's intention of reducing elements of nature down to their most basic level. This move towards increased abstraction is exemplified here by the transformation from a Neo-Impressionist-Divisionist style to an extreme Divisionist fracture with mosaic-like tiles of undiluted color. This, to the credit of Metzinger, shows a level of skill and artistry never before seen.

It remains unclear to what extent, if at all, ceramic mosaics influenced the artist. During the late 19th century there was a revival of interest in mosaics, particularly in the Neo-Roman-Byzantine style, with erections such as the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, located on the same Rue Lamarck as Metzinger's studio, albeit further up the hill.

The Art Nouveau movement also embraced mosaic art, notably in Barcelona, where Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol worked to produce the remarkable ceramic mosaics of the Parc Güell and the Basílica de la Sagrada Família during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Jean Metzinger, 1906, Landscape (Couchée de soleil no. 1), oil on canvas, 72.5 x 100 cm, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo. (Verso: River scene with ships)

Robert Herbert writes: "Metzinger's Neo-Impressionist period was somewhat longer than that of his close friend Delaunay. At the Indépendants in 1905, his paintings were already regarded as in the Neo-Impressionist tradition by contemporary critics, and he apparently continued to paint in large mosaic strokes until some time in 1908. The height of his Neo-Impressionist work was in 1906 and 1907, when he and Delaunay did portraits of each other (Art market, London, and Museum of Fine Arts Houston) in prominent rectangles of pigment. (In the sky of [Couchée de soleil, 1906-1907, Collection Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller] is the solar disk which Delaunay was later to make into a personal emblem.)"

The vibrating image of the sun in Metzinger's painting, and so too of Delaunay's Paysage au disque (1906-1907), "is an homage to the decomposition of spectral light that lay at the heart of Neo-Impressionist color theory..." (Robert Herbert, 1968, Neo-Impressionism, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)

Metzinger, followed closely by Delaunay—the two often painting together between 1906 and 1907—would develop a new sub-style that had great significance, later, within the context of their Cubist works. Mondrian, in Holland, developed a similar mosaic-like Divisionist technique circa 1909. The Futurists later would adapt the style—thanks to Severini's Parisian works (from 1907 onward)—into their dynamic paintings and sculpture.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, A Peacock, oil on canvas, 61 x 47.2 cm

I've enhanced the saturation slightly on this image (found online). Not having seen the original painting it was a risk in doing so, but knowing the pigments used by Metzinger at the time I suspect that cadmium red was one of them. His search for 'iridescences' leads me to believe that the other colors—the turquoise, blues, violets and yellows—once adjusted, are more representative of the actual painting.

This painting, although not so remarkable in its geometric construction, is an interesting one as far as its combination of colors and Divisionist technique are concerned. It too is quite original, even in its simplicity, differing considerably from the work of others in his entourage, such as Matisse, van Dongen, Dufy, Delaunay, Braque, Vlaminck, or Derain.

Continued below...

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Old 05-02-2012, 06:32 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger
Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism, Fauvism


Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, Nu, oil on canvas, 47 x 63.5 cm

This work too differs considerably from the artists typically associated with Fauvism. Rather than depicting a landscape with figures, such as Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Musée d'Orsay), by Matisse (painted in 1904 and exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905), Metzinger attacks the subject of the female nude directly, apparently without hesitation. The somewhat awkward position of the woman is counterbalanced by the flowers to the right of the composition. The brushstrokes, yet similar in size throughout, point in divergent directions: horizontally on the nude, vertically in the crimson background, and diagonally in espouse of the nude on the lower left of the painting. The incandescent greens of reflected light, though subtle around her sensuous breasts, are vivid and quasi-ubiquitous (perhaps overworked) on the face of the model. Though not particularly innovative geometrically this composition is rather inspiring in its use of color, texture and dynamic rhythm within which the entire canvas is bathed.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, Bacchante, oil on canvas, 72 x 53 cm, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Holland

Bacchante is said in the reference below to be located at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Holland, but does not appear on their website, i.e., there is no record of it to be found online other than here at Wetcanvas. This image comes from an obscure book published in Paris a while back, and is also reproduced (in black and white) in Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, 1985, The University of Iowa Museum of Art (J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press).

Metzinger had arrived in Paris in 1903 at the age of 20. By 1906, the years that Bacchante was likely painted, he had acquired enough prestige in the Parisian art world to be elected to the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants. Indeed his works had been noticed by critics, private collectors and art dealers, for their originality. The combination of vibrant colors, large brushwork and geometric form was unlike any other work produced at the time.

The bold use of color and geometric form in Bacchante is highly noticeable. The brushstrokes are all practically the same size giving rhythm to the overall work. The perspective or depth of field is flattened. The subject matter is classical—reminiscent of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (someone who Metzinger greatly admired)—yet its treatment is everything but classical. The artist has managed to infuse new life into the old theme.

This early work is a Divisionist masterpiece of harmonious lines, composition, and contrasting light. The Bacchante appears to be dancing, perhaps in an ecstatic state of drunken intoxication. In this state the Bacchante, as maenads, would lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly, and engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior. Many artists chose this subject over the centuries, probably for these very reasons.

Her her superb body is depicted nude, seen from the front, with yellow and white highlights and turquoise reflections, the mythological reference serving as pretext for the nude. She is the promary subject of the work and is framed in an exotic setting that accentuates the arching curve of her back. She has a "deep voluptuousness," as in the works of Ingres (to use the term of Baudelaire), yet her timeless immobility makes her somehow chaste. The scene is seemingly calm and luxurious simultaneously.

Metzinger's early quest for a 'total image' explains the lack of illusory depth, the profuse light, and the refusal to depict a marked difference between the foreground, background and the woman's frame. Metzinger added a conspicuously tropical setting presumably under the influence of Paul Gauguin's Mahana no atua, Day of the Gods (1894) or Henri (le douanier) Rousseau's Le Rêve (two more painters the artist greatly admired). Bacchante is already typical of Metzinger's style, with its sumptuous textures, sinuous harmony of line (for example the arching trees and foliage), and depiction of the serene attitude and chaste sensuality of the Bacchante's body—all enlisted in Metzinger's quest for absolute perfection.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, Paysage coloré aux oiseaux exotiques, oil on vanvas, 65 x 92 cm

Paysage coloré aux oiseaux exotiques is a prototypical example of Metzinger's innovative Divisionist period, with its bold colors and dynamic brushwork. This work is considerably Fauve and bares many characteristics of the avant-garde tendency that began dominating the Parisian Salons as early as 1904 and 1905. Yet, again, as other works of the same period by Metzinger, this one differs remarkably for those of his contemporaries. There are few, if any, parallels to be found in the works executed by artists of Metzinger's immediate circle, or peripheral entourage. Its combination of painterly techniques, color and exoticism in its subject matter, sets it apart, resulting in a broader scope typically employed to define the Fauve movement.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, Paysage à l'arbre rond (Landscape with a round tree), oil on panel, 22 x 27.5 cm, Museenköln, Städtische Museen im Überblick

"This sketchy pointillist picture was completed in a single short session which probably lasted not much longer than an hour. Metzinger used a commercially available pre-primed board. With a few dry brush-strokes in blue paint he sketched the contours of horizon, house and tree. Next he systematically applied regularly juxtaposed large brightly coloured impasto brush-strokes. The white ground was heavily integrated into the effect of the finished picture, and appears ubiquitously between the painted areas. In general, the paint was applied in a single layer. Only in a few places was a second layer applied, in order to correct either the hue or the direction of the brush stroke. Contradicting our classical view of Neoimpressionism, Metzinger did not use exclusively pure colours, but also blends. The mosaic-like character of the large, evenly composed brushstrokes can be found with increasing frequency in Metzinger’s work around 1906. The painting Landscape with Tree also belongs to this period."

"Since then, however, the appearance of the picture has changed drastically as a result both of natural aging processes and deliberate restoration measures. In addition to the fact that the board was cropped when mounted on a cradled laminated panel, leading to a reduction in the picture area, the overall effect of the colours and of the picture as a whole has undergone a major change due to years of accumulated dirt. The exclusively protein-bound ground has proved to be particularly sensitive to deposits of dirt, so that the originally white hues have been replaced by an undifferentiated light-tomid grey. The extent to which the actual contrasts and colour of the depiction has been influenced as a result is strikingly illustrated by a reconstruction of the pristine appearance on the basis of investigation of the material." Read more...

Jean Metzinger, 1906-1907, Paysage Tropical, oil on canvas, 89.5 x 62.7 cm

The mosaic-like handling of the paint in Paysage Tropical together with its exotic reference unite to create a typical example of Metzinger's early works and a unique example of early 20th Century art. Here again, its combination of Divisionist techniques, exoticism, purity of colour and brilliance of effect, sets it apart from works typically associated with Neo-Impressionism or Fauvism.

Jean Metzinger, 1906-1907, Paysage pointilliste, oil on canvas, 54.5 x 73 cm. Private collection

This is perhaps the first time Paysage pointilliste has appeared on the Internet.

Metzinger's aim, as it seems here, was to resolve the colours of nature into six bands of the spectrum, and to represent these on the canvas by rectangles of unmixed (or slightly mixed) pigment. At a sufficient distance these rectangles combine their hues upon the retina, giving the effect of a blending of colored light rather than individually placed pigments. The resulting effect is one of increasing rather than diminishing luminosity.

One of the stunning features of this landscape is the effect of mist (or fog) created by the gradation of lighter hues at the center of the painting. The effect manifests itself increasingly with distance or upon squinting the eye.

The flamingo towards the lower right, the sun radiating through the haze, and the shape of the trees (palms?) gives the painting an overall subtropical glow, and aside from the flamingo, a highly abstract flavor.

Jean Metzinger, 1906, Portrait of Delaunay, oil, 64.8 x 53.3 cm. Location unknown. Exhibited at the 1906 Salon d'Autome, Paris

In 1906 Metzinger formed a close friendship with Robert Delaunay. Metzinger's portrait of the young Robert Delaunay was realized a year before the two artists exhibited together at Berthe Weill's gallery. This portrait, along with Delaunay's Portrait of Metzinger, L'homme à la tulipe (reproduced below), was exhibited in Paris at the Salon d'Autome of 1906.

Unfortunately, all we have available at this time is this black and white reproduction of the work. One can only speculate as to the colors of this piece. Judging from his other works of the same period the reflected light emanating off Delaunay's face was almost certainly turquoise, and other colors such as reds, yellows, blues and violets are likely present as well. Structurally, the painting is solid, Delaunay's cane offsetting his leftward stance, and the artwork represented behind (an exotic bird?) balancing to some extent the off-center position of the sitter.

The mosaic-like brushwork is a significant step beyond the Divisionism practiced by others at the time. The cuts are large and block-like. Rarely, if ever before had such a style been pushed to this extreme, and if it had, it was in the practice of Jean Metzinger himself, in works such as Bacchante (executed the same year).

Metzinger was an inductive painter. He constructed his whole from the sum of its parts. He worked, wisely, from the forehead to the eyes, continuing by way of his interests in methematics. In the manner of a sculptor he built up his pictures as a complete whole, while balancing his masses he constructed. Sensibly, the face lights up on the background. The successive 'cubes' which enveloped it are laid bare and expose his thoughts.

But this simultaneous process left him quite unsatisfied, and he constantly reviewed his original plans. He lived for the creation to which he gave life. His work was an experiment, the result of a mysterious genius whose secret, pending a 1910 article and a 1912 publication (coauthored with Albert Gleizes), was not all told. What he knew before was the impression he expected to obtain, the story it would tell, what it would reveal of the subject and would express of the natural world, the fundamental nature underlying all things. And it is thus he approached those material things (a still life, a landscape, a model) which speak to us of an intense inner life. His plans evolve, he paints astonishing faces, quivering and mobile as he observes them.

In this work Metzinger was ably seconded by Delaunay...

Robert Delaunay, 1906, Portrait de Jean Metzinger (L'homme à la tulipe, Man with a tulip), oil on canvas, 72.4 x 48.5 cm (28 1/2 by 19 1/8 in.) Exhibited at the 1906 Salon d'Autome, Paris

In his Portrait de Jean Metzinger, already, Delaunay reveals his strong personality; himself, capable of realising whatever his thoughts impel him to do. He has his own conception of Nature, and he realized it with a liberty and independence that is veritably masterful. The diversity of his talent Delaunay would soon prove in the most striking fashion. And so too would Jean Metzinger.

In Christies's catalogue lot notes (9 May 2007) it is written: "The summer of 1906, under the influence of his new friend Metzinger, Delaunay began to develop his own use of Neo-Impressionist fragmented brushstroke and divisionist color. Delaunay and Metzinger also began work on a series of portraits of one another. [...] Although many of the portraits Metzinger and Delaunay painted that year have since been lost, the present picture of a dandified young Metzinger spectacularly captures this heady period of daring artistic experimentation that these two friends had now embarked upon. [...]

Considering the artists' youth at the time--Metzinger was twenty-two, and Delaunay was just twenty--their decision to depict each other for the highly public Salon underlines the artists' growing sense of self-awareness and confidence. It also illustrates how closely they felt themselves to be working toward the resolution of similar formal concerns. [...]

Delaunay wrote, "Color alone is form and subject," and referred to the way colors could be made to 'vibrate' by being place alongside contrasting tones. These were the very dynamic juxtapositions which bring the painter's masterful early portrait of Metzinger to life."

Robert Delaunay, 1906, Portrait de Metzinger, oil on canvas, 55 x 43 cm, private collection

In a sense the two artists are complementary to each other; both reactionaries. The ambitions of Delaunay were roused by Metzinger; the attempt to record bright optical effects, the struggle with all the nuances of the subject matter, the division of tones, hues, values and contrast, the juxtaposition of color, the dictates of his artistic temperament, the general principles and technical practice adopted in a world charged with iridescence. Metzinger was indeed a Divisionist first.

Delaunay, though, didn't aspire entirely to the position of Metzinger, and attempted to carry his compatriots methods forward. Delaunay maintains, apparently, that Metzinger has by no means said the last word in Divisionism. Neither Metzinger nor his friend are content with the illuminations presented by Nature. They are both equally attracted by rhythmic lines and individual brushstrokes, balance of form, by composition as well as by color. The ethereal tints in nature which the pioneers were unwilling to reproduce, did not satisfy the young men now that the fundamental laws of Neo-Impressionism had been fractured. Copying nature had become synonymous with copying a work in a museum. Neither of the two were interested in such a practice. The illuminations were their own.

Neo-Impressionist theory was jettisoned. Although they paid lip service to its established doctrines, Metzinger and Delaunay now painted in enormous brushstrokes that could never pretend to mix in the eye, and which retained practically no nuance of tone. Raw, bold reds, magentas, yellows, blues, and greens emanated from their canvases, making them as free of the trammels of nature as any painting then beeing produced.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1906, Femme au Chapeau, oil on canvas, 44.8 x 36.8 cm, Christie's New York, May 2010, Korban Art Foundation

In Femme au Chapeau Metzinger uses the same technique for the background employed in Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape, viz each individual square of pigment is associated with another of similar shape and color, forming a group; each grouping of colors is then juxtaposed with an adjacent collection of differing colors; just as syllables combine to form sentences, and sentences combine to form paragraphs, and so on, forming a 'total image'.

In Christie's lot notes (4 May 2010) it is written:

"Metzinger held a strong interest in geometry and mathematics; unlike the Fauves, he made the appearance of design an important priority in his pictures. This quality is clearly evident in Femme au chapeau, very different from Matisse's famous version of a similar subject. Here Metzinger has clearly demarcated the boundaries of each area of color, similar to the synthetist practice of Gauguin, which lends the picture a solid, crystalline design. There is perhaps a presentiment here of Metzinger's subsequent interest in the faceting of forms, an important element in the development of Cubism. He explained his pictorial ideas to the American writer Gelett Burgess in late 1908 or early 1909:

"Instead of copying nature...we create a milieu of our own wherein our sentiment can work itself out through a juxtaposition of colors. It is hard to explain it, but it may perhaps be illustrated by analogy with literature and music... Music does not attempt to imitate nature's sounds, but it does interpret and embody emotions awakened by nature through a convention of its own, in a way to be aesthetically pleasing. In some such way, we, taking our hint from Nature, construct decoratively pleasing harmonies and symphonies of color expressive of our sentiment" (Jean Metzinger, quoted in G. Burgess, "Wild Men of Paris," Architectural Record, May 1910, p. 413)."
"The firmly drawn construction of Metzinger's pictorial design superimposes hardness and solidity on every part of the artist's subject, and the background as well, in Femme au chapeau. This is an intended effect, which Metzinger contrasts by rendering these forms in a divisionist technique, which softens and refines the overall impact of the picture."

Jean Metzinger, ca.1907, Les Ibis, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm. Private collection

Les Ibis is one of a series of compositions in which Metzinger had virtually abandoned his Divisionist fracture in favor of a free-style expressionistic hand with a Fauve palette. This painting and others of the series, just as his advanced Divisionist works, is chromatically-driven with strong anti-naturalistic pictorialism. Les Ibis though is no longer rooted in the Neo-Impressionist color theories that Seurat had advocated.

The colors Metzinger uses are basically pure. Many of them are mixed together probably directly on the canvas (rather than on a palette), yet they retain their brilliance, i.e., there are no inert tones. As before, contrasting hues are placed side by side—resulting in optical vibration effects. The lines, the large strokes of color, again, like words, are treated autonomously—each possessing an abstract value independent of one another. The the impulse toward abstraction seems to be a primary quality of Les Ibis. Though not devoid of reference to the real world, Metzinger's treatment of the painted surface meant to draw away from nature, in the sense of disdaining imitation in order to concentrate upon the distillation of essential shapes and movements. These distilled forms were superior to nature because they partook of idea, and represented the dominance of the artist over the mere stuff of nature.

This composition was not only different from what Seurat, Cross, Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Odilon Redon, and the other Neo-Impressionists, Symbolists and Nabis, but different from Matisse, Derain Friesz and the other Fauves. Indeed Metzinger had already been a pioneers without knowing it.

Continued below...

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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger

Jean Metzinger, 1908, Nu, 54 x 73 cm (left), and Baigneuses, 1908, dimensions and location unknown (right)

By 1908, Metzinger turned his attention fully towards questions of mathematics and the geometric abstraction of form; allowing the viewer to reconstruct the original volume mentally and to imagine the object within space. The emphasis on simplified form began to overwhelm the representational interest of the painting. In both Nu and Baigneuses the simplification of representational form gave way to a new complexity; the subject matter of the paintings became obscured by a network of interconnected geometric elements, the distinction between foreground and background blurred, the depth of field limited.

By this time, Pablo Picasso's 1907 proto-Cubist painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, had been completed. Georges Braque's 1908 Houses at L’Estaque (and related works) were in the process of completion, and would soon prompt Henri Matisse's reference to 'cubes': a term published twice by the critic Louis Vauxcelles in a similar context. Landscapes by Picasso, such as Reservoir at Horta de Ebroas (1909) would soon be painted; later referred to by Gertrude Stein as the first Cubist paintings.

Perhaps the most crucial period in the history of modern art, the years 1907-1909 marked the birth of a new pictorial idiom.

Jean Metzinger, 1908-1909, Landscape, oil on cardboard, 27 x 21.5 cm, location unknown

By 1908-1909 Metzinger's concerns for color that had assumed a primary role both as a decorative and expressive device before 1908 had given way to the primacy of form; and soon thereafter with complex multiple views of the same subject. Clearly manifest in this Landscape, as in his pre-1908 works, was Metzinger's refusal of the Renaissance perspective system.

His monochromatic tonalities would last only until 1912, when both color and form would boldly combine to produce such works as Danseuse au café (reproduced below).

Metzinger gathered closer to the small group of artists of which he was one of the most significant figures. Early in 1908 the artist, still painting in Montmartre, became a close associate of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob.

Jean Metzinger, in fact, was the first to perceive an identity, or overlap, among the intentions and common characteristics of four artists about whom he was writing an article: Delaunay, Le Fauconnier, Picasso and Braque (five if we include Metzinger himself). Thus Metzinger was becoming the discoverer of what later became known as Cubsim. In this article, written in 1910, Metzinger writes about the literal moving around an object to create different views of the subject, or mobile perspective—that is simultaneity—giving the specific contribution of each as fundamental qualities held in common by the four artists. See (Metzinger, Notes sur la peinture, Pan, Paris, October-November 1910, 651-652) and (Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, in Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press, p. 10).

"It is to the credit of Jean Metzinger, at the time, to have been the first to recognize the commencement of the Cubist Movement as such" writes S. E. Johnson, and continues, "Metzinger's portrait of Apollinaire, the poet of the Cubist Movement, was executed in 1909 and, as Apollinaire himself has pointed out in his book The Cubist Painters (written in 1912 and published in 1913), Metzinger, following Picasso and Braque, was chronologically the third Cubist artist. (S. E. Johnson, 1964, Metzinger, Pre-Cubist and Cubist Works, 1900-1930, International Galleries, Chicago) and (Guillaume Apollinaire, 1913, Les Peintres Cubistes) and (The cubist painters By Guillaume Apollinaire, translated and analyzed by Peter F. Read, University of California Press, 25 oct. 2004)

In 1910 a group began to form which included Metzinger, Gleizes, Fernand Léger and Robert Delaunay, a longstanding friend and associate of Metzinger. They met regularly at Henri le Fauconnier's studio on rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, near the Boulevard de Montparnasse. Together with other young painters, the group wanted to emphasise a research into form, in opposition to the Divisionist, or Neo-Impressionist, emphasis on color. Metzinger, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and Léger were shown together in Room 41 of the 1911 Salon des Indépendants, which provoked the 'involuntary scandal' out of which Cubism emerged and spread in Paris, in France and throughout the world. Both Metzinger and Gleizes were discontent with the conventional perspective, which they felt gave only a partial idea of a subject's form as experienced in life. (Source) The idea that a subject could be seen in movement and from many different angles was born.

Shortly thereafter another group animated by Metzinger's ideals would gather and formulate the rules, principles, or laws of the new artistic movement that became known as Cubism. Metzinger would become the mediator between the Montmartre group and the Puteaux group of artists (soon to become La Section d'Or), many of whom, like Metzinger, were passionate about mathematical order.

Metzinger was at the forefront of the Parisian art scene since 1905, and had not failed early on to notice the distortions created by the use of multiple perspective and the depiction of forms in terms of planes is the late work of Paul Cézanne. Yet the extreme to which Metzinger and other Cubists exaggerated these formal strategies led to a fundamental change in the relationship between artist and subject matter that Cézanne had not anticipated. Now, in 1908 and 1909, Metzinger had decided to up the anti further.

Jean Metzinger, 1911-12, La Femme au Cheval, Woman with a horse (The Rider), oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm, Statens Museum for Kunst, National Gallery of Denmark. Published in Apollinaire's 1913 Les Peintres Cubistes, Exhibited at the 1912 Salon des Indépendants. Formerly in the collection of Jacques Nayral and Niels Bohr

La Femme au Cheval (The Rider) is an absolute masterpiece of early 20th Century art. The differences from the work of Picasso and Braque (or any other Cubist) is noticeable at first glance. This is a study of pure geometry, mobile perspective, with elements clearly taken from the natural world (the pearl necklace, fruits, vase, plants in the foreground), and others entirely abstract (the background and the way in which the woman and horse fuse together forming one). Despite the intense fracturing of the surfaces, the woman remains beautiful, elegant and refined.

Metzinger's early interests in mathematics are documented. He was undoubtedly familiar with the works of Gauss, Riemann, Helmhotz and Poincaré (and perhaps Galilean relativity) prior to the development of Cubism, something that reflects in his pre-1907 works. But it was the French mathematician Maurice Princet who introduced the work of Poincaré, along with the concept of the fourth dimension, to artists at the Bateau Lavoir. He was a close associate of Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Jean Metzinger, and Marcel Duchamp. Princet is known as "le mathématicien du cubisme." Princet brought to attention of these artists a book entitled Traité élémentaire de géométrie à quatre dimensions by Esprit Jouffret (1903) a popularization of Poincaré's Science and Hypothesis. In this book Jouffret described hypercubes and complex polyhedra in four dimensions projected onto* a two-dimensional page. Princet became estranged from the group after his wife left him for André Derain. However, Princet would remain close to Metzinger and participated in meetings of the Section d'Or in Puteaux. He gave informal lectures to the artists, many of whom were passionate about mathematical order. In 1910, Metzinger said of him, "[Picasso] lays out a free, mobile perspective, from which that ingenious mathematician Maurice Princet has deduced a whole geometry".

While Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are generally acknowledged as the founders of the twentieth-century movement that became known as Cubism, it was Jean Metzinger, together with Albert Gleizes, that wrote the first major treatise on the new art-form, Du "Cubisme", in preparation for the Salon de la Section d'Or held in October 2012. Du "Cubisme", published in Paris the same year, represented the first theoretical interpretation, elucidation and justification of Cubism, and was initially endorsed by both Picasso and Braque. Written 100 years ago, Du "Cubisme" (a 6,000-word manifesto) was a comprehensive, programmatic and combative declaration of the Cubist stance that immediately became a work of reference on contemporary art for critics, collectors and artists across Europe. (David Cottington, Cubism and its Histories, 2004, p.5)

The result, not solely a collaboration between its two authors, reflected discussions by the circle of artists who met in Puteaux and Courbevoie. It mirrored the attitudes of the "artists of Passy", which included Francis Picabia and the Duchamp brothers (Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp), to whom sections of it were read prior to publication. The concept developed by Metzinger and Gleizes in Du "Cubisme" of observing a subject from different points in space and time simultaneously, i.e., the act of moving around an object to seize it from several successive angles fused into a single image ('multiple viewpoints' or 'mobile perspective'), is now a generally recognized phenomenon used to describe dynamism of the Cubist stance.

La Femme au Cheval, Woman with a horse is a prime example of Metzinger's application of his own theory (first pronounced in 1910).

Jean Metzinger, La Femme au Cheval, The Rider, hanging in the office of Niels Bohr (the Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922)

Arthur I. Miller, author of Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time and the Beauty that Causes Havoc (2002) writes: "Cubism directly helped Niels Bohr discover the principle of complementarity in quantum theory, which says that something can be a particle and a wave at the same time, but it will always be measured to be either one or the other. In analytic cubism, artists tried to represent a scene from all possible viewpoints on one canvas. [...] How you view the painting, that’s the way it is. Bohr read the book by Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes on cubist theory, Du Cubisme. It inspired him to postulate that the totality of an electron is both a particle and a wave, but when you observe it you pick out one particular viewpoint." (Source)

Niels Bohr (1885-1962), the Danish physicist and one of the principle founders of quantum mechanics, had indeed hung in his office a large painting by Jean Metzinger, La Femme au Cheval (Woman with a horse, The Rider) 1911-12 (now in the Statens Museum for Kunst, National Gallery of Denmark). This work is one of Metzinger's finest examples of 'mobile perspective' implementation. Bohr's interest in Cubism, according to Miller, was anchored in the writings of Metzinger. Arthur Miller concludes: "If cubism is the result of the science in Art, the quantum theory is the result of art in science." (Miller, A., 2002, Einstein, Picasso: space, time and the beauty that causes havoc, Basic Books, New York, 2001). In the words of Bohr, 1929: "...depending upon our arbitrary point of view...we must, in general, be prepared to accept the fact that a complete elucidation of one and the same object may require diverse points of view which defy a unique description." (Neils Bohr, 1929)

The influence of science on Metzinger's 1912 theory has been vigorously debated. One critic, John Adkins Richardson, for example writes: "As it happens those analogies are as specious as they are ubiquitous." (John Adkins Richardson, 1972, Modern Art and Scientific Thought, Chapter Five, Cubism and Logic). Richardson further objects to idea expressed in the writings of Metzinger and Gleizes that Cubism represents a truer picture of nature since in addition to the three spatial dimensions it includes the dimension of time, as burgeoning within scientific theory.

Richardson writes; "what is most peculiar about Metzinger's theory, in view of its prominence, is that at the very time he was propounding it, Einstein was proving the impossibility of establishing the simultaneity of any two events that do not occur approximately, that is, side by side. So far as the Special Theory of Relativity is concerned, the sole difference between it and classical science lies precisely in Relativity's denial of the absoluteness of the simultaneity of spatially separated events. Had the Cubists really been consistent with the new developments in physics they would have demolished simultaneity!"

Du "Cubisme", however, was not promoting the possibility of establishing the simultaneity of two neighboring events. Nor was it claiming Cubism represented the absoluteness of the simultaneity of spatially separated events. Both motion and time were said to be involved in the process of revolving around the object. It was the artist (the observer) who chose the coordinate system and the direction of motion, thus permitting the viewer (or spectator) to see the finished product (one event) from several different vantage points. The succession of images created by such a motion around the object would not be unlike the view from a celestial body orbiting another. The resulting 'map projection' represented the 3-dimensional object on a flat plane, leaving the viewer with a 'total image' (yet distorted or fragmented in distinct ways). The change in the time element was implied simply by virtue of the artist's displacement around the subject matter (e.g., a landscape, the model, a still life). The succession of images created by such a motion around the object was akin to a motion picture, dynamic and changing in time.

Metzinger's inconsistency with special relativity arises in his use of non-Euclidean geometry; something that would find its way into the framework of Einstein's general theory of relativity in 1916. Recall that special relativity (1905), within which gravitational effects are neglected, is most conveniently formulated in the mathematical setting of Minkowski spacetime, i.e. it is restricted to geometrically flat 4-dimensional spacetime. General relativity (as the name implies) is the generalization of special relativity, characterized by the inclusion of gravity, representing a departure from the standard 3-dimensional Euclidean space (or similarly, from Minkowski space). i.e., general relativity describes the relation between a 4-dimensional non-Euclidean geometry (a pseudo-Riemannian manifold) and the energy-momentum contained within the manifold. It is interesting to note that special relativity is an organic part of quantum mechanics.

Jean Metzinger, 1912, Danseuse au café, oil on canvas, 146.1 x 114.3 cm, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo New York. Exhibited at the 1912 Salon d'Automne, Paris

Metzinger's enchanting Dancer in a Café of 1912, writes Daniel Robbins, "exults in the exoticism of the moment, playing off the feathers or plumes of fashionable dressed Parisian women in their Worth gowns against an Amerindian pattern on the costume of the dancer, wittily comparing the height of European fashion with the anthropologically arcane." (Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, in Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, p. 21)

Just as La Femme au Cheval (The Rider), Danseuse au café can be classified amongst the small circle of early 20th Century masterpieces. No other artist to date had achieved such a refined, elegant representation of a scene such as this. Four figures are present to the left of the canvas in addition to the dancer, located on the right, in this café scene. As in most of Meztinger's works there are elements of the real world untouched by the wrath of Cubism (e.g., lighting fixtures, bouquet of flowers and lace). The rest of the canvas is a series of crescendos and diminuendos of greater of lesser abstraction, of convex and concave forms, of hyperbolic and spherical surfaces, well beyond the teachings of Seurat or Cézanne. The brushwork present in his Neo-Impressionst phase has to some extent returned giving texture and rhythm to extensive areas of the image, mostly within the background but not exclusively.

Danseuse au café was painted the same year as the writing and publication of Du "Cubisme", 100 years ago [at the time of writing].

In Du "Cubisme" Metzinger argued that Cubism itself was not based on any geometrical theory, but that non-Euclidean geometry corresponded better than classical geometry to what the Cubsists were doing. The essential was in the understanding of space other than by the classical method of perspective; an understanding that would include and integrate the fourth dimension.

Though the rupture with the past seemed total, there was still within the avant-garde something of the past. Metzinger writes in a Pan article two years before the publication of Du "Cubisme" that the greatest challenge to the modern artist is not to 'cancel' tradition, but to accept 'it is in us,' acquired by living. It was the combination of the past—himself, recall, inspired by Ingres—with the present, and its progression into the future that most intrigued Metzinger. Observed was the tendency; a balance between the pursuit of the transient and the mania for the eternal. But the result would be an unstable equilibrium. The domination would no longer be of the external world. The progression was from the specific to the universal, from the special to the general, from the physical to the temporary, towards a complete synthesis of the whole—however unattainable—towards an 'elemental common denominator' (to use the words of Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, in Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, p. 11)

The idea of moving around an object in order to see it from different view-points is treated Danseuse au café. Only now there are many objects in addition to the five personages.

The idea of multiple view-points is treated in Du "Cubisme". It was also a central idea of Jean Metzinger's article, Note sur la Peinture, Pan, 1910; Indeed, prior to Cubsim painters worked from the limiting factor of a single view-point. And it was Jean Metzinger, for the first time in Note sur la peinture who enunciated the stimulating interest in representing objects as remembered from successive and subjective experiences within the context of both space and time. In that article, Metzinger notes that Braque and Picasso "discarded traditional perspective and granted themselves the liberty of moving around objects." This is the concept of "mobile perspective" that would tend towards the representation of the "total image." Metzinger could very well have included himself in the statement.

Jean Metzinger, 1912, La Plume Jaune, oil on canvas, 73 x 54 cm. Private collection

What made Cubism progressive and truly modern, according to Metzinger (and Gleizes), was its the new geometric armature; with that it broke free from the immobility of 3-dimensional Euclidean geometry and attained a dynamic representation of the 4-dimensional continuum in which we live, a better representation of reality, of life's experience, something that could be grasped through the senses (not through the eye) and expressed onto a canvas. Understanding our 'sensations' more deeply gave them the primary inspiration for their own work. Their attack on classical painting was leveled precisely because the sensations it offered were poor in comparison with the richness and diversity of the sensations offered by the natural world it wished to imitate.

Metzinger had already written in 1910 of 'mobile perspective', as an interpretation of what would soon be dubbed "Cubism" with respect to Picasso, Braque, Delaunay and Le Fauconnier (Note sur la peinture, Pan, Paris, Oct-Nov 1910). And Apollinaire would echo the same tune later regarding the observer's state of motion. Mobile perspective was akin to "cinematic" movement around an object that consisted of a plastic truth compatible with reality by showing the spectator "all its facets." Gleizes too, the same year, remarks, Metzinger is "haunted by the desire to inscribe a total image [...] He will put down the greatest number of possible planes: to purely objective truth he wishes to add a new truth, born from what his intelligence permits him to know. Thus—and he said himself: to space he will join time. [...] he wishes to develop the visual field by multiplying it, to inscribe them all in the space of the same canvas: it is then that the cube will play a role, for Metzinger will utilize this means to reestablish the equilibrium that these audacious inscriptions will have momentarily broken." See Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art (J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press (La Plume Jaune is reproduced on the cover of the catalogue).

Jean Metzinger, 1912-1913, Les Baigneuses (The Baithers), oil on canvas, 148.3 x 106.4 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art

In Les Baigneuses Metzinger revisits a classical theme (bathers in a landscape with a village in the distance), but its treatment is not at all classical. In fact, despite its angular cuts, the overall composition is not entirely unlike Metzinger's 1906 Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape). Elements of the painting are broken down into sections that together form a total image. Now thought, instead of precision to the cutting of his "cubes of color" which appear to have been "made mechanically" (to used the 1906 words of Louis Chassevent), Metzinger's employs a precision to the cutting of his "cubes of color" which appear to have been "made mechanically." Indeed the main difference now is that instead of individual brushstrokes of quasi-pure colors coming together to form a total image, individual planes, arcs, spheres, cones and cubes come together to form a total image; resulting in a dynamic composition that appears to have be captured from several different viewpoints simultaneously.

Jean Metzinger, 1913, En Canot, Le Canot, Femme au Canot et a l'Ombrelle (Im Boot) acquired in 1916 by Georg Muche at Galerie Der Sturm. Current location unknown

This is a fairly rare photograph, possibly shot by Heinrich Hoffmann, of a painting by Jean Metrzinger entitled Le Canot, also called En Canot, Femme au Canot et à l'Ombrelle (or in German Im Boot or Im Kanu). It was acquired in 1916 by the artist Georg Muche, the son of artist and art collector Felix Muche-Ramholz, at the Galerie Der Strum, and was subsequently confiscated by the German Reich Ministery for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Besitz des Propagandaministeriums) in 1936 or 1937. It was then shown in the Degenerate Art exhibition (Entartete Kunst) in Munich. The exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria. The show, mounted by the Nazis, consisted of modern art chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Paintings were hung crowded together, some with no frames, alongside racist slogans denigrating the artists for “insulting German womanhood” and revealing “sick minds.” It was designed to inflame public opinion against Modernism. The painting was apparently moved to Güstrow by the Rote Armee (Red Army) and has since been missing.

A sentence on the top of the page from the catalog for the Exhibition of Degenerate Art reads, "Even this was once taken seriously and highly paid," and the works reproduced below are by Johannes Molzahn, Jean Metzinger and Kurt Schwitters. See the page here.

This painting was exhibited at the 1913 Salon d'Automne in Paris. Its current location is unknown and may possibly have been destroyed by the Germans. After the exhibit, paintings were sorted out for sale and sold in Switzerland at auction. Some works were acquired by museums, others by private collectors. Nazi officers took many for their private use: for example, Hermann Göring took fourteen valuable pieces, including a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. In March, 1939, the Berlin Fire Brigade burned approximately 4000 works which had little value on the international market.

En Canot is listed on the Lost Art Internet Databese with the title "Im Boot", inventory number:*Museum A II 698; EK 16056. It is also list in the Degenerate Art Database, with the titles "Im Boot" and "Im Kanu", inventory number 16056. This Internet database documents more than 21,000 artworks condemned as “degenerate” by the Nazis and seized from German museums in 1937.

A preparatory drawing (study for Le Canot, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) was published in Les Soirées de Paris, no. 19, 1913. Les Soirées de Paris is the title of a literature and art review magazine. They were published in two series: the first series from February 1912 to June 1913 (No. 1 - No. 17); the second in November 1913 to July-August 1914 (No. 18 - No. 27). They were founded by Guillaume Apollinaire and Andre Salmon, et al. It was in part to facilitate the return of Apollinaire to the literary scene after the theft of the Mona Lisa (September 1911), of which he had been a suspect.

Der Sturm (German: The Storm), where En Canot (Im Boot) was originally purchased began as a magazine covering the expressionism movement founded in Berlin in 1910 by Herwarth Walden with which Georh Muche became an associate. It ran weekly until monthly in 1914. The magazine also fostered the Galerie Der Sturm to celebrate its 100th edition, in 1912. The gallery became the focus for Berlin's modern art scene, lasting a decade. Starting with an exhibition of Fauves and Der Blaue Reiter, followed by the introduction in Germany of the Italian Futurists, the gallery was to exhibit Edvard Munch, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Gino Severini, Jean Arp, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Kurt Schwitters and Jean Metzinger.

Another drawing of the same subject, now in the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, is signed and inscribed by Metzinger Dessin pour "En Canot", leading to the belief that the correct title for the present work should also be En Canot.

Unfortunately all we have is a black and white reproduction. One can only guess that the colors were bright and mostly pure, by extrapolations based on paintings executed during the same time frame, such as Portrait de Max Jacob, La Fumeuse (The Smoker) or Woman with Fan (reproduced below).

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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger


Jean Metzinger, 1916, Femme à la dentelle, oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

By 1916 the stress on multiple viewpoints and complex planar faceting inherent in Metzinger's work of 1908 though 1915 gave way to a more simplified form of Cubism, as that observed in Femme à la dentelle. The artist represents the figure emblematically rather than naturalistically, in terms of simple signs for facial features, strengthening the insistence on the autonomous purity of art.

Metzinger—unlike his friends Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay and František Kupka—had resisted the invitation to total abstraction. While stopping short of such extreme solutions, the works of Metzinger after 1915 remained Cubist yet wide-ranging in their form and meaning, with close parallels to Juan Gris. From 1916 Metzinger and Gris played leading roles in the developments of Cubism; the clarity and sense of order of the works produced between 1917 and 1920 would be referred to as Crystal Cubism by the critic Maurice Raynal. This narrowing of the reference frame to a more formal one excluded reference to the types of concerns manifested in Cubism prior to 1914.

In the first of a series of letter addressed to Albert Gleizes, dated 4 July 1916, Metzinger writes of the perspective he had developed:

"After two years of study I have succeeded in establishing the basic of this kind of perspective... It is not the materialist perspective of Gris, not the romantic perspective of Picasso. It is rather metaphysical perspective... The geometry of the fourth space has no more secrets for me. Previously I had only intuitions, now I have certainty..."

Metzinger continues, "The actual result? A new harmony... Everything is number. The mind hates what cannot be measured: it must be reduced and made comprehensible. That is the secret. There is nothing more to it. Painting, sculpture, music, architecture, all lasting art is never anything more than a mathematical expression of the relations that exist between what is inside and what is outside, the self and the world." (see Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, p. 21)

The fourth dimension was for Metzinger the space of the mind. And as Robbins points out, "the new perspective was a mathematical relationship between the ideas in his mind and the exterior world."

Jean Metzinger, 1917, Table by a window, oil on canvas, 81 x 65.1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Table by a window was in every sense an objet d'art in its own right, one that formed part of a re-emergence of Cubism following a return to order that many artists, including Picasso, had been involved. The re-emerged of Cubism as a significant force in 1917 was in part due to the support given by Léonce Rosenberg, who took in artists stranded by Kahnweiler’s exile in Switzerland, along with others such as Laurens, Lipchitz, Herbin, Severini, Gleizes and Metzinger.

Beginning April 1918, Léonce Rosenberg curated a series of Cubist exhibitions at his Galerie de l’Effort Moderne (founded the same year). Cubism was further featured in exhibitions devised by such organizations as Lyre et Palette and in new periodicals such as S.I.C. (from 1915), L’Elan (1915–16) and Nord-Sud (from 1917). Attempts were made by Louis Vauxcelles to claim that Cubism was dead, but these exhibitions, along with a well-organized Cubist showing at the 1920 Salon des Indépendants and a revival of the Salon de la Section d’Or led by Albert Gleizes the same year demonstrated that Cubism was very much still alive. (Source)

Here Metzinger employs a helical symmetry around such everyday objects as vase, flowers, pipe, spoon, window, table and magazine (inscribed L'Heure, meaning time). It can be thought of as rotational symmetry along with translation along an axis of rotation (the screw axis), in three-dimensional space that results from rotating an object at an even angular speed while simultaneously moving at another even speed along its axis of rotation (translation). At any one point on the canvas, these two motions combine to give Table by a window a coiling effect that defines the properties of the picture.

Jean Metzinger, 1917, Still Life, Playing Cards, Coffee Cup and Apples, oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm, private collection

Metzinger's Still Life of November 1917, much as Table by a window, bares affinities with the work of Gris of the same year. The still life itself, treated in a volumetric fashion with gradations of both color and tones, is placed on a flattened backdrop of juxtaposed planes forming in all a remarkable geometric composition. Too, as in Table by a window, Metzinger uses a class of helical symmetry that can be distinguished based on the interplay of the angle of coiling and translation symmetries along the axes, not dissimilar to the translations and rotations that would preoccupy the theoretical writings of Albert Gleizes throughout subsequent years.

This indeed was an art-form that had evolved from pre-World War I Cubism, only now, color, however anti-naturalist, had once again come to the fore as a principle component. The artist has made use of mobile perspective, once again too, this time with its primary vantage point seemingly placed above the subject, as if viewed from the ceiling. His tipped-up table is almost dizzyingly placed upon the patterned floor. Though elements of the still life appear as if observed from an oblique angle. The source of light comes from different directions simultaneously, with, for example, shadowing to the left of the fruit bowl and shadowing to the right of the coffee cup.

Jean Metzinger, 1918, Fruit and a Jug on a Table, oil and sand on canvas, 115.9 x 81 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Provenance Léonce Rosenberg, Galerie l'Effort Moderne, Paris)

"Peint par moi en 1916 Metzinger" inscribed on the verso of Fruit and a Jug on a Table was likely added by Metzinger years after completion of the painting when his memory of the exact date was imprecise. The moderation of colors, the arrangement of objects on the table separated from the background, and the curvilinear structuring contrasts from the highly chromatic and sharp angular modeling of Metzinger's 1916 works, suggesting this work was completed circa 1918.

A fragmentary label on the back of the canvas dated April 1919 bears the name of Léonce Rosenberg and the Galerie l'Effort Moderne. A collector and dealer of contemporary French art, Rosenberg had signed a contract with Metzinger in 1916. In exchange for a monthly income the dealer was granted the exclusive rights to Metzinger's artistic production. Metzinger had a solo exhibit at Rosenberg's gallery January 1919. Jean Metzinger's show was followed by those of Fernand Léger (February), Georges Braque (March), Juan Gris (April), Gino Severini (May), Pablo Picasso (June), Henri Hayden (December 1919), Jacques Lipchitz (Jan.-Feb. 1920).

A group show at l'Effort Moderne 3 May - 30 October 1920 entitled Maîtres du Cubisme saw the participation of Braque, Gris, Herbin, Laurens, Léger, Metzinger, Picasso and Severini.

A March 1921 show dedicated to Juan Gris Oeuvres de 1918 à 1920 also featured works by Braque, Gris, Herbin, Laurens, Léger, Metzinger, Picasso and Severini.

In May of 1921, in another show entitled Maîtres du Cubisme, were to be found works by Braque, Gleizes, Léger, Gris, Herbin, Metzinger, Ozenfant, Picasso, Laurens, Severini and the sculptor Joseph Csaky (also written Csáky József).

And in 1922 at l'Effort Moderne, Du cubisme à une renaissance plastique, were hung works by Braque, Gleizes, Gris, Hayden, Herbin, Léger, Metzinger, Mondrian, Ozenfant, Picasso en Valmier.

Jean Metzinger, 1919, Still Life, oil on canvas, 79.5 x 62.5 cm, Fundation Telefonica

After the First World War Metzinger—as Picasso and several other Cubists—moved increasingly toward a traditional treatment of subjects in response to both a growing interest in the classicism and pressures of post-war conservatism; a phenomenon that would encompass music, philosophy, literature and the fine-arts.

Still Life of 1919, though considered Cubist in influential critical circles, does not possess the abrupt angular faceting of the artists pre-1918 Cubism. Metzinger's use of color and form tend towards the principles of simplicity and symmetry seen as virtues in the arts of Rome and Ancient Greece. This neo-classical movement following the war, which Metzinger was about to parallel, rejected the extreme attitude of (for example) Dada, in favour of moderation, sobriety and self-discipline.

Until then Metzinger's colors would be consistently anti-natural; his rounded forms clearly delineated by omnidirectional light and shadow; his geometric armature reduced to elemental building blocks; his perspective tightly packed and limited to a depth of field equivalent to a raised relief, as if chiseled out of stone; his brushwork dynamic and expressive; his compositions quasi-symmetric, constructed in a vertical format. Metzinger's grammar, in paintings such as Still Life, consist of all the elements in a language, focusing on the interconnectedness and relationships between its diverse parts.

Each painting by Metzinger is a complex system that somehow functions as a whole; their function cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts, i.e., meaning cannot be deduced from the properties of the elements alone.

Of course, Metzinger's paintings would never fully speak in a classical vocabulary, nor for that matter would they ever return to a wholly Cubist dialogue, at least not of the syntax expressed by the artist between 1909 and 1919. There was never any question of turning back the clocks or reproducing experiments of the past. Yet a dialogue with nature they were, one that attempted to juxtapose the external world as observed with the inner world as experienced.

Jean Metzinger, 1919, La Tricoteuse, oil on canvas, 116.5 x 81 cm, formerly Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. Current location Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

This rather banal subject of a woman sewing is everything but banal in its treatment. The geometric forms, less rounded than in others works of the same series, or that would follow, permeate the composition with a sense of tension contrasting the peaceful tranquility or sereneness of the scene depicted. Depth of field is grasped only by the overlapping of planes. Colors are subdued. Symmetries are twofold; both on a vertical and horizontal axis. But the patterned self-similarities are not absolute; creating an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects the unattainable beauty or perfection of the natural world. Whereas Metzinger's 1910-1914 works contain the passage of time ('mobile perspective'), the temporal component here appears to fuse entirely with the spatial coordinate system, as if the clock stood still; the background and model locked in an eternal embrace in which only the artist holds the key.

Jean Metzinger, 1919, La Femme à la Cafetière, La tasse de thé (Woman with a Coffee Pot) oil on canvas, 115.3 x 81 cm, Tate Modern, London

Woman with a Coffee-Pot has many of the characteristic features one would expect to find in Metzinger's work of this period. In this case, it shows Metzinger on the verge of adopting a more naturalistic stance. The space is becoming recessive, surface fracturing is subdued, and the figure—like an actor of the Italian 'commedia dell'arte', much in vogue in post-war Paris—is simplified. Though the geometry remains non-Euclidean in the tradition of Cézanne—as observed in the table, coffee pot an cup—mobile perspective is almost entirely vacated. Decorative patterning becomes more restrained, but surface textures and a relatively thick application of paint enlivening the flat color areas continue to be an essential feature of Metzinger's style. Simplicity and balance replace activity and details, directing the way towards the 'classical Cubism' that typifies the artists work of the early 1920s. Though the oval format rarely, if at all, appeared in the artists works prior to 1918. Clarity, purity and structure (and even mystery) are emphasized in a synthetic Cubist idiom. This work, which deserves recognition as an important development in Metzinger's career, has been described as "an alliance between Cubist pictorial method and classical aesthetics." (Christopher Green, 1970, Léger and the Purists, The Tate Gallery Publications). (See too Joann Moser, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press, p. 46).

Yet despite the sense calm after the storm that Cubism was prior to 1914, it is hard not to see in La Femme à la Cafetière a nostalgia, melancholy, and most of all the sadness, an eerie sense of grief that was inflicted upon Metzinger following the premature death of his wife Lucie Soubiran around 1918 and the death of his only daughter shortly thereafter. La Femme à la Cafetière is exceptional in that very few other works from this period represent women; most are of landscapes where human activity is nowhere to be found.

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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger

Jean Metzinger, 1922, Le Bal Masqué, Carnaval à Venise, oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm, Collection Léonce Rosenberg, location unknown

I had the pleasure of seeing this painting in 1990 when it was placed in a public auction in Paris (Cornette de Saint Cyr, Drouot Montaigne, Friday, March 30, 1990). I had already seen the work reproduced in black and white in the Metzinger in Retrospect catalogue (1985) and was struck by the beauty of the color harmony at the public viewing. If I recall, there is a dominance of emerald green and turquoise in the background with the same for reflected light in the figures. As can be seen in this photograph, Metzinger's figures are dancing and playing music, yet there is a sadness that emerges despite the festivities transpiring in the scene, as in other works by Metzinger of the same period. This can hardly be construed as a reproach however. Sadness is after all an emotion to be expressed, a mood, a coping mechanism. And in Metzinger's case it is combined with the determination to continue painting (and to paint scenes of people enjoying themselves), after having survived the worst that can possibly happen (the loss of his wife and daughter). Despite the sorrow there is also a refinement transpiring in Metzinger's piece (as in the colors not shown), a human imprint that is surely not triumphant, but subtle, a spirit that lives on, ready to fight, and most of all, ready to create.

Jean Metzinger, 1922-23, Embarkation of Harlequin (Arlequin), oil on canvas, 162 x 112 cm, Sale Parke-Bernet, Los Angeles, 20 Novemeber 1972. Private collection. (This is a print of Harlequin)

Eventually all the Cubists (except for Gleizes, Delaunay and a handful of others) would return to some form of classicism (dubbed Neo-Classicism) at the end of World War I. Even so, the lessons of Cubism would not be forgotten.

Metzinger's departure from Cubism circa 1922 would leave open the 'spatial' susceptibility to classical observation, but the 'form' could only be grasped by the 'intelligence' of the observer, something that escaped classical observation.

His exhibition at Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie l'Effort Moderne at the outset of 1921 was exclusively of landscapes: his formal vocabulary remained rhythmic, linear perspective was avoided. There was a motivation to unite the pictorial and the natural. Symmetry in one form or another remained a principle device throughout.

In every painting from the Naturalist to the Cubist (in paraphrasing Christopher Green) stood the polemic relationship between art and nature, between modern life, modern art and the past, flanked between the constancy of tradition and the inconstancy of progress. The aim of Metzinger (and other more radical Cubist components) was a balance between progressive innovation and an awareness of tradition that forbade the dependence on models of the past (one of the hallmarks of academicism).

The return to classical traditions (referred to by Jean Cocteau as a ‘rappel à l’ordre’ and others as 'l'art vivant') to which Cubism had submitted after 1919 was part of wider ideological shift towards a conservative stance in both French society and culture. But that conservatism had its polar opposite operating within the artistic community. Les Années Folles ((the Crazy Years, the Golden Twenties) was about to sweep across Paris with its liberating force willing and capable of reaching all sectors of contemporary life. Montmartre and Montparnasse, two hubs of modern art, became frequented like never before by the Parisian society. Montmartre, where Metzinger lived, still, became the principle meeting place of both intellectuals and bohemians. Montparnasse, with its cafés at the center of Parisian night-life such as Le Dôme, La Closerie des Lilas, La Rotonde, Le Select, and La Coupole—all of which are still in business—attracted a community where creativity was unreservedly embraced with all its oddities. Starving artists and expatriate Americans (of which there were many) could occupy a table all evening for a few centimes. Music halls, masquerade balls, parties at the van Dongen studio, or Gertrude Stein's salon, harlequins, absinthe, dancing, unescorted women, promisquous sexual encounters, excess, night-life, art-deco, and so on, became the rule rather than the exception.

This is the atmosphere where such works as Embarkation of Harlequin, Carnaval à Venice, The clown, La Comédie Italienne, and Salomé (below) were painted.

Jean Metzinger, 1923, Jeune Femme à la Mandoline, oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm, private collection

At the time of writing it is not clear whether this painting belongs to Metzinger's early 1920s series, or to the mid-1930s series; as certain characteristics of Jeune Femme à la Mandoline appear in both series, and at the same time, other characteristics appear in neither. Bozena Nikiel will likely be the final arbiter on such a deliberation, pending the forthcoming Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres de Jean Metzinger.

Jeune Femme à la Mandoline is reproduced in the 1985 Jean Metzinger in Retrospect catalogue, on page 106, and is dated circa 1923. Note, in the same catalogue the provenance is Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris. However, in a private communication, a representative of the Galerie Daniel Malingue has informed me that Jeune Femme à la Mandoline is not listed within their archives. Further research is required to determine the source of information published in the Metzinger catalogue.

The effective methodological ordering (music of spheres) exhibited in Jeune Femme à la Mandoline, with its circumspect positioning of form, textured color, and delicate blending or fusion of the figure and background, along with Metzinger's clairvoyantly rendered light and shadow, are all devices practiced by the artist within both his early 1920s and mid-1930 series. Note, for example, that the division in two of the model's features gives way to a subtle profile view—resulting from a 'mobile perspective' used by Metzinger throughout his career to constitute what he termed the 'total image.' The elegant model appears to be simultaneously clothed and unclothed, revealing yet cache, preserving the distilled form of Metzinger's work as he articulated the everlasting sensation of both internal and external beauty.

Note too the corresponding balance to the overall composition generated by the flowers to the right of the model, which simulate almost precisely the curvatures of the woman's hairstyle. Note as well the lack of formal perspective exhibited by the table upon which the model sits, and the abstract handling of the background space, the models breasts and the folds in her dress.

All of these properties combine to create a rather unique genus in Metzinger's oeuvre, while at the same time reflecting a continuum that spans in excess of five decades (from 1902-1956).

Jean Metzinger, 1924, Le Bal masqué, La Comédie Italienne, oil on canvas, 88.9 x 130.2 cm, Collection Léonce Rosenberg, location unknown

Joann Moser writes, in comparing Jean Metzinger's Cubist works to his Post-Cubist paintings: "The classicizing unchecked by Cubist discipline that characterizes Metzinger's paintings of these years led him to create some of his least successful works in 1923 and 1924." (Joann Moser, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, Post-Cubist Works, 1922-1930, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press, p. 104).

Joann Moser, however, is incorrect on two counts: (1) These works are indeed checked by the Cubist discipline, and (2) these works are quite successful (in terms of their original style, in terms of their reception at Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie l'Effort Moderne where he exhibited regularly between 1921 and 1927, and contributed extensively to writing in the Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne, and in terms of results at public auctions in New York, Paris and London).

Jean Metzinger had written to Léonce Rosenberg (September 1920) of a return to nature that appeared to him both constructive and not at all a renunciation of Cubism. His exhibition at l'Effort Moderne at the outset of 1921 was exclusively of landscapes: linear perspective was avoided, yet his formal vocabulary remained rhythmic. There was a motivation to unite the pictorial and the 'natural.' Christopher Green writes: "The willingness to adapt Cubist language to the look of nature was quickly to affect his figure painting too. From that exhibition of 1921 Metzinger continued to cultivate a style that was not only less obscure, but clearly took subject-matter as its starting point far more than an abstract play with flat pictorial elements." Green continues: "Yet, style, in the sense of his own special way of handling form and color, remained for Metzinger the determining factor, something imposed on his subjects to give them their special pictorial character. His sweet, rich colour between 1921 and 1924 was unashamedly artificial, and is itself symptomatic of the fact that his return to lucid representation did not mean a return to nature approached naturalistically... Metzinger himself, writing in 1922 [published by Montparnasse] could claim quite confidently that this was not at all a betrayal of Cubism but a development within it.

'I know works,' Metzinger said, 'whose thoroughly classical appearance conveys the most personal [the most original] the newest conceptions... Now that certain Cubists have pushed their constructions so far as to take in clearly objective appearances, it has been declared that Cubism is dead [in fact] it approaches realization.'" (Christopher Green, Cubism and its Enemies, Modern Movements and Reaction in French Art, 1916-1928, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1987, pp. 52, 53, 166. See also Jean Metzinger, 'Tristesse d'Automne,' Montparnasse, 1 December 1922, p. 2. And Léonce Rosenberg, Cubisme et empirisme, 1920-1926, in E.M., no. 31, January 1927)

Jean Metzinger, 1924-1925, Les Arlequins, oil on canvas, 89 x 130.2 cm, private collection

Though the title of this piece suggest the presence of several harlequins there is portrayed only one, leading to the belief that the original title for this work was something others than its current title, or that this is only a partial title.

Metzinger's dancing figure appears to be one of the Zanni servant characters, the most well-known, from the Italian Commedia dell'arte, Harlequin or Arlecchino. Originally, it is said, Harlequin was a black-faced emissary of the devil who roamed the countryside with a band of demons chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell. Traditionally, the physical appearance of Harlequin is consistent with Metzinger's depiction of the individual just right of center (dressed in red and black attire).

Some say the name comes from Dante's Inferno, but its origins remain uncertain. The Harlequin character might have been influenced by or based on the Zanni archetype who was physically agile, both acrobatic and nimble, though a slow thinker. He is also known to trying to seduce women for himself if by chance he finds someone else with the same intentions, by interrupting or ridiculing his rival. Between the 17th and mid-19th centuries, he became more of a romantic hero, primarily a visual spectacle, his popularity provoked the Harlequinade. His amoral behaviour leads to several difficult situations, but his everlasting high spirits and cleverness work to save him. He never seeks revenge or holds a grudge.

Columbine, a lovely woman whose role usually revolves around her romantic interest in Harlequin—possibly depicted here dancing left of center and dressed in yellow—who has caught the eye of Harlequin in the original Commedia dell'arte.

Composition: The axis of symmetry is a vertical line practically down the center of the canvas (or just left of center). Even the trees in the background behind the two dancing figures appear to be mirror images. The rest on the composition is symmetric to a close approximation.

See too Gino Severini's 1921-1922 Arlequin, Scaramouche and Tattaglia (pictured here, toward the bottom of the page), Paul Cézanne's Harlequin, and Harlquin, c. 1720. Another notable work on the topic includes André Derain's 1924 Harlequin and Pierrot.

Jean Metzinger, 1924, Salomé, oil on canvas, 92.2 x 64.8 cm

Salomé essentially was a continuation of the series began in 1922, yet Metzingers lines, textures, tones and colors became more precise, contrasted, machine-like. Salomé was one of the first of this series which has often been associated with the 'mechanical world' of Fernand Léger. Yet despite the mechanical treatment of his subjects, Metzinger was able to capture in Salomé—something observably absent in the works of Léger from the same period—the erotic sensuality and feminine delicateness of his model, strengthening the ambiguity of the picture which takes pleasure in exposing debauchery without the pretext of condemning it.

Metzinger portrays Salomé as something of a femme fatale, both in the vein of Oscar Wilde's play of the same title, and as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness (as Christian traditions depict her). Salomé's erotic dance is mentioned in the New Testament, though she was not consistently called Salome until the nineteenth century when Gustave Flaubert referred to her as Salome in his short story "Herodias". She appears here a mysterious and seductive woman.

Salomé is an archetype of literature and art, an archetype of female desire and transgression, and a fashionable emblem of fin-de-siecle decadence. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was seen as supernatural in the earliest stories. Today still, she is often described as having a power akin to a seductive enchantress.

This story of Salome has long been a favourite of artists. Painters who have done notable representations of her include Titian, Henri Regnault, Georges Rochegrosse, Federico Beltran-Masses and Gustave Moreau. The pose of the woman in Metzinger's version bares some resemblance to Gustave Moreau's Salomé Tatouée (1871), but the differences between the two outweigh the similarities, suggesting that Moreau was not a primary influence for the present work.

Metzinger, 1928-29, Composition allégorique, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

With the simplification of constructed forms, the use of components associated with the industrialized world in an increasingly mechanized society; Metzinger's Post-Cubism style needed not refer to the past, yet he chose to do so. It was the artists way of fusing the 'transient' with the 'eternal.' It was his way, in doing so, of rendering homage to the old masters (particularly Ingres, but also those artists of the Renaissance). Metzinger's representational techniques were effectively transformed by industrialization; something reflected the dynamic brilliance of Composition allégorique, as part of a fundamental reorientation towards a dynamic and changing world. The linking of elementary geometrical forms with inherent beauty, and the influence of a growing industrial production had been pragmatically codified by jean Metzinger. The appellation of 'avant-garde' was not to be solely left to the founders of Dada, Purism, De Stijl, Neo-Plasticism, Bauhaus, or to Surrealism. Metzinger then too had been an innovator.

Jean Metzinger, 1930, Globe and Banjo, oil on canvas, 56 x 92 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago

The first thing that stands out from this painting is its title. The armillary sphere represented by Metzinger is a model of objects in the celestial sphere. It is not a globe. The armillary sphere consists of a spherical framework of rings centred on Earth that represent lines of celestial latitude, longitude and other astronomical features such as the ecliptic. It differs from a celestial globe, which is a smooth sphere, the principal purpose of which is to map the constellations. Historically, armillary spheres were among the first complex mechanical devices; their development led to improvements in techniques and design of all mechanical devices. Renaissance scientists often had their portraits painted with one hand on an armillary sphere, which represented the height of wisdom and knowledge.

Furthermore, the musical instrument represented—clearly not a banjo—resembles a lute. From the Medieval to the late Baroque eras the lute was used in a great variety of instrumental music and was perhaps the most important instrument for secular music during the Renaissance.

Metzinger's reference to the Renaissance (here by the armillary sphere and lute) can be viewed as an homage, not solely to the artists of that period but to natural philosophers alike. Cubism, with Metzinger at its foremost spokesman during the crucial years, marked the end of an era dominated by the Renaissance, the beginning of modern art. Recall that the multiplicity of points of view ('mobile perspective') developed by Metzinger and Gleizes stood in opposition to the Renaissance principle of single point perspective. It was, in effect, a rejection of the perspective mechanism altogether. True, Cézanne had the courage to attempt the hybrid structure in his work in which the Renaissance idea of an immobile, imitative form, sought reconciliation with the idea of a mobile form that would possess its own concrete reality (to use the words of Gleizes). Those contradictions fundamental to his work are themselves the reason for its popularity and importance in the history of art. The 'return to order' (Le Retour à l'ordre) following Cubism and the First World War, represented a complete reversal of prorities. Now, instead of rejecting classicism it was embraced, as artists began drawing their inspiration from the Renaissance. Artists and intellectuals—with Metzinger pervading both—expressed their desire to revive an art that embodied the génie des nations whose order and hierarchy had been severely disrupted during the war.

A more accurate title for this piece would be La Sphère Armillaire et la Luth.

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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Jean Metzinger
Neoclassicism and Post-Cubism

Jean Metzinger, 1935-45, Nu au Soleil, oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Beginning in the late 1920s Metzinger was romantically involved with a young Greek woman by the name of Suzanne Phocas. The two were married in 1929. She became Metzinger's muse and favorite model, posing for the artist on many occasions with the backdrop of Greek landscapes. After 1930, until his death in 1956, Metzinger turned towards a Neo-Classical approach to painting with elements of Surrealism, still concerned with questions of form, volume, dimension, relative position and relationship of figures, along with visible geometric properties of space.

Such is clearly observable in Nu au Soleil. But this painting is more than just classical or decorative. Note the bilateral symmetry (or reflective symmetry) in architectural form within which the model is bathed and contoured, highly accentuated by light and shadow. One could practically draw a line down the center of the canvas which serves as the axis of symmetry, balancing the distribution of duplicate body parts and architectural elements. But like most symmetries in nature—indeed the laws of nature evidently obey certain principles of symmetry—here it is approximate. Parts will not exactly match up when the canvas is folded in half.

Here, apparently, Metzinger took pleasure in adding a texture to the paint, not dissimilar to his treatment of paint during his Neo-Impressionist phase. But this is no pastiche or reproduction of an earlier work. Quite the contrary, Nu au Soleil represents a novel approach to painting for its time, that—though not entirely in the vein of Surrealism—carried with it the same artistic intelligence, sensitivity and lucidity displayed throughout the artists Neo-Impressionist phase, Proto-Cubist works, Cubist period and successive Post-Cubist constructions.

Jean Metzinger, 1935, Nu aux Hortensias, oil on canvas, 120.5 x 89.5 cm, private collection

Nu aux Hortensias is a cultivated example of Metzinger's mid-1930s inventions. Primarily painted in a cool gray, yellow highlights for the model and pinks for the hortensia (or hydrangea), add to the overall Delphian glow of this painting. Here, as in most of Metzinger's works spanning his entire career, there is a marked bilateral symmetry (or mirror-image symmetry) driving the composition placed right through the vertical center of the canvas; with the chair and figure flanked on either side.

Nudity in Metzinger's art—a recurring theme throughout his career—had reflected social norms or standards of aesthetics, modesty and morality of their time in painting. His nudes of the 1930s conveyed both elegance and sophistication. They represented the ultimate transformation of matter into pure form; one that rather than provoking action encouraged contemplation, even admiration.

From his earliest portrayals, circa 1905, the human body had been one of the principal subjects for artists, an abyss of inspiration. The stylistic treatment and staging conventions employed by Metzinger distinguish his nudes from all others. The nude women Metzinger painted presented were not only revealed as objects (e.g., still life, landscape) but persons with reference to his intimate social relationships.

Jean Metzinger, 1936-37, La Baigneuse, (Nu), oil on canvas, 130 x 89 cm, Exhibited 1938 Salon des Tuileries, Pavillon des Arts Graphics et Plastique

In La Baigneuse Metzinger created a piece that would be timeless. The artist made little attempt to follow conventions and felt no pressure to conform to the methods fashionable trends in art of the 1930s. He created this image drawing from nature and by using his imagination. The artist enjoyed painting women and landscapes and here combined the two. He was inspired by nature and in his attempt to understand it painted more than what was on the surface. He experimented with his desire to relate the figure to the landscape, to show the bather interacting with nature in various ways.

Notice how this voluptuous woman and the background in which she is placed fuse together forming Surrealist-like whole; the mountains blending with her hair, shoulder and thigh, the beach and Mediterranean contouring her forearm. This monumental woman, appearing entirely classical (except perhaps for the covert sexual or carnal aspects of her pose), is partially draped with a blue and red material the treatment of which recalls Metzinger's Cubist epoch. The cool blues working both in harmony and in contradistinction to the warm colors of the earth (the model possessing both). Here too Metzinger's fascination with bilateral or mirror symmetry can be observed, albeit not as noticeably as that in Nu au Soleil or Nu aux hortensias. But like the two other paintings, both reproduced above, La Baigneuse is a relatively large monumental work, painted in a Greek setting (or Bandol in the South of France).

This painting, along with others of the series, deserves to be seen without the filtered preconceptions of -ism's: for the pleasure. That is when the true quality of La Baigneuse is revealed.

Jean Metzinger, 1937, Yachting, oil on canvas, 116 x 80 cm, private collection

Yachting is likely a painting forming part of the same series as Nu au Soleil, Nu aux hortensias and La Baigneuse. The model appears to be the same woman (perhaps Suzanne Phocas) and the setting could possibly be Bandol in Provence, where he lived before moving back to Paris in 1943.

Color in Yachting seems to have been relegated to a secondary or tertiary role, but remains fundamentally important. The strict constructive ordering that had been so pronounced in Metzinger's Divisionist, Cubist and Post-Cubist works is present in Yachting—as Nu au Soleil, Nu aux hortensias and La Baigneuse—in the careful positioning of form, color, and in the way in which Metzinger delicately assimilates the union of figure and background, of light and shadow. The effect generated on the model is not dissimilar to a photographic phenomenon called solarisation (or the Sabattier effect, one of the earliest known effects in photography), in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appearing light or light areas appearing dark. The sophisticated figure, simultaneously clothed and unclothed, preserves the refined form of Metzinger's work as he tapped into a timeless impression of female splendor.

Jean Metzinger, Femme debout, oil on canvas, 73 x 54 cm

What to say about Femme debout besides she's beautiful.

It should be noted though, that just as Jeune Femme à la Mandoline (above), it is not yet clear whether this painting belongs to Metzinger's early 1920s Neo-Classical series, or to the mid-1930s series; baring common stylistic aspects with both. Bozena Nikiel will likely be the final arbiter on such a deliberation, pending the forthcoming Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres de Jean Metzinger.

Jean Metzinger, 1946, Nu Couché, Reclining Figure, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm, private collection

Metzinger had been criticized for having created pastiches or imitations of his earlier Cubist works during the 1940s and 1950s. Indeed his ambitions to re-invent himself as an avant-garde artist—something he had been throughout his career—tapered off to some extent as he settled into older age. It appears as if the pleasure of painting for paintings sake was a sufficient reason to continue (unlike, for example Marcel Duchamp who abandoned painting all together, for his own personal reasons) doing what he loved. The same reproach could be leveled against artist such as Picasso, Braque, Gleizes, Villon, Delaunay and many others artists that had, at times during their careers been at the forefront of modernism, and in later life produced Cubist works. Such a reproach is, however, unjustified in the case of Metzinger (as it is for those other artists).

Metzinger's Cubist works produced during the 1940s and 1950s—such as Nu Couché of 1946, and La robe verte shown below—were in fact not at all reproductions or pastiches of any of his earlier paintings, nor were they an attempt by the artist to imitate a style of Cubism which he had developed. The Cubist style of these later paintings does not resemble any of his former styles traced throughout the years spanning from 1908 through the Post-Cubist epoch, i.e., they are in fact recognizably distinct from his earlier works. Though Cubist in style, each one was a new creation unto itself. They too possess the sensitivity, brilliance and intelligence of his earlier works; in their subject matter, geometric composition, color harmonies, topology, symmetry, the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. These aesthetic considerations are—in themselves factors that contribute to a Cubist aesthetic—sufficient to justify the continuation of purely Cubist painting. Cubism in all its many ramifications may have been the greatest growth area in 20th century art. There was no reason why it should stop growing.

Following his Neo-Impressionist, Divisionist and Fauve period (1903 to circa 1907) to the year of his death in 1956 Metzinger worked in a Cubist style with minor deviations into geometrically experimental forms of classicism, and otherwise, unlike others of his entourage never found that Cubism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

Jean Metzinger, ca.1945-1950, Nu Allongé, oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm, Galerie Melki Archives

Metzinger's Post-Cubism (of the 1940s and 1950s) can roughly be said to be characterized by a combination of geometric forms, subject matter and techniques with the subtle and highly conscious use of both motifs and conventions from earlier periods. These works are less complex, simple in comparison to many of his earlier Cubist works, but with enough complexity to make them interesting. These works can be seen as a subtle shift away from the espousal of abstraction, conceptualization and surrealism that had dominated avant-garde art from the mid-1920s. These were indeed a development from the precedent set by Cubism, the eclecticism of which exploited the semiotic power of everyday experience. Metzinger's Post-Cubism was both the continuation of Modernism and its transcendence.

Nu Allongé and other works from the same period are the result of the confluence of many factors. Though simplified in appearance their effective use of symmetry is complex, and highly dependent on the skills and intuition of the artist who needed to weave and combine such factors within his own creative work. Along with texture, color, proportion and other factors, symmetry was for Metzinger a powerful ingredient in such a synthesis; and the principles of Cubism (mostly his own) were the primary means of delivering its content.

Jean Metzinger, photograph, circa 1950s

Jean Metzinger died in Paris on 3 November 1956 at the age of seventy three.


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Du "Cubisme" by Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes, the Musée de La Poste in Paris presents a show entitled Gleizes - Metzinger. Du cubisme et après, from 9 May to 22 September 2012. Over 80 paintings and drawings, along with documents, films and 15 works by other members of the Section d'Or group (Villon, Duchamp-Villon, Kupka, Le Fauconnier, Lhote, La Fresnaye, Survage, Herbin, Marcoussis, Archipenko...) are included in the show. A catalogue in French and English accompanies the event. A French postage stamp is issued representing works by Gleizes (Le Chant de Guerre, 1915) and Metzinger (L'Oiseau Bleu, 1913, reproduced above). This is the first time that a museum has organized an exhibit showcasing both Metzinger and Gleizes together. (Musée de La Poste, Galerie du Messager, Gleizes - Metzinger. Du Cubisme et après, 9 May - 22 September 2012, Paris, France. Exposition in commemoration of 100th anniversary of the publication of Du "Cubisme".


Both as a painter and theorist of the Cubist movement, Metzinger was at the forefront. It was too Metzinger's role as a mediator between the general public, Picasso, Braque and other aspiring artists (such as Gleizes, Delaunay, Le Fauconnier and Léger) that places him directly at the center of Cubism.

"Because of his Nantes background and the military and government figures in his family," writes Daniel Robbins, "he had a horror of bourgeois pretension. He was, as a result, unusually sardonic and, at the same time, open to all the idioms that he considered genuinely popular. He searched for the visual equivalent to argot, knowing full well that this would be the first to pass. But he retained a conception of that which endures: 'The art that does not pass leans on mathematics... Whether the result of patient study or of flashing intuition, it alone is capable of reducing our diverse, pathetic sensations to the strict unity of a mass (Bach), a fresco (Michelangelo), a bust (antiquity)."

"Jean Metzinger, then" Daniel Robbins continues "was at the center of Cubism, not only because of his role as intermediary among the orthodox Montmartre group and right bank or Passy Cubists, not only because of his great identification with the movement when it was recognized, but above all because of his artistic personality. His concerns were balanced; he was deliberately at the intersection of high intellectuality and the passing spectacle." (Daniel Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, p. 22)

In the words of S.E. Johnson, an in-depth analysis of Metzinger's Pre-Cubist period—his first artistic peak—"can only class that painter, in spite of his youth, as being already one of the leading artistic personalities in that period directly preceding Cubism. [...] In an attempt to understand the importance of Jean Metzinger in Modern Art, we could limit ourselves to three considerations. Firstly, there is the often overlooked importance of Metzinger's Divisionist Period of 1900-1908. Secondly, there is the role of Metzinger in the founding of the Cubist School. Thirdly, there is the consideration of Metzinger's whole Cubist Period from 1909 to 1930. In taking into account these various factors, we can understand why Metzinger must be included among that small group of artists who have taken a part in the shaping of Art History in the first half of the Twentieth Century." (S. E. Johnson, 1964, Metzinger, Pre-Cubist and Cubist Works, 1900-1930, International Galleries, Chicago)


From the beginning, Jean Metzinger's interest in mathematics, literature and art combined to form a realistic first stage for structure, patterns, space and change. Metzinger's work evolved through the use of abstraction and logical reasoning, from calculation, measurement, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects—or equivalently, from the motion of the artist around physical objects. His starting point, though, extended beyond the purely visual to include the experience of life, and his goal had been to translate that experience onto canvas. These insights—in combination with that which is observed—would be synthesized into a new unity, a new equilibrium, a 'total image', but what he needed was exceedingly more complex than the reconstitution of multiple viewpoints. He needed to appreciate a multitude of aspects involved in the human experience, to understand the diversity, richness and complexity of life's experience. In these deliberations he was engaged with others, formulating generalizations, principles, and theories, with an emphasis on the balance between modern and classical, between the transient and the immutable. Metzinger's art was at a crossroad as he undertook to mediate between the fugitive and the eternal. "Their [the Cubists] reason" wrote Metzinger in 1910, "is balanced between the pursuit of the fugitive and the mania for the eternal." (Metzinger, Notes sur la peinture, Pan, Paris, October-November 1910, 649)

In Metzinger's vision of a new world, materials were disguised, covered; surfaces denaturalized, multiple images frozen in changeless perfection as if immortalized. Yet in the progression from one painting to another, fresh and different balanced relationships were continually achieved. His art from the beginning to the end was a work-in-progress whose order was always but a phase in process of change; equivalent to life and therefore dynamic, energetic. The ensemble of his oeuvre can be viewed as a stage from which the unexpected emerged, just as in life as lived, in people and in things. Life and its complement, the physical and its converse, as mind vs. matter, to Metzinger, remained the focus of attention, the one rivaling the other in this vision of an ideal environment, of an ideal continuity between art and life: the absorption of art’s ‘perfection’ into life (and visa versa).

Art signified for him the search for and expression of dualities or equivalencies: the fixed and mobile, static and dynamic, the internal and external world, objective and subjective, the past, the future and the continuum between. Metzinger was to find a fundamental unity or compatibility that brought these contradictory codes to the fore. The distinction contemplated between these differing postulates came as the first firm result yielded by Metzinger's investigation. Though different—almost polar opposites—there was to be found an underlying symmetry, or equilibrium that could be drawn between them. And there is another dimension to the importance contained in Metzinger's sustained inquiry, one that radically changed our outlook with far-reaching and profound implications: the dimension that relates to science, to relativity, to quantum theory, to human consciousness, creativity and imagination.

This willful desire to play with contradictory codes for the representation of objects and space, as we have seen, was not isolated to Metzinger's Cubist works. This had become one of the most ubiquitous devices used throughout his career as an artist. Such a development represented unambiguously an expansion of possibilities, an expansion of scope. Yet, such pictorial expression by which objects and space could be be denoted, raises ambiguities that emerge when these conflicting codes are pitched one against the other—locked into an aesthetic game whose rules the artist controls.

Coldcreation, aka Alexander Mittelmann
(November 2011 - April 2012)

Last edited by Coldcreation2 : 05-02-2012 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 05-03-2012, 03:12 PM
LGHumphrey LGHumphrey is offline
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Thanks, CC2, you've done a great deal of work to put this all together, much appreciated.

What a huge variety of artwork this guy did.
Lawrence Humphrey
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:34 AM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Yes thanks for this massive survey. Very inspiring.
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Old 05-04-2012, 12:35 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Wow Alexander! Quite impressive presentation. It will take me some time and several return visits to digest it all. Thanks for a great view of Jean Metzinger. I think I should apply for college credits for sitting in on your presentation. KUDOS

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Old 05-06-2012, 08:20 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Good write up!
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Old 05-13-2012, 09:10 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

What a fantastic post. Thanks so much!
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Old 05-19-2012, 05:51 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

I am awed by the job you did on this, so thorough and so many painting images! And I am thrilled to learn of this artist. I just love the Neo-impressionists and can never understand why their work isn't exhibited more by museums. I don't believe I've ever seen any work by Metzinger. His Fauvism and Cubism are interesting as well. Thank you for doing this.
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Old 05-20-2012, 03:17 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Great job!...well put together, must have taken you a long time..thank you I enjoyed looking through this.
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:48 AM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

You did an incredible job putting this biography together! I had never heard of Jean Metzinger, thank you for posting this, his work is inspiring. I especially love his cubist phase.
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:54 PM
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Re: Jean Metzinger: Artist of the Month

Thanks people, but after reading over some sections I realized that quite a few changes need to be made: some typos, some rearranging, some mistakes and so on.

I can't edit the text here, so I will do so in the expanded blog version; http://jean-metzinger.blogspot.com.es/. That way at least one of these versions of the document will be more correct than the other.

I'm actually in the process of writing a similar document about Albert Gleizes, the artist with whom Jean Metzinger coauthored Du "Cubisme" 100 years ago. When it's finished I'll post a link somewhere here at Wetcanvas for those that may be interested. Or if ~JON would like, Albert Gleizes could be presented as Artist of the Month in the near future.


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