Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art

By Robert Rosenblum | Go to book overview

VI. THE PARISIAN SATELLITES

Working in Paris between 1907 and 1909, Picasso and Braque had evolved Cubism in relative isolation, but by 1910 the style had begun to attract the attention of an increasing number of Parisian artists of both French and foreign origin. Between 1910 and 1914, the Parisian milieu created, in addition to the art of Léger and Gris, a virtual school of Cubist painters whose members varied widely both in the quality and in the fidelity of their interpretation of the Cubist viewpoint. And even so great an older master as Matisse, whose style had already been decisively determined by Fauvism, paused in these same years to consider, if not to absorb entirely, the new structural techniques of Cubism. The phenomenon of such a group movement was to be expected in Paris, whose public orientation to art dated back to the first salons of the seventeenth century, and whose tradition of modern art, in particular, offered the continuing spectacle of movements (such as Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, and Fauvism) that gathered leaders and followers among the artists, and supporters and detractors among the critics and the public. By 1910 the two major Parisian salons -- the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d'Automne -- began to exhibit works by young artists just won over to the Cubist point of view (although, ironically, Picasso and Braque, between 1909 and 1919, had important exhibitions only outside France). By 1912 the Section d'Or group, organized for the expression of Cubist ideals, held its renowned Salon and published a review. By 1913 a large body of critical writing had accumulated, including not only heated articles in such Parisian journals as L'Intransigeant, Le Journal, La Revue de France et des pays français, Montjoie!, and Gil Blas, but even two books on Cubism: Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger theoretical interpretation, Du Cubisme ( 1912), and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire less reasoned, more intuitive account of the movement, Les Peintures cubistes; méditations esthétiques ( 1913). Finally, by 1914 Cubism as a group movement in Paris had been disbanded by the outbreak of the First World War, which interrupted the careers of most of the youthful Cubists.

The Parisian satellites of Cubism, like those of Impressionism, produced a wide variety of works ranging from the rebellious to the academic, from the intensely original to the dryly imitative. Of the Parisian masters whose intense originality led to a viewpoint ultimately antagonistic to Cubism, Robert Delaunay ( 1885-1941) and Marcel Duchamp (b. 1887) are conspicuous. Delaunay, a consistent exhibitor in the Paris salons of 1910-14, began his Cubist career with studies of two Parisian architectural landmarks, the late Gothic church of Saint-Séverin and the late nineteenth-century monument to technology, the Eiffel Tower, whose soaring silhouette and once brilliant color had, beginning with Seurat, become a symbol of modernity to many French artists and writers. The parallel between these medieval and modern

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