Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

'Le Torero' and "The Undefeated": Hemingway's Foray into Analytical Cubism

Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

'Le Torero' and "The Undefeated": Hemingway's Foray into Analytical Cubism

Article excerpt

Ernest Hemingway's affinity for Cezanne has been well documented. Yet, when he arrived in Paris in December of 1921, Cubist influences were far more prevalent. Cezanne, 14 years deceased, was being hailed as "Cubist in his construction" by Pablo Picasso (Souchere 15), and when Juan Gris returned to Paris the following year, his paintings were displayed in three galleries. Gertrude Stein had long since worked through what she termed her "Cezanne phase," and had employed analytical Cubist methods to construct The Making of Americans. I Although she, like Picasso and Georges Braque, had already moved on to synthetic Cubism, Stein claimed that "In correcting these proofs Hemingway learned a great deal and he admired all that he learned" (Stein, Selected Writings 204).

Stein, who was both a financial and spiritual supporter of Picasso and Gris, would later write "that cubism is a purely spanish conception and only spaniards can be cubists and that the only real cubism is that of Picasso and Juan Gris" (Stein, Selected Writings 85). To that she added, as if speaking directly to the young man from Oak Park whom she called her "favourite pupil" (202), "americans can understand spaniards" because "they are the only two western nations that can realise abstraction" (85).

Although she advised Hemingway to buy paintings from his own generation, he eventually acquired two by Gris: Guitarist, painted in 1926 during the artist's synthetic period, and Le Torero, painted in 1913 during his analytical period, later used by Hemingway for the frontispiece illustration for Death in the Afternoon. And while Emily Stipes Watts, the only scholar to seriously consider "The Undefeated" from a spatial perspective, sees the influence of Goya (116), I would submit that because of the story's multiple perspectives, its emphasis on seeing, its angular language and stylistic echoes of Gris, that "The Undefeated" is instead Hemingway's attempt to apply the techniques of analytical Cubism to fiction-using Le Torero as a model. Stein owned several works by Gris that Hemingway would have seen at her Paris flat. As the second collector to purchase Gris paintings, she developed a relationship with the artist that included frequent visits, a practice that Hemingway apparently shared. In two letters written in 1921, Hemingway mentions "wanting to go to Juan Gris's" (Selected Letters 121, 126).

Though the provenance indicates that Hemingway purchased Le Torero when he was living in Key West, the painting was displayed 13-14 June 1921 at the Hotel Drouot in Paris, and thereafter at Galerie Simones (Cooper 50). That Hemingway was intimately familiar with the gallery--and therefore, Le Torero--is evident from a letter he wrote to Stein and Toklas two months before he finished "The Undefeated" (Selected Letters 133): "There was a fellow here from the states with money, cash, to buy some [Andre] Massons and Galerie Simones was closed and I didn't have Masson's address. . ." (126).

Given his association with painters and the conscious visual-to-verbal transformations he attempted earlier that year "trying to do the count like Cezanne" in "Big Two-Hearted River" (Selected Letters 122), it seems likely that Hemingway sought to create more than simple narrative in "The Undefeated," especially since he wrote John Dos Passos that the bull fight story "makes a bum out of everything I ever did" (157-58).

In "The Undefeated," the focus is not on the bullfight proper, as it is in the Goya-like miniatures from In Our Time, but on the bullfighter himself, as seen from multiple perspectives: through the eyes of a promoter, two waiters, a veteran picador, an up-and-coming matador, a gypsy peon, a "secondstring" bullfight critic, a single spectator, the collective crowd, the president--even the bull.

Hemingway explained to the editor of The Saturday Evening Post that with "The Undefeated" he tried "to show it the way it actually is" (Selected Letters 117), and as Gris's dealer and biographer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, notes, "Cubism was above all a realistic art, since it aimed at as accurate a form of representation as possible" (73). …

Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.