However much resistance the solitary painter may offer to the forms of his solitude, these forms exist and come from somewhere. Some known origin must animate them, — a memory, a reason. The recluse, having chosen painting to express his solitude, if not to people it or shrink from its population, must use forms which speak in terms of painting; they come to him from the world of painting.
" Originality is the myth of painting, " said Roger de La Fresnaye, and he added : " A painter is always influenced. If he is a follower he imitates; if an innovator he still imitates with modifications or else he goes contrary to whatever obsesses him. " When a man becomes a painter he must reconcile himself to enter the domain of painting ; he finds predecessors, he must use their language and everything he does will be in relation to something already done. Henri Matisse confessed to Guillaume Apollinaire : " I have never avoided the influence of others; I should have considered that as cowardly and insincere towards myself."
The necessity of this relation between the act of the creator and the world of creation is a very French idea. It is always through tradition that a French artist expresses himself, even when he is opposed to what is called tradition around him. In that case he chooses another tradition, cuts it according to his taste in the immense reality constituted by created works and styles already produced, and thus forms his own school and his intimate masters. But he always accepts this subordination. Of all the great artists who represent the French genius, Roger de La Fresnaye is certainly the one who has most clearly exemplified this theory of originality. In the course of his career La Fresnaye has successively placed himself under the auspices of various masters. There is a very definite intention in the date 1820, which he inscribed in the corner of his Portrait of Gampert. Does not this assert that he proceeds from Ingres ?
In the vocabulary of cubist intellectualism, as in the vocabulary of Louis-Philippe romanticism, certain forms recur, having the same significance and tending to produce a similar style. Thus the curve of Gampert's cape corresponds to that of Granet's cape, though separated by a whole century. It may even happen that these confessions of faith in a recognized discipline are not consecutive, but proclaim themselves simultaneously. This was the case with La Fresnaye at the end of his life. At the very moment when he was most clearly under the influence of the Quattrocento, when his figure of a sick man so moving because the chosen style corresponded with a confession of personal and tragic reality — recalls the Sick Man by Mantegna, at that same moment he went to the opposite pole of his plastic development and painted his Hommage d Greco.
In spite of his vast and varied plastic development, embracing both the unlimited lyricism of El Greco and the severe drawing of the Italians, the French cubist, La Fresnaye, never lost consciousness of what he wanted to do. These contradictory examples, from which he drew inspiration, tend to establish a logical system in his artistic chronology, for he hoped to arrive at a final synthesis. He aspired to reconcile contradictions and the history of forms and styles seemed to him finally to serve a new order of which he, La Fresnaye, will be one of the possible expressions. La Fresnaye does not consider himself an end, but only a means. He thinks that he is destined to serve order and all his various experiences should converge towards this order. Thus art appears to him a perpetual apprenticeship, art offers him the means of arriving at something he desires; it is a mediate activity. And even if these means are not rules or processes or feats of skill, but the negation of rules, or clumsiness itself, still they are means which should be known and must be learned. The douanier Rousseau modestly learnt the art of the douanier Rousseau.The artist is always a disciple. This is the essential characteristic of the classical artist.
The ideal which the classical artist has in view is sufficiently precise for him to aim at it from the beginning of his career and yet sufficiently elastic not to become a blind alley. There is always in this quod the interrogative intonation of quid. Thus the way of the classical artist lies between the danger of academism a priori and the danger of chance and arbitrariness.
That is why we find so much violent rigour and at the same time such confused hesitation in the sayings and writings of the great classical artists. The recorded conversations of a Cézanne or an Ingres are passionate and obscure. They know what they want and at the same time they are looking for it. Nevertheless it is possible, now that their work is complete, and we know under which master it is to be placed, to discern what they aimed at from the beginning, or at any rate the form they expected and hoped to attain.
Cézanne talks of painting Poussin from nature, or else he pursues the Olympic and sumptuous dream of the Venetians, or he, too, lets himself go in his homage to El Greco ; if on the one hand it is his aim to realize the ideal Edenic architecture of nude figures related to a grand landscape, on the other hand, he cannot resist the temptation of letting the bodies dissolve in light, becoming superhuman and spiritualized. In any case it is impossible to understand Cézanne without taking into account the fact that he set himself an ideal task and that his work consists in accomplishing this task.
For him art is not only an exercise, the application and exploitation of a gift; this exercise is accompanied by a constant tension of intelligence and will power. The tension implies a knowledge of the past. The exercise of his gift is accompanied by the constant presence of the surreal world of painting, of everything that has already been painted. But the admirable thing is that Cézanne's career began by a negation of this world, by a clean sweep. Cézanne, the Cartesian genius, is the man who recommenced painting, but he did so knowing that he would rediscover painting, that is to say he was never a primitive.
He was humble and trembled before the very gesture of painting and this was due to the very excess of his science. And science has rewarded him. All the possibilities of painting can be found in his work, which comprises arbitrary still-life, landscape painted direct on the spot and then mentally reconstructed, living and attentive portraiture and finally the supreme dream of human figures combined with nature. At the very end of his adventures Cézanne allowed himself to paint the Bathers.
Jean Dominique Ingres was still more severe, more assertive, more lucidly peremptory and resolved, at the beginning of his career when he declared that he was the possessor of a truth, transmitted to him by the Greeks, which he in his turn was going to hand down to posterity. But a demon prompted him to seek it elsewhere, for this pontiff of antiquity had nothing in common with the ancients, being on the contrary the first, the most original, the most bizarre and revolutionary of the Moderns. The critics of his day understood this and were scandalized at discovering his Gothic tendencies. Thore-Burger was not mistaken when he suggested that Ingres' painting was more closely related with primitive Oriental painting than might be thought.
The intimate and organic contradiction in Ingres' character appears in the fact that he has professed the doctrine of an ideal fairly close to the " beau idéal " aspired to by the academic painters of his day, while he actually pursued a very different ideal, one that he was but vaguely conscious of, though it was extremely coherent or appears so to us to-day, because we associate its expression with the name of Ingres.
Cézanne discovered himself in the course of his work, Ingres invented himself. And what an invention ! A sharp and subtle universe, clearly outlined and voluptuous, made up of Saracenic passion and archaistic hieraticism. The terrible despot of Rome and of the Institute never said whence he derived this taste, which inspired him with such strange images. He did not recognize his own kin.
Yet the Primitives, the Persians, the Chinese and other perhaps still more distant and obscure elements are present in his work and we can sense their unusual perfume. Ingres has also created his own order. He has carved his own image, he has made his name in spite of contradictions and obscurities. He has resisted his angel, but his angel was stronger than he, stronger than Monsieur Ingres.
The clearest trait of this ideal, at least to himself, was the synthesis of the nude and of nature. The classical French genius is fatally obsessed by this project, one of the most complete that can be imposed on anyone. Ingres did not escape. He too painted his Parnassus like Mantegna, his Concert champetre like Giorgione, his Bacchanals like Poussin, his Bathers: it was the Age of Gold.
And the angel whispered in his ear that he must tint it with the kind of voluptuousness that he alone dreams of and understands. Following this dictation Ingres makes a note in his sketch book that he will dispose a " mass of beautiful loungers " — a delicious formula. However Ingres' secret order and his intimate thought did not respond entirely to this classical ambition of a large composition with figures and foliage. His final response appears in another composition, even more langourous, — the Bain Turc of his old age, — his authentic testament. After all, his climate, whatever he may have thought, was not Parnassus, but rather a confined and imaginary Orient. And he was bound to find his climate.
Pablo Picasso, Cubism, Pablo Picasso Biography, Picasso Paintings, Picasso Drawings, The Blue Nude, Don Quixote, Enamel Saucepan, Evening Flowers, Femme A La Fleur, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Spanish Art, The Dream, The Pigeons, Guernica, Musse, Bull with Bullfighter, Mediterranean Landscape, Nude and Still Life, Toros y Toreros, Mother and Child, Girl with Red Beret, Frau Mit Turban, The Bathers, The Lesson, The Old Guitarist, Three Bathers, Violin and Guitar, Lovers, Evening Flowers, The Kitchen