Posts Tagged ‘ Neo- Impressionism

between science and art

Today I will present Jean Metzinger, a French painter from the XX-th Century, whom developed the theoretic part of Cubism.

But why I’ve chosen him?
Because his art was more than canvas or..more than colours.

in 1915

in 1915

1900 – Studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, working under Hippolyte Touront
1900-1904 – He have been influenced by the Neo-impressionism of Georges Seurat and Henri-Edmond Cross.
1903- He sends 3 canvas at the Salon des Indépendants and after that he exposed regularly at the Salon d’ Automne.
In the same year he exhibited with Raoul Dufy and more artists.
1904-1907 – Metzinger worked in the Divisionist and Fauvist styles with a strong Cézannian component, leading to some of the first proto-Cubist works.
in 1906 – at the Salon des Indépendants exhibited with Matisse, Signac and others.
in the same year at Berthe Weill’s visits and meeting with artists he would meet Max Jacob for the first time.
Berthe Weill was also the first Parisian art dealer to sell works of Picasso (1906).
Along with Picasso and Braque, she helped Metzinger to discover Matisse, Derain, Amedeo Modigliani and Utrillo.
In 1907- He exhibited with Robert Delaunay.
Metzinger meets Apollinaire.
From 1908- Cubism
1908-1909 – Exhibitions with André Derain, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso, Braque.

in 1910 – He wrote about the Cubism movement: Note sur la Peinture.
Metzinger wrote about the time and space compounds in this Movement, their roles and their involvement in this kind of artistic style.
At the 1909’s Salon d’Automne Metzinger exhibited alongside Constantin Brâncuși, Henri Le Fauconnier and Fernand Léger.
1910 – Exbitions with Derain, Rouault and Kees van Dongen.
In the same year he would write about his works:

“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. Your own Edgar Poe (he pronounced it ‘Ed Carpoe’) did not attempt to reproduce Nature realistically. Some phase of life suggested an emotion, as that of horror in ‘The Fall of the House of Ushur.’ That subjective idea he translated into art. He made a composition of it.”

Bild 2013


“So, 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 out hint from Nature, construct decoratively pleasing harmonies and symphonies of color expression of our sentiment.”
Jean Metzinger, c. 1909, The Wild Men of Paris, 1910

In 1911 – Anecdotiques, signed by Apollinaire’s book said something about Metzinger:

“I am honored to be the first model of a Cubist painter, Jean Metzinger, for a portrait exhibited in 1910 at the Salon des Indépendants.”
So, Metzinger was not the only Cubist painter whom done his portrait (de Chirico too… and many others!)

Metzinger's Portrait Apollinaire

Metzinger’s Portrait Apollinaire

 Apollinaire's Portrait ( de Chirico)

Apollinaire’s Portrait ( de Chirico)

representing objects as remembered from successive and subjective experiences within the context of both space and time

Metzinger noted that Braque and Picasso “discarded traditional perspective and granted themselves the liberty of moving around objects.”
This was the concept of “mobile perspective” that would tend towards the representation of the “total image.”

According to the writers Metzinger was the 3rd Cubist painter: Picasso and Braque are ‘the ancestors’. [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.]

in 1912

in 1912

1908-1911 – Metzinger was attracted again about Seurat’s art. The Fauvism with Cubism were in trend so… his works in that time are IN the same vision.

in 1912- With his friend Gleizes wrote ‘ Du Cubisme’ – about the influence of that period, the reference to the non – Euclidean geometry, about the geometry that they do – Euclidean!- , the 3rd space or the 4th dimension in art, the new perspective and their means.
Is not about the deleting or canceling the past or the traditional art, it’s about a new era and the acceptance of their ideas.

“we visit an exhibition to contemplate painting, not to enlarge our knowledge of geography, anatomy etc. […] ‘Let the picture imitate nothing; let it nakedly present its motive, and we should indeed be ungrateful were we to deplore the absence of all those things – flowers or landscapes or faces – of which it could never have been anything other than a reflection’. Though Metzinger and Gleizes hesitate to do away with nature entirely: ‘Nevertheless, let us admit that the reminiscence of natural forms cannot be absolutely banished; as yet, at all events. An art cannot be raised all at once to the level of a pure effusion.’ […] ‘This is understood by the Cubist painters, who tirelessly study pictorial form and the space which it engenders’.



in 1919

in 1919

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.
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.

“If we wished to relate the space of the [Cubist] painters to geometry, we should have to refer it to the non-Euclidean mathematicians; we should have to study, at some length, certain of Riemann’s theorems.”

A multitude of analogies, similarities or parallels have been drawn over the decades between modern science and Cubism.
There has not always been agreement as to how the writings of Metzinger and Gleizes should be interpreted, with respect to ‘simultaneity’ of multiple view-points.
The common denominator between the special relativistic notions—the lack an absolute reference frame, metric transformations of the Lorenzian type, the relativity of simultaneity, the incorporation of the time dimension with three spatial dimensions—and the Cubist idea of mobile perspective (observing the subject from several view-points simultaneously) published by Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes was, in effect, a descendant from the work of Poincaré and others, at least from the theoretical standpoint.


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Metzinger’s early interests in mathematics are documented. He was likely familiar with the works of Gauss, Riemann and Poincaré (and perhaps Galilean relativity) prior to the development of Cubism: something that reflects in his pre-1907 works. It was perhaps the French mathematician Maurice Princet who introduced the work of Poincaré, along with the concept of the fourth spatial 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.”

In 1913 Metzinger exhibited in New York City at the Exhibition of Cubist and Futurist Pictures, Boggs & Buhl Department Store, Pittsburgh.
IN 1911-1914 – HE was attracted by Cubism and Futurism.

in 1914

in 1914

1918- 1924 – REALISM + Cubism, when his pictures are brightly colored and visually metaphoric, consisting of urban and still-life subject-matter, with clear references to science and technology.
In 1929 – He marries the Greek woman (young woman better said) Suzanne Phocas.
From 1929 – ELEMENTS FROM SURREALISM (maybe under her influence of thinking/ views/ or just because it was the period :) )
Here is still concerned with questions of form, volume, dimension, relative position and relationship of figures, along with visible geometric properties of space.

LATER! – MEMOIRS = Le Cubisme était né
Metzinger wrote:

Maurice Princet joined us often. Although quite young, thanks to his knowledge of mathematics he had an important job in an insurance company. But, beyond his profession, it was as an artist that he conceptualized mathematics, as an aesthetician that he invoked n-dimensional continuums. He loved to get the artists interested in the new views on space that had been opened up by Schlegel and some others. He succeeded at that.

So, in addition to mathematics, both human sensation and intelligence were important to Metzinger.
It was lack of the latter human attribute that the principle theorists of Cubism were to reproach the Impressionists and Fauves, for whom sensation was the sole necessity.
For Metzinger the classical vision had been an incomplete representation of real things, based on an incomplete set of laws, postulates and theorems.
It represented, quite simply, the belief that space is the only thing that separates two points. It was the belief in the geocentric reality of the observable world, unchanging and immobile.

in 1919

in 1919

The Cubists had been delighted to discover that the world was in reality dynamic, changing in time, it appeared different depending on the point of view of the observer.
And yet each one of these viewpoints were equally valid, there was no preferred reference frame, all reference frames were equal.

in 1919

in 1919

This underlying symmetry inherent in nature, in fact, is the essence of Einstein’s relativity.