Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

9
THE INVENTION OF CUBISM
1909-1911

The most perceptive account of Braque's November exhibition at Kahnweiler's was written by Charles Morice. "Mr. Van Dongen retains taste, having regard to the accepted belief that forms should in general be 'plausible'; from this last 'trammel' Mr. Braque has shaken free. Visibly he proceeds from an a priori geometry to which he subjects all his field of vision." The "trammels of plausibility" was an expression of Gauguin's to which Braque here found himself connected.

Then at the Salon des Indépendants of 1909, seeing Braque's le Port and a still life (which has been destroyed), Morice asked "where this dangerous route which (Matisse) has chosen might lead"; and then concluded that

this, perhaps, is why the intransigents, the absolutists, who formerly accepted his tyranny, have now renounced it. Today, in fact, if not by express declaration, the leader in this audacity is M. Georges Braque. ... I believe that M. Braque is, on the whole, a victim—setting "cubism" aside—of an admiration for Cézanne that is too exclusive or ill considered.

This text is highly instructive. To begin with, published on 16 April 1909, it is the first that I know of to use the word cubism. And then it anoints Braque as leader of the audacieux against Matisse, which represents a small earthquake in the ranks of the avant-garde. 1

The photograph of la Femme assise dans un fauteuil (Woman Sitting in an Armchair) on a postcard sent to the Steins on 23 March indicates that by the beginning of that month, Picasso was already well advanced in the new découpage of shapes. He made his figures more dynamic, so that they now appear to have "moved," and, sharply reversing the perspective of Nature morte à la brioche, 2 united rhythms to volumes and spatial content to figures or objects. He helped himself achieve these objectives by, for example, undulating hangings or striated brushwork or further recourse to abstraction, as in the Femme au châle and Arlequin accoudé (Woman with

-93-

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