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Title: Modern Painting, Its Tendency and Meaning
Author: Wright, Willard Huntington, 1888-1939
Language: English
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[Illustration: _Courtesy Worcester Art Museum_

   FEMME ACCROUPIE BY GAUGUIN]


   _Modern Painting_

   _Its Tendency and Meaning_

   _By_

   _Willard Huntington Wright_

   _New York
   Dodd, Mead and Company
   1922_

   COPYRIGHT, 1915
   BY JOHN LANE COMPANY

   THE PLIMPTON PRESS · NORWOOD · MASSACHUSETTS
   PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



FOREWORD


That beneath all great art there has been a definite animating purpose,
a single and profound desire to reach a specific goal, has been but
vaguely sensed by the general public and by the great majority of
critics. And there are, I believe, but very few persons not directly and
seriously concerned with the production of pictures, who realise that
this animating purpose has for its aim the solution of the profoundest
problems of the creative will, that it is rooted deeply in the æsthetic
consciousness, and that its evolution marks one of the most complex
phases of human psychology. The habit of approaching a work of art from
the naïf standpoint of one’s personal temperament or taste and of
judging it haphazardly by its individual appeal, irrespective of its
inherent æsthetic merit, is so strongly implanted in the average
spectator, that any attempt to define the principles of form and
organisation underlying the eternal values of art is looked upon as an
act of gratuitous pedantry. But such principles exist, and if we are to
judge works of art accurately and consistently these principles must be
mastered. Otherwise we are without a standard, and all our opinions are
but the outgrowth of the chaos of our moods.

Any attempt to democratise art results only in the lowering of the
artistic standard. Art cannot be taught; and a true appreciation of it
cannot grow up without a complete understanding of the æsthetic laws
governing it. Those qualities in painting by which it is ordinarily
judged are for the most part irrelevancies from the standpoint of pure
æsthetics. They have as little to do with a picture’s infixed greatness
as the punctuation in Faust or the words of the Hymn to Joy in the Ninth
Symphony. Small wonder that modern art has become a copious
fountain-head of abuse and laughter; for modern art tends toward the
elimination of all those accretions so beloved by the
general—literature, drama, sentiment, symbolism, anecdote, prettiness
and photographic realism.

This book inquires first into the function and psychology of all great
art, and endeavours to define those elements which make for genuine
worth in painting. Next it attempts to explain both the basic and
superficial differences between “ancient” and “modern” art and to point
out, as minutely as space will permit, the superiority of the new
methods over the old. By this exposition an effort is made to indicate
the _raison d’être_ of the modern procedure. After that, modern painters
are taken up in the order of their importance to the evolution of
painting during the last hundred years. I have tried to answer the
following questions: What men and movements mark the milestones in the
development of the new idea? What have been the motivating forces of
each of these schools? To what extent are their innovations significant:
what ones touch organically on the vital problems of æsthetics; and what
was their influence on the men who came later? Out of what did the
individual men spring; what forces and circumstances came together to
make their existence possible? What were their aims, and what were their
actual achievements? What relation did they bear to one another, and in
what way did they advance on one another? Where has modern art led, and
what inspirational possibilities lie before it?

Before setting out to solve these problems, all of which have their
roots in the very organisms of the science of æsthetics, I have posed a
definite _rationale_ of valuation. My principles are based on the
quickening ideals of all great art, and, if properly understood, I
believe, they will answer every question which arises in the intelligent
spectator when he stands before a piece of visual art, be it a Byzantine
mosaic, a complicated organisation by Rubens, a linear arrangement by
Picasso or an utterly worthless anecdote in paint by an English
academician. Necessarily preoccupied with the application of my critical
standard, I have had but little time and space to devote to its
elucidation. Yet I have striven in this indirect process of statement to
make my fundamental postulate sufficiently clear to enable the reader to
recognise its truth and unity. Two years ago when I crowded my
hypothesis into 7000 words in the _Forum_, and early last winter when I
stated it in even briefer space in the _New Age_, I found that, although
it took a new and difficult stand, there were many who grasped its
essentials. Therefore I feel myself entitled to hope that in its present
form it will be comprehensible even to those whose minds are not
trained in the complexities of æsthetic research.

In stripping art of its intriguing charm and its soothing vagueness it
is not my intention to do away with its power to delight. To the
contrary, I believe that only by relieving painting of its dead cargo of
literature, archæology and illustration can it be made to function
freely. Painting should be as pure an art as music, and the struggles of
all great painters have been toward that goal. Its medium—colour—is as
elemental as sound, and when properly presented (with the same
scientific exactness as the harmonies of the tone-gamut) it is fully as
capable of engendering æsthetic emotion as is music. Our delight in
music, no matter how primitive, is not dependent on an imitation of
natural sounds. Music’s pleasurable significance is primarily
intellectual. So can painting, by its power to create emotion and not
mere sensation, provoke deep æsthetic feeling of a far greater intensity
than the delight derived from transcription and drama. Modern painting
strives toward the heightening of emotional ecstasy; and my _esthétique_
is intended to pave the way for an appreciation of art which will make
possible the reception of that ecstasy. With this object ever in view I
have weighed the painting of the last century, and have judged it solely
by its ability or inability to call forth a profound æsthetic emotion.
Almost any art can arouse pleasing sentiments. Only great art can give
us intellectual rapture.


   W. H. W.

   Paris, 1915



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

      I. ANCIENT AND MODERN ART                                        17

     II. PRECURSORS OF THE NEW ERA                                     34

    III. ÉDOUARD MANET                                                 64

     IV. THE EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS                                      83

      V. AUGUSTE RENOIR                                               107

     VI. PAUL CÉZANNE                                                 129

    VII. THE NEO-IMPRESSIONISTS                                       164

   VIII. GAUGUIN AND THE PONT-AVEN SCHOOL                             187

     IX. DEGAS AND HIS CIRCLE                                         207

      X. HENRI-MATISSE                                                222

     XI. PICASSO AND CUBISM                                           237

    XII. FUTURISM                                                     263

   XIII. SYNCHROMISM                                                  277

    XIV. THE LESSER MODERNS                                           305

     XV. CONCLUSION                                                   327

   INDEX                                                              343


REPRODUCTIONS


   Femme Accroupie (Gauguin)                               _Frontispiece_

   Les Femmes d’Alger dans Leur Appartement (Delacroix)  _Facing page_ 38

   L’Enterrement à Ornans (Courbet)                                    54

   Le Bain (Daumier)                                                   60

   Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Manet)                                     78

   Waterloo Bridge (Monet)                                             98

   Paysage (Guillaumin)                                               104

   Le Déjeuner des Canotiers (Renoir)                                 114

   Baigneuses, 1885 (Renoir)                                          126

   Baigneuses, 1902 (Renoir)                                          126

   Baigneuses (Cézanne)                                               138

   Pommes sur une Table (Cézanne)                                     156

   Les Tours Vertes à la Rochelle (Signac)                            174

   Un Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte (Seurat)                             180

   Portrait de l’Artiste (Van Gogh)                                   184

   Deux Tahïtiens (Gauguin)                                           204

   Danseuses à Leur Toilette (Degas)                                  212

   Baigneuses (Henri-Matisse)                                         226

   Portrait de Famille (Henri-Matisse)                                234

   Femme à la Mandoline (Picasso)                                     246

   Fumeur et Paysage (Léger)                                          256

   Dynamisme d’une Auto (Russolo)                                     268

   Hiéroglyphe Dynamique du Bal Tabarin (Severini)                    274

   Synchromie Cosmique (Morgan Russell)                               294

   Composition No. 2 (Kandinsky)                                      310

   Le Jardin (Bonnard)                                                318



_Modern Painting_


I

ANCIENT AND MODERN ART


Throughout the entire history of the fine arts, no period of æsthetic
innovation and endeavour has suffered from public malignity, ridicule
and ignorance as has painting during the last century. The reasons for
this are many and, to the serious student of art history, obvious. The
change between the old and the new order came swiftly and precipitously,
like a cataclysm in the serenity of a summer night. The classic painters
of the first half of the nineteenth century, such as David, Ingres, Gros
and Gérard, were busy with their rehabilitation of ancient traditions,
when without warning, save for the pale heresies of Constable, a new and
rigorous régime was ushered in. It was Turner, Delacroix, Courbet and
Daumier who entered the sacred temple, tore down the pillars which had
supported it for centuries, and brought the entire structure of
established values crashing down about them. They survived the
_débâcle_, and when eventually they laid aside their brushes for all
time it was with the unassailable knowledge that they had accomplished
the greatest and most significant metamorphosis in the history of any
art.

But even these hardy anarchists of the new order little dreamed of the
extremes to which their heresies would lead. So precipitous and complex
has been the evolution of modern painting that most of the most
revolutionary moderns have failed to keep mental step with its
developments and divagations. During the past few years new modes and
manners in art have sprung up with fungus-like rapidity. “Movements” and
“schools” have followed one another with astounding pertinacity, each
claiming that finality of expression which is the aim of all seekers for
truth. And, with but few exceptions, the men who have instigated these
innovations have been animated by a serious purpose—that of mastering
the problem of æsthetic organisation and of circumscribing the one means
for obtaining ultimate and indestructible results. But the problems of
art, like those of life itself, are in the main unsolvable, and art must
ever be an infinite search for the intractable. Form in painting, like
the eternal readjustments and equilibria of life, is but an
approximation to stability. The forces in all art are the forces of
life, co-ordinated and organised. No plastic form can exist without
rhythm: not rhythm in the superficial harmonic sense, but the rhythm
which underlies the great fluctuating and equalising forces of material
existence. Such rhythm is symmetry in movement. On it all form, both in
art and life, is founded.

Form in its artistic sense has four interpretations. First, it exhibits
itself as shallow imitation of the surface aspects of nature, as in the
work of such men as Sargent, Sorolla and Simon. Secondly, it contains
qualities of solidity and competent construction such are as found in
the paintings of Velazquez, Hogarth and Degas. Thirdly, it is a
consummate portrayal of objects into which arbitrary arrangement has
been introduced for the accentuation of volume. Raphael, Poussin and
Goya exemplify this expression of it. Last, form reveals itself, not as
an objective thing, but as an abstract phenomenon capable of giving the
sensation of palpability. All great art falls under this final
interpretation. But form, to express itself æsthetically, must be
composed; and here we touch the controlling basis of all
art:—organisation. Organisation is the use put to form for the
production of rhythm. The first step in this process is the construction
of line, line being the direction taken by one or more forms. In purely
decorative rhythm the lines flow harmoniously from side to side and from
top to bottom on a given surface. In the greatest art the lines are bent
forward and backward as well as laterally so that, by their orientation
in depth, an impression of profundity is added to that of height and
breadth. Thus the simple image of decoration is destroyed, and a
microcosmos is created in its place. Rhythm then becomes the
inevitable adjustment of approaching and receding lines, so that they
will reproduce the placements and displacements to be found in the human
body when in motion.

To understand, and hence fully to appreciate, a painting, we must be
able to recognise its inherent qualities by the process of intellectual
reasoning. By this is not implied mechanical or scientific observation.
Were this necessary, art would resolve itself into a provable theory and
would produce in us only such mental pleasure as we feel before a
perfect piece of intricate machinery. But once we comprehend those
constitutional qualities which pervade all great works of art, plastic
and graphic, the sensuous emotion will follow so rapidly as to give the
effect of spontaneity. This process of conscious observation in time
becomes automatic and exerts itself on every work of art we inspect.
Once adjusted to an assimilation of the rhythmic compositions of El
Greco and Rubens, we have become susceptible to the tactile sensation of
form in all painting. And this subjective emotion is keener than the
superficial sensation aroused by the prettiness of design, the narrative
of subject-matter, or the quasi-realities of transcription. More and
more as we proximate to a true understanding of the principles of art,
shall we react to those deeper and larger qualities in a painting which
are not to be found in its documentary and technical side. Also our
concern with the transient sentiments engendered by a picture’s external
aspects will become less and less significant. Technique, dramatic
feeling, subject, and even accuracy of drawing, will be relegated to the
subsidiary and comparatively unimportant position they hold in relation
to a painting’s _æsthetic purpose_.

The lack of comprehension—and consequently the ridicule—which has met
the efforts of modern painters, is attributable not alone to a
misunderstanding of their seemingly for extravagant and eccentric
mannerisms, but to an ignorance of the basic postulates of all great art
both ancient and modern. Proof of this is afforded by the constant
statements of preference for the least effectual of older painters over
the greatest of the moderns. These preferences, if they are symptomatic
of aught save the mere habit of a mind immersed in tradition, indicate
an immaturity of artistic judgment which places prettiness above beauty,
and sentimentality and documentary interest above subjectivity of
emotion. The fallacies of such judgment can best be indicated by a
parallel consideration of painters widely separated as to merit, but in
whom these different qualities are found. For instance, the prettiness
of Reynolds, Greuze and Murillo is as marked as the prettiness of
Titian, Giorgione and Renoir. The latter are by far the greater artists;
yet, had we no other critical standard save that of charm, the
difference between them and the others would be indistinguishable.
Zuloaga, Whistler, Botticelli and Böcklin are as inspirational of
sentiment as Tintoretto, Corot, Raphael and Poussin; but by no authentic
criterion are they as great painters. Again, were drama and simple
narrative æsthetic considerations, Regnault, Brangwyn, and Antonino
Molineri would rank with Valerio Castello, Rubens and Ribera.

In one’s failure to distinguish between the apparent and the organic
purposes of art lies the greatest obstacle to an appreciation of what
has come to be called modern painting. The truths of modern art are no
different from those of ancient art. A Cézanne landscape is not
dissimilar in aim to an El Greco. The one is merely more advanced as to
methods than the other. Nor do the canvases of the most ultra-modern
schools strive toward an æsthetic manifestation radically unlike that
aspired to in Michelangelo’s Slaves. Serious modern art, despite its
often formidable and bizarre appearance, is only a striving to
rehabilitate the natural and unalterable principles of rhythmic form to
be found in the old masters, and to translate them into relative and
more comprehensive terms. We have the same animating ideal in the
pictures of Giotto and Matisse, Rembrandt and Renoir, Botticelli and
Gauguin, Watteau and Picasso, Poussin and Friesz, Raphael and Severini.
The later men differ from their antecedents in that they apply new and
more vital methods to their work. Modern art is the logical and natural
outgrowth of ancient art; it is the art of yesterday heightened and
intensified as the result of systematic and painstaking experimentation
in the media of expression.

The search for composition—that is, for perfectly poised form in three
dimensions—has been the impelling dictate of all great art. Giotto, El
Greco, Masaccio, Tintoretto and Rubens, the greatest of all the old
painters, strove continually to attain form as an abstract emotional
force. With them the organisation of volumes came first. The picture was
composed as to line. Out of this grew the subject-matter—a demonstration
_a posteriori_. The human figure and the recognisable natural object
were only auxiliaries, never the sought-for result. In all this they
were inherently modern, as that word should be understood; for the new
conception of art strives more and more for the emotion rather than the
appearance of reality. The objects, whether arbitrary or photographic,
which an artist uses in a picture are only the material through which
plastic form finds expression. They are the means, not the end. If in
the works of truly significant art there is a dramatic, narrative or
illustrative interest, it will be found to be the incidental and not the
important concomitant of the picture.

Therefore it is not remarkable that, with the introduction of new
methods, the illustrative side of painting should tend toward
minimisation. The elimination of all the superfluities from art is but a
part of the striving toward defecation. Since the true test of painting
lies in its subjective power, modern artists have sought to divorce
their work from all considerations other than those directly allied to
its primary function. This process of separation advanced hand in hand
with the evolution of new methods. First it took the form of the
distortion of natural objects. The accidental shape of trees, hills,
houses and even human figures was altered in order to draw them into the
exact form demanded by the picture’s composition. Gradually, by the
constant practice of this falsification, objects became almost
unrecognisable. In the end the illustrative obstacle was entirely done
away with. This was the logical outcome of the sterilising modern
process. To judge a picture competently, one must not consider it as a
mere depiction of life or as an anecdote: one must bring to it an
intelligence capable of grasping a complicated counterpoint. The
attitude of even such men as Celesti, Zanchi, Padovanino and Bononi is
never that of an illustrator, in no matter how sublimated a sense, but
of a composer whose aim is to create a polymorphic conception with the
recognisable materials at hand.

Were art to be judged from the pictorial and realistic viewpoint we
might find many meticulous craftsmen of as high an objective efficiency
as were the men who stood at the apex of genuine artistic worth—that is,
craftsmen who arrived at as close and exact a transcription of nature,
who interpreted current moods and mental aspects as accurately, and who
set forth superficial emotions as dramatically. Velazquez’s Philip IV,
Titian’s Emperor Charles V, Holbein’s The Ambassadors, Guardi’s The
Grand Canal—Venice, Mantegna’s The Dead Christ and Dürer’s Four Naked
Women reproduce their subjects with as much painstaking exactitude as do
El Greco’s The Resurrection of Christ, Giotto’s Descent from the Cross,
Masaccio’s Saint Peter Baptising the Pagans, Tintoretto’s The Miracle of
Saint Mark, Michelangelo’s Creation of the Sun and Moon, and Rubens’s
The Earl and Countess of Arundel. But these latter pictures are
important for other than pictorial reasons. Primarily they are
organisations, and as such they are of æsthetic value. Only secondarily
are they to be appraised as representations of natural objects. In the
pictures of the former list there is no synthetic co-ordination of
tactile forms. Such paintings represent merely “subject-matter” treated
capably and effectively. As sheer painting from the artisan’s standpoint
they are among the finest examples of technical dexterity in art
history. But as contributions to the development of a pure art form they
are valueless.

In stating that the moderns have changed the quality and not the nature
of art, there is no implication that in many instances the great men of
the past, even with limited means, have not surpassed in artistic
achievement the men of today who have at hand more extensive means.
Great organisers of plastic form have, because of their tremendous
power, done with small means more masterly work than lesser men with
large means. For instance, Goya as an artist surpasses Manet, and
Rembrandt transcends Daumier. This principle holds true in all the arts.
Balzac, ignorant of modern literary methods, is greater than George
Moore, a master of modern means. And Beethoven still remains the
colossal figure in music, despite the vastly increased modern scope of
Richard Strauss’s methods. Methods are useless without the creative
will. But granting this point (which unconsciously is the stumbling
block of nearly all modern art critics), new and fuller means, even in
the hands of inferior men, are not the proper subject for ridicule.

It must not be forgotten that the division between old and modern art is
not an equal one. Modern art began with Delacroix less than a hundred
years ago, while art up to that time had many centuries in which to
perfect the possibilities of its resources. The new methods are so young
that painters have not had time to acquire that mastery of material
without which the highest achievement is impossible. Even in the most
praiseworthy modern art we are conscious of that intellectual striving
in the handling of new tools which is the appanage of immaturity.
Renoir, the greatest exponent of Impressionistic means, found his
artistic stride only in his old age, after a long and arduous life of
study and experimenting. His canvases since 1905 are the first in which
we feel the fluency and power which come only after a slow and sedulous
process of osmosis. Compare, for instance, his early and popular Le
Moulin de la Galette with his later portraits, such as Madame T. et Son
Fils and La Fillette à l’Orange, and his growth is at once apparent.

The evolution of means is answerable to the same laws as the
_progressus_ in any other line of human endeavour. The greatest artists
are always culminations of long lines of experimentations. In this they
are eclectic. The organisation of observation is in itself too absorbing
a labour to permit of a free exercise of the will to power. The blinding
burst of genius at the time of the Renaissance was the breaking forth of
the accrued power of generations. Modern art, having no tradition of
means, has sapped and dispersed the vitality of its exponents by
imposing upon them the necessity for empirical research. It is for this
reason that we have no men in modern art who approximate as closely to
perfection as did many of the older painters. But had Rubens, with his
colossal vision, had access to modern methods his work would have been
more powerful in its intensity and more far-reaching in its scope.

However, in the brief period of modern art two decided epochs have been
brought to a close through this accumulation and eruption of
experimental activities in individuals. Cézanne brought to a focus the
divergent rays of his predecessors and incorporated into his canvases
both the aspirations and achievements of the art which had preceded
him. This would have been impossible had he been born—even with an
equally great talent—fifty years before. And a more recent school of
art, by making use of the achievements of both Cézanne and Michelangelo,
and by adding to them new discoveries in the dynamics of colour, has
opened up a new vista of possibilities in the expressing of form. This
step also would have been impossible without Cézanne and the men who
came before and after him. Once these new modes, which are indicative of
modern art, become understood and pass into the common property of the
younger men, we shall have achievement which will be as complete as the
masterpieces of old, and which will, in addition, be more poignant.

Although the methods of the older painters were more restricted than
those of the moderns, the actual materials at their disposal were fully
as extended as ours of today. But knowledge concerning them was
incomplete. As a consequence, all artists antecedent to Delacroix found
expression only in those qualities which are susceptible of reproduction
in black and white. In many cases the sacrifice of colour enhances the
intrinsic merit of such reproductions, for often the characteristics of
the different colours oppose the purposes of a picture’s planes. Today
we know that certain colours are opaque, others transparent; some
approach the eye, others recede. But the ancients were ignorant of these
things, and their canvases contained many contradictions: there was a
continuous warring between linear composition and colour values. They
painted solids violet, and transpicuous planes yellow—thereby
unconsciously defeating their own ends, for violet is limpid, and yellow
tangible. In one-tone reproductions such inconsistencies are eliminated,
and the signification of the picture thereby clarified. It was Rubens
who embodied the defined attributes of ancient art in their highest
degree of pliability, and who carried the impulse toward creation to a
point of complexity unattained by any other of the older men. In him we
see the culmination of the evolution of linear development of light and
dark. From his time to the accession of the moderns the ability to
organise was on the decrease. There was a weakening of perception, a
decline of the æsthetic faculty. The chaotic condition of this period
was like the darkness which always broods over the world before some
cleansing force sweeps it clean and ushers in a new and greater cycle.

The period of advancement of these old methods extends from prehistoric
times to the beginning of the nineteenth century. On the walls of the
caverns in Altamira and the Dordogne are drawings of mammoths, horses
and bison in which, despite the absence of details, the actual approach
to nature is at times more sure and masterly than in the paintings of
such highly cultured men as Botticelli and Pisanello. The action in some
of them is pronounced; and the vision, while simple, is that of men
conscious of a need for compactness and balance. Here the art is simply
one of outline, heavy and prominent at times, light and almost
indistinguishable at others; but this grading of line was the result of
a deeper cause than a tool slipping or refusing to mark. It was the
consequence of a need for rhythm which could be obtained only by the
accentuation of parts. The drawings were generally single figures, and
rarely were more than two conceived as an inseparable design. Later, the
early primitives used symmetrical groupings for the same purpose of
interior decorating. Then came simple balance, the shifting and disguise
of symmetry, and with it a nearer approach to the _imprévu_ of nature.
This style was employed for many generations until the great step was
taken which brought about the Renaissance. The sequential aspect of line
appeared, permitting of rhythm and demanding organisation. Cimabue and
Giotto were the most prominent exponents of this advance. From that time
forward the emotion derived from actual form was looked upon by artists
as a necessary adjunct to a picture. With this attitude came the
aristocracy of vision and the abrogation of painting as mere exalted
craftsmanship.

After that the evolution of art was rapid. In the contemplation of
solidly and justly painted figures the artist began to extend his mind
into space and to use rhythm of line that he might express himself in
depth as well as surfacely. Thus he preconised organisation in three
dimensions, and by so doing opened the door on an infinity of æsthetic
ramifications. From the beginning, tone balance—that is, the agreeable
distribution of blacks, whites and greys—had gone forward with the
development of line, so that at the advent of depth in painting the
arrangement of tones became the medium through which all the other
qualities were made manifest.

In the strict sense, the art of painting up to a hundred years ago had
been only drawing. Colour was used only for ornamental or dramatic
purposes. After the first simple copying of nature’s tints in a wholly
restricted manner, the use of colour advanced but little. It progressed
toward harmony, but its dramatic possibilities were only dimly felt.
Consequently its primitive employment for the enhancement of the
decorative side of painting was adhered to. This was not because the
older painters were without the necessary pigments. Their colours in
many instances were brighter and more permanent than ours. But they were
satisfied with the effects obtained from black and white expression.
They looked upon colour as a delicacy, an accessory, something to be
taken as the gourmet takes dessert. Its true significance was thus
obscured beneath the artists’ complacency. As great an artist as
Giorgione considered it from the conventional viewpoint, and never
attempted to deviate toward its profounder meanings. The old masters
filled their canvases with shadows and light without suspecting that
light itself is simply another name for colour.

The history of modern art is broadly the history of the development of
form by the means of colour—that is to say, modern art tends toward the
purification of painting. Colour is capable of producing all the effects
possible to black and white, and in addition of exciting an emotion more
acute. It was only with the advent of Delacroix, the first great modern,
that the dramatic qualities of colour were intelligently sensed. But
even with him the conception was so slight that the effects he attained
were but meagrely effective. After Delacroix further experiments in
colour led to the realistic translation of certain phases of nature. The
old static system of copying trees in green, shadows in black and skies
in blue did not, as was commonly believed, produce realism. While
superficially nature appeared in the colours indicated, a close
observation later revealed the fact that a green tree in any light
comprises a diversity of colours, that all sunlit skies have a residue
of yellow, and hence that shadows are violet rather than black. This
newly unearthed realism of light became the battle cry of the younger
men in the late decades of the nineteenth century, and reached
parturition in the movement erroneously called Impressionism, a word
philologically opposed to the thing it wished to elucidate. The ancients
had painted landscape as it appeared broadly at a first glance. The
Impressionists, being interested in nature as a manifestation in which
light plays the all-important part, transferred it bodily onto canvas
from that point of view.

Cézanne, looking into their habits more coolly, saw their restrictions.
While achieving all their atmospheric aims, he went deeper into the
mechanics of colour, and with this knowledge achieved form as well as
light. This was another step forward in the development of modern
methods. With him colour began to near its true and ultimate
significance as a functioning element. Later, with the aid of the
scientists, Chevreul, Bourgeois, Helmholtz and Rood, other artists made
various departures into the field of colour, but their enterprises were
failures. Then came Matisse who made improvements on the harmonic side
of colour. But because he ignored the profounder lessons of Cézanne he
succeeded only in the fabrication of a highly organised decorative art.
Not until the advent of the Synchromists, whose first public exhibition
took place in Munich in 1913, were any further crucial advances made.
These artists completed Cézanne in that they rationalised his dimly
foreshadowed precepts.

To understand the basic significance of painting it is necessary to
revise our method of judgment. As yet no æsthetician has recorded a
_rationale_ for art valuation. Taine put forth many illuminating
suggestions regarding the fundamentals of form, but the critics have
paid scant heed. Prejudice, personal taste, metaphysics and even the
predilections of sentiment, still govern the world’s judgments and
appreciations. We are slaves to accuracy of delineation, to prettiness
of design, to the whole suite of material considerations which are
deputies to the organic and intellectual qualities of a work of art. It
is the common thing to find criticisms—ever from the highest
sources—which praise or condemn a picture according to the nearness of
its approach to the reality of its subject. Such observations are
confusing and irrelevant. Were realism the object of art, painting would
always be infinitely inferior to life—a mere simulacrum of our daily
existence, ever inadequate in its illusion. The moment we attach other
than purely æsthetic values to paintings—either ancient or modern—we are
confronted by so extensive and differentiated a set of tests that chaos
or error is unavoidable. In the end we shall find that our conclusions
have their premises, not in the work of art itself, but in personal and
extraneous considerations. A picture to be a great work of art need not
contain any recognisable objects. Provided it gives the sensation of
rhythmically balanced form in three dimensions, it will have
accomplished all that the greatest masters of art have ever striven for.

Once we divest ourselves of traditional integuments, modern painting
will straightway lose its mystery. Despite the many charlatans who
clothe their aberrations with its name, it is a sincere reaching forth
of the creative will to find a medium by which the highest emotions may
most perfectly be expressed. We have become too complex to enjoy the
simple theatre any longer. Our minds call for a more forceful emotion
than the simple imitation of life can give. We require problems,
inspirations, incentives to thought. The simple melody of many of the
old masters can no longer interest us because of its very simplicity. As
the complicated and organised forces of life become comprehensible to
us, we shall demand more and more that our analytic intelligences be
mirrored in our enjoyments.



II

PRECURSORS OF THE NEW ERA


The nineteenth century opened with French art in a precarious and
decadent condition. To appreciate the prodigious strides made by
Géricault and Delacroix, even by Gérard and Gros, one must consider the
rabid antagonism of the public toward all ornament and richness in
painting and toward all subject-matter which did not inspire thoughts of
inflexible simplicity. This attitude was attributable to the social
reaction against the excesses of the voluptuous Louis XV. Vien it was
who, suppressing the eroticism of Boucher, instigated the so-called
classic revival founded on Græco-Roman ideals. The public became so
vehement in its praise of this hypocritical and austere art, that
Fragonard, that delicious painter of boudoirs, was dismissed as
indecent. Even the demure Greuze, who tried to rehabilitate himself by
making his art a vehicle for a series of parental sermons, died a
pauper. He too lacked the aridity requisite for popular taste. Chardin,
the Le Nains and Fouquet were set aside: they were considered too
trivial, too insufficiently archæological. Watteau’s canvases were
stoned by Regnault, Girodet and the other pupils of David. Lancret,
Pater, Debucourt, Olivier, Gravelot, La Tour, Nattier and others met
similar fates at the hands of the new classicists.

Such men as these could not find approbation in a public which demanded
only allegorical, political and economic art. But David met all its
requirements. He represented the antithesis of the sound freedom of the
French temperament; and forthwith became the Elija of the new
degeneracy. He apotheosised all that is false and decadent in art. But
the adulation of him was short-lived. The French imagination is too
fecund for only thorns. Ingres superseded him. This new idol, going to
the Greeks for inspiration, made David fluent and charming. He studied
the Italian primitives and simplified them with Byzantine and Raphaelic
addenda. He had a genuine instinct for silhouette entirely lacking in
his forerunner, and soon struck the first blow which marked the
disintegration of David’s cult.

Gérard and Gros took a further step by loosening slightly Ingres’s
drawing; and Géricault and Guérin completed the disruption of the David
tradition. Géricault’s Radeau de la Méduse brought its young and highly
talented creator immediately into the public gaze, not only because of
its implied blasphemy in deviating from the _méthode David_, but because
the tragedy of its subject was still fresh in the national mind. Was
this a clever device on the part of the painter to circumvent hostile
criticism by clothing his innovations with a sympathetic theme? Perhaps;
but the picture’s value to us lies in that it foreshadowed the new idea
in art. It forced the gate which made easier Delacroix’s entrance
several years later.

In retrospect the reaction against an established order appears simple,
but the world’s innovators have required for their task an intellectual
courage amounting to rare heroism. Heretics are regarded as dangerous
madmen, and generally their only reward is the pleasure of revolt. The
credit for greatness falls on those later men who avail themselves of
the principles of past reactionary enterprise. So much of the energy of
pioneers is spent in combating hostile criticism and indifference, that
their fund of creative force is depleted. This was true in the case of
Delacroix. Like all the greater painters he was self-taught. The essence
of knowledge is untransmittable. True, he occasionally visited the
studio of Guérin, but his real education came from the Louvre where he
copied Veronese, Titian and Rubens. His insight was keen but not deep,
and at first he did little more than absorb the surface aspects of
others, though he did this with intelligence. Later, by devious steps
both forward and back, he became the bridge from the eighteenth century
to Impressionism, just as Cézanne became the stepping stone from
Impressionism to art’s latest manifestations.

In 1822 Delacroix exposed his first canvas, Dante et Virgile aux Enfers,
one of the finest début pictures ever recorded. Superficially it is his
most obvious influence of Rubens whom he deeply respected; and in it are
also discoverable the exaggerations and disproportions of Michelangelo.
Thiers lauded it, and so great was its popularity that the government
bought it for 2,000 francs. Rubens still held him firmly two years later
in the Massacre de Scio, although there were in the picture indubitable
indications of the advent of Venice. This picture was to be hung in the
famous _Salon_ of 1824, where Lawrence, Bonington, Fielding, and
Constable (who were to have such a great influence on his later work)
exposed. The Massacre de Scio was ready for shipment when, just before
the _vernissage_, Delacroix saw a canvas by Constable done in the
divisionistic method. At once he felt the necessity for colour
expression, and going home he entirely repainted his picture.

This was the turning-point in his art. He had admired the green in
Constable’s landscape, and had spoken of it to the other. Constable
explained that the superiority of the green in his prairies was due to
the fact that he had composed it with a multitude of different greens.
Here Delacroix’s keen perception got to work. In his Journal he wrote:
“What Constable says of the green of his prairies can be applied to all
the other tones as well.” By this method, primitive as it seems today,
he beheld a way of augmenting the dramatic significance of his
conceptions. The next year, 1825, he went to London to study the English
painters at closer range. There he learned much from Bonington, as he
did from Constable, and in one of his letters he wrote: “Grey is the
enemy of all painting.... Let us banish from our palette all earth
colours.” And later he forecasted the Impressionistic methods by
writing: “It is good not to let each brush stroke melt into the others;
they will appear uniform at a certain distance by the sympathetic law
which associates them. Colour obtained thus has more energy and
freshness. The more opposition in colour, the more brilliance.”

Delacroix’s intelligence, reconnoitring along these lines, formulated
other principles. Among many observations concerning colour, he wrote:
“If to a composition, interesting in its choice of subject, you add a
disposition of lines, which augments the impression, a chiaroscuro which
seizes the imagination, and a colour which is adapted to the characters,
it is then a harmony, and its combinations are so adapted that they
produce a unique song.... A conception, having become a composition,
must move in the _milieu_ of a colour peculiar to it. There seems to be
a particular tone belonging to some part of every picture which is a key
that governs all the other tones.... The art of the colourist seems to
be related in certain ways to mathematics and music.” That he believed
in the exact science of colour is further attested to by the fact that
he made a dial on which noon represented red, six o’clock green, one
o’clock blue, seven o’clock orange—and so on through the hours with the
opposition of complementaries.

Evidences of these experimentations are dimly discerned in a number of
his minor canvases done between 1827 and the Revolution. In 1832, after
he had painted the admirable La Liberté Guidant le Peuple sur les
Barricades, he visited Morocco. Before this event his work had contained
many of the elements of sumptuousness and sensuality; but in this
eastern land his colour reached maturity. Studying the productions of
the native crafts in their relation to colour, he dreamed of making
pictures as variegated as rugs and vases. In this he was trespassing on
the precincts of Veronese who had made pictorial use of the products
of the Orient and of Africa. On his return he painted Les Femmes d’Alger
dans Leur Appartement. This picture, one of his best, embodies most of
his colour theories. In it we find cold shadows opposed to hot lights,
and the contiguous placing of complementaries.

[Illustration: LES FEMMES D’ALGER DANS LEUR APPARTEMENT by DELACROIX]

Delacroix looked upon himself as a colourist. But while his theories
were in the main sound they did not go far enough. They were important
only as a starting point. His colour is hardly noticeable today, and in
no wise does it sum up his artistic interest for us. Gauguin once said
that we get Delacroix’s full significance in black-and-white
reproduction. This comes perilously near being true. Today his pictures
appear as devoid of brilliancy as those of the Venetians. Yet, when he
first exhibited, he was reproached for his raucous tones. The critics
called his Massacre de Scio the “massacre of painting,” and added, “_il
court sur les toits_.” His men and women, the shadows of whose flesh
were coloured with blues and greens, were stigmatised “corpses,” and he
was accused of having used the morgue for his studio.

All this mattered little. Delacroix’s real significance as an artist lay
in his drawing which was his greatest asset. What raised him above the
general run of painters, baroque and otherwise, was his slight talent
for composition. Often in his Journal he speaks of the “balance of
lines.” He knew that with the masters of the Renaissance it was common
property, and that modern painting had lost it; and he strove to
reintroduce it into art. But he never got beyond the simplest synthesis
of the least compounded of Rubens’s figure pieces. For instance, in the
Bataille de Taillebourg—an excellent example of his dramatic method—it
will be noted that the canvas opens at the bottom-centre to form a
triangle of struggling forms, and that in the breach thus made the
rearing charger looms white. The identical composition can be found in
La Justice, La Liberté, the Janissaires à l’Attaque, La Lutte de Jacob
avec l’Ange, the Enlèvement de Rébecca and the Entrée des Croisés à
Jérusalem. In this last canvas, his most masterful, the triangle is
complicated by a curved line running inward from the centre. This
picture recalls, almost to every detail, Rubens’s The Adoration of the
Wise Men of the East, in the Antwerp Museum. However, it marks a great
progress from the symmetricality of his _toile de début_, and though in
it Rubens is consciously imitated—if not indeed plagiarised, Delacroix
gets nearer to the spirit of Veronese than to that of the Flemish
master.

Among the paintings wherein the simple, three-sided composition does not
appear, the most notable are his animal pictures (in which he
substituted the S design) and those canvases in which his momentary
admiration for others (as for Veronese in the Retour de Christophe
Colomb, and for the Dutch in Cromwell au Château de Windsor) made him
forget himself. Even this primitive comprehension of linear balance had
passed out of French painting with the death of Poussin, and its
reapparition in Delacroix is analogous to the impetus toward rhythm
which was given to the stiff Byzantine painting of Venice by Nicolo di
Pietro and Giovanni da Bologna in the fourteenth century.

In Rubens we find turbulent movement, as great as in life itself,
organised in such a way that all the emotions, exalted, depressive,
dramatic, are expressed. But in Delacroix there is merely co-ordinated
action. And this action, even in the busiest centres of his canvases, is
more suggestive of unrest than of movement. However, the real cause for
his failure to express a spirit as modern as Rubens’s lay in his
inability to understand the opposition in rhythmic line-balance of three
dimensions which is to be found in even the slightest of Rubens’s
canvases. His details are always interesting, but he never succeeded in
welding them into a sequacious and interrelated whole. His high gift of
invention was inadequate equipment for so difficult a feat. Compare
Rembrandt’s exquisite bathing girl in the London National Gallery and
Delacroix’s La Grèce Expirant sur les Ruines de Missolonghi. In
technical treatment these two paintings are not unlike, but the
scattered feeling and lack of plastic concentration in the latter
emphasises the superior force of the Dutchman.

Delacroix’s work fell between flat decoration and deep painting.
Although in his small drawings and details he exhibits a genuine feeling
for volume, as his Lion Déchirant un Cadavre shows, his constant
refinements of reasoning nearly always resulted in his form being
flattened out until it sometimes became commonplace. Simple balance of
line defined the limits of his ability for organisation. If he had
carried out in other pictures the compositional elements of his Piéta,
which had distinct movement, his work would have taken a higher place in
the history of art. In many canvases his seeming fullness of form is
only a richness of line—a richness, however, which had seldom been found
in painting since Masaccio. This voluptuousness in Delacroix (analogous
to Wagner’s music) results from the balance of large dark and light
masses—the fullness of chiaroscuro. It is particularly appreciable in La
Justice de Trajan, La Captivité de Babylone, Repos (reminiscent of
Goya’s La Maja Desnuda) and his animal compositions.

Delacroix’s greatest deficiency lay in his inability to recognise the
difference between the inventive intelligence and the imaginative
instinct. Had he understood this he could have seen that his limitless
ambition was incommensurate with his comparatively small capabilities.
But his mind was not sufficiently open. In fact his viewpoint at times
was a petty one. Even his patriotism was chauvinistic. He was rabidly
anti-Teutonic and attempted to compress all the great masters of art
into the French mould. He inveighed against style in painting because
France had always been barren of it. He pretended to detest Wagner, his
musical prototype, and ignoring the latter’s dramatic undulations,
criticised him severely for his methods. Beethoven was too long for
Delacroix, and Il Trovatore too complicated. However, he had a profound
admiration for Titian and Mozart; and in these preferences we have the
man’s psychology. Both were great classicists, but both lacked that
genuine and magistral fullness which was the _propre_ of Beethoven and
Michelangelo.

Delacroix’s thoughts were on deep things rather than deep in themselves.
Among the romanticists he was at home: all his life Byron and Walter
Scott provided him with themes. And though he had sufficient foresight
to see the hopeless trend of the painting of his day, and combated it,
he did not advance. His muse was the corpse of Venetian art. He was the
brake which put an end to the reactionary tendencies of art. His
discoveries did not reach fruition until Impressionism, twenty years
after his death.

In all his struggles destiny seemed to conspire to bring about his fame.
In 1824, the very year he brought colour into his painting, Géricault,
who gave promise of outstripping him, died. Constable and Turner came
forward with their achievements. David’s influence had died out, and the
painter himself was an exile in Brussels. Fromentin tells us that
Géricault helped paint Delacroix’s first canvas. Certain it is that
several of the great Englishmen painted some of his second. This, no
doubt, taught Delacroix much. In 1827 the government ordered Justinien
Composant les Institutes. All France rallied round his standard. He was
decorated by Louis Philippe; and at the age of thirty he was proclaimed
a great master by one of the leading critics of the day.

From the first he had had the backing of men respected as authorities.
But though they helped make his position tenable, they obfuscated his
true significance by their purely literary appreciations. Gautier,
Dumas, Baudelaire, Stendhal and Merimée—there was none whose temperament
was not either romantic or idealistic. They could not see that, though
he strove with them for modernity of expression, his language was
unmodern. However, Ernest Chesneau, Théophile Silvestre, Eugène Véron
and C. P. Landon have all given us side-lights on his methods, and, in
this, their expositions are of value.

But, though the men of letters did not understand him thoroughly,
several of his fellow painters recognised his eclecticism. Among them
was Thomas Couture who, in his highly instructive booklet, Méthodes et
Entretiens d’Atelier, had the audacity to point out the painter’s
selective habits. In the main his charge was just. Delacroix’s first
canvas contains influences of both Rubens and Michelangelo. His second
picture echoes Rubens, the Venetians and Goya. Later came more prominent
evidences of Titian and Veronese. Delacroix was museum-bred. He absorbed
impressions avidly, and did his best work only after he had undergone an
intellectual experience. Had his art been truly expressive of all that
was within him, he would have been in turn—diluted, to be sure—a Giotto,
a Caravaggio, a Rubens, a Rembrandt. He felt the call of these men, but
instead of halting at appreciation, he tried to use them. But the old
masters, like the lords of the earth, are not amenable to high-handed
demands.

The diversity of his pursuits, which sprang from a desire to compete
with Leonardo da Vinci, smacks of the dilettante. His great mistake was
that he did not separate his capabilities from his desires. Had he done
so he would have produced small figure pieces of gem-like richness and
voluminous composition. Enthusiasm is not the proper equipment for
extended labour. It burns out too soon, and is kept alive only by quick
and brilliant results. For this reason his pictures are viewed to better
effect framed and in galleries than as mural decorations. In trying to
paint monumental subjects on extensive canvases he lost that spirit of
organisation which would have been his on more limited surfaces. One of
his finest expositions of colour, La Lutte de Jacob avec l’Ange, in a
chapel at Saint Sulpice, is ineffective because its surface is too large
for his treatment of the theme. Delacroix in reality was a painter of
still-life in the broad meaning of the term, just as Rembrandt and
Cézanne were still-life painters. He failed in the accomplishment of his
larger programme because his vision was too restricted to permit him to
weld his details into great ensembles, as Rubens did. His ambition
outstripped his power, and strive as he might, he could not make up the
discrepancy by reasoning. Undoubtedly he sensed his own weakness, for
all his days he was in continual pursuit of system. System was to him
what law was to the old masters. Herein he was reflecting the
rationalistic philosophers of his day who substituted theory for
observation.

Were all Delacroix’s paintings destroyed and his Journal and drawings
saved, his _apport_ to art would be but imperceptibly decreased. We
should still possess his linear compositions and his colour theories—his
two significant gifts to modern art. Without the liberation of
draughtsmanship expressed in the former, Courbet’s struggle would have
been more difficult, and rhythm in drawing would have had to wait for
another resuscitator. Without his colour theories Impressionism would
have been postponed for half a century; Van Gogh could not have done his
best pictures; and the Pointillists, with their system of
complementaries, might never have existed. Delacroix was the first to
speak of simultaneity in painting, on which phrase has recently been
founded a school; and he sketched a dictionary of art terms and
definitions which even now, after fifty years, is far more intelligent
than present-day academic precepts.

Let us regard Delacroix as a great pioneer who fought against the
zymotic formalism of his day and by so doing opened up a new era of
expression. He is the link in the chain which holds the brilliant gems
of painting. If he himself fell short of genius, he nevertheless
fulfilled a destiny which intrinsically is in many ways more fine: he
made genius possible for those who were to come after him.

The other man who contributed vitally to modern colour theories was J.
M. W. Turner, born in 1775, one year before Constable. Like Delacroix he
had ardent and influential defenders; and the coincidence is emphasised
by the fact that between these two great colour innovators there existed
a striking thematic similarity. Ruskin took care that Turner should
taste those beneficent honours which the world generally withholds from
a painter during his lifetime. He accomplished this feat by praise which
was largely enthusiasm and by criticism which spelled partiality. But a
panegyric not founded on accuracy and authenticity defeats its own
object in the end. Turner himself remarked that Ruskin discovered
recondite points in his painting of which he, as the artist, was
ignorant. This might have been true, or it might have been sarcasm. But
whether Ruskin or Turner knew more about the latter’s art, the fact
remains that the author of Modern Painters overestimated the painter for
a reason totally inapposite to æsthetic consideration:—the almost
photographic perfection of his canvases. Later, when the _spirituel_
Whistler tarnished this English didactician’s reputation for
infallibility, the latter’s pronunciamentos were questioned, in some
quarters ridiculed. And Turner, accepted because of Ruskin’s assurances,
became suspect.

But no amount of effulgent literary criticism can obscure the authentic
accomplishments of this poor barber’s son. Turner’s contributions to the
colour methods of the eighties were too large, and his imitators too
bold, for the fact to be longer ignored. In his Ulysses Deriding
Polyphemus, The Fighting Téméraire and especially in Rain, Steam and
Speed, he had begun to divide the surfaces of his objects into minute
_touches_ of different colours—not, perhaps, for the purpose of
heightening the emotional qualities of the paintings as a whole, but for
the primitive reason that the device gave accuracy to them as
representations of nature. These pictures Monet and Pissarro studied
closely during the Franco-Prussian War, and there is no doubt that the
result of this study determined the direction taken by the
Impressionists. Turner’s earlier pictures had been too sombre to meet
the demand for brilliancy in that first great modern school, and the
canvases in which his vision of sunlight began to take form had not yet
been painted. These later pictures, with their light tonality and their
full use of misty blue and gold, had a further influence on the
Impressionists’ conception of colour.

When Monet and Pissarro went to London in 1871 they had been habituated
to the use of broad flat tones, and were astonished at Turner’s
extraordinary snow and ice effects which were obtained by juxtaposing
little spots of diverse colour and by the gradating of tones. On their
return to France they both made use of this striking artifice, and
developed it, in conjunction with Delacroix’s theories, into what later
an unknown humorist of the _Charivari_ named Impressionism. This process
was given further impetus by another Frenchman, Jongkind, called the
European Hiroshige. There is more than a superficial analogy between
Jongkind and Turner; and the Impressionists, first under the influence
of Corot and Courbet, found the effects they sought by using the purity
of Turner with the _facture_ of Jongkind. It was thus they were brought
back to the theories of Delacroix which they had partially abandoned.
This return had a profound _raison d’être_, for between the last phase
of Delacroix and the later sketches of Turner there is a similarity
which was apparent even to their contemporaries. But though the
resemblance was as pronounced as that between Turner and the
Impressionists, the eulogists of that movement chose to ignore and, in
some cases, to deny it.

This new method of using colour did not constitute the only debt the
Impressionists owed Turner. They also found in him an added inspiration
toward freedom of arrangement and unconventionality of design. The
landscape painters before Turner’s day conceived their out-of-door
pictures in more or less definite moulds. A tree in one man’s canvas,
being an idealistic conception, was difficult of differentiation from a
tree in another’s. All their pictures were permeated by the same motif.
But Turner, along with Constable and Bonington, began putting character
into landscapes. As a consequence their pictures exuded a new freedom of
arrangement.

To appreciate Turner fully we must overlook his astonishing ability for
transcription—a heritage from his architectural days—and consider him as
a man who loved nature so ardently that it was impossible for him to
approach it intellectually. His sketches, both in water-colour and oil,
were, unlike those of the Impressionists, rarely done in the open. He
conceived them in pencil, wrote upon his clouds, trees and stones the
colours he saw in them, and later, in the solitude of his studio,
“worked them up.” Had the Impressionists, after their frenzied _séances_
before models, taken their canvases home, organised and modified them,
they would no doubt have produced greater net results artistically.
Organisation, in its finest sense, comes only through contemplation and
reflection; and while Turner did not possess the genius for rhythm in
any of its manifestations, he nevertheless realised that mere truth does
not make a picture. The Sun of Venice Going to Sea is as excellent as
anything Monet or Sisley has ever done. In Turner there is a feeling
for the grandiose such as few moderns possess. Did this gift come from
Claude whom he delighted in imitating? Even Constable spoke of a Turner
canvas as the most complete work of genius he ever saw. But this was the
_beau geste_ of a contemporary who wished to appear broad-minded. The
truth lay further down the slope. Turner undoubtedly showed genius in
his competent copying of even the most insignificant of nature’s
accidents. The composition of The Devil’s Bridge is the foundation on
which are built many of Monet’s pictures; and the Rain, Steam and Speed
canvas can hang beside La Gare St. Lazare without loss to either.

Delacroix re-established an Italian mode of expression and tried to make
of it a modern language. Turner, in a new language, spoke of ancient
things. But Courbet ignored all method, and withal became the father of
latter-day art. In him was the embryo of that distinctly modern spirit
which demands visible proof before believing. Like William of Orange, he
arose triumphant above every opposition. His art stemmed temperamentally
from the Dutch and Spaniards, for while he imitated no one, he was
unconsciously influenced by many. So complete was his assimilation of
great men that in his expression they all had a place. He himself says
that he studied antiquity as a swimmer crosses a river. The academicians
were drowned there. So was Delacroix. Courbet learned in his passage
that in adaptation is the confession of sterility. But though he avoided
paraphrasing and copying the old masters, we find throughout his life
recurring traces of Van Dyke, Zurbarán, Delacroix, Rembrandt, El Greco,
Géricault, Ribera, Velazquez and that little known Valencian master,
Juan de Juanes.

Courbet was considered an ignorant, vulgar and brutal peasant. But this
judgment was the outgrowth of public miscomprehension rather than of any
authentic evidence in the man himself. Courbet was the epitome of that
unstudied naturalism which is antipodal to the hypocrisies of society.
France, during his day, was governed by the dictates of theatricalism.
Its ideals were those of Renaissance Italy, and its artistic attitude
reflected a refinement of vision approaching decadence. Courbet’s
deportmental crudities alone were a source of antagonism, and when to
these were added scorn and indifference the hostility against him became
violent. But temperamentally he was aristocratic. The peasant mind is
fundamentally traditional: Courbet was violently revolutionary. Nor did
he lack fineness of mind. His early portraits embodied the subtleties of
modelling in Rembrandt as well as the extraordinary niceties of
characterisation in El Greco. The compositions of his pictures alone
belie any coarseness of fibre in the man. They are founded on a weakened
S which, since the decay of Byzantine art, had done valiant service for
the most exalted painters such as Rubens and Tintoretto. This
compositional figure appears, either exact or varied, in his Le Combat
de Cerfs, Le Retour de la Conférence, Chien et Lièvres, and
L’Enterrement à Ornans.

Courbet’s reputation for vulgarity was derived more from his lack of
facile fluency, so common in the French tradition, than from a basic
understanding of the structural synthesis of his work. And this
misconception of him was aggravated by his being the first painter
unwilling to accept praise as the public chose to dole it out. He was a
self-advertiser, and such men as George Bernard Shaw are but echoes of
his methods. He pushed his way to the front unceasingly, and continually
theorised as a means of silencing his adversaries. He regarded all
public demonstration as _blague_, and later in life carried this
attitude into politics. Whistler, his pupil, was quick to sense the
advantage of his teacher’s methods; and it is the irony of fate that
this ineffectual American was believed and respected while Courbet was
abused and ridiculed and forced to die in exile. He had carried his
assaults too far. “To be not only a painter but a man,” he wrote at one
time. “To create a living art—this is my aim.” It is a masterly
statement of his real ambitions. He was intensely interested in life, as
were Rubens and Cellini. “You want me to paint a goddess?” he exclaimed.
“Show me one!” In this _mot_ he summed up the very spirit of modern
times. It expressed the new realism found in such widely separated men
as Dostoievsky, Zola, George Moore, Conrad, Andreiev, Theodore Dreiser,
Gerhart Hauptmann, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Korngold, Sibelius, Manet,
Renoir, Sorolla and Zorn.

It is strange how Courbet, so far removed from the French temperament,
should, at the crucial period of his life, have reverted to a French
gesture by refusing the cross of the Legion of Honor. But in that famous
letter of rejection, written in a café and mailed with a grandiloquent
toss in the presence of Fantin-Latour, he summed up aptly the man of
genius who, though avid for honour, throws it away at the moment of
attainment. Not even Napoleon was more concerned with the thoughts of
posterity than Courbet, and some of the artist’s letters are not
dissimilar in tone to the bombastic _manifestos_ of certain ultra-modern
schools. At the time of his first exhibition he wrote to Bruyas: “I
stupefy the entire world. I am triumphant not only over the moderns but
the ancients as well. Here is the Louvre gallery. The Champs Elysées
does not exist, nor the Luxembourg. There is no more Champs de Mars. I
have thrown consternation into the world of art.” This spirit of
monumental self-confidence, so startling to a generation whose taste was
measured by the decadent poetry of Beaudelaire, brought frantic sarcasm
hurtling about his head. This troubled Courbet little. He valued
friendships only in so far as they were useful. It was Meissonier who
said in a Paris _salon_, when standing before the famous Femme de Munich
which Courbet had painted in a few hours for Baron Remberg: “It is no
longer a question of art, but of dignity. From now on Courbet must be as
one dead to us.”

Charles Beaudelaire, who helped fight the battle for Wagner, Poe,
Delacroix, Manet and Monet, tentatively praised him at first, but later
allied himself with the public and became his bitterest assailant. It
was not surprising. A poet so superficial as to call Delacroix “a
haunted lake of blood” could not be expected to appreciate the _terre à
terre_ qualities of this master of Ornans. And Courbet was so little
French that he was incomprehensible to his national contemporaries. He
disclaimed all tradition, swore he had no forerunners, and struck
blindly into the unknown. For a man without genius this would have been
fatal, but, after all, only a genius would attempt such things.

Courbet was disgusted with the allegory and romance of his time. His
nature cried aloud for a pose that was natural, for a landscape that
resembled the out-of-doors, for objects in which life was discernible.
Consequently the critics and painters of his day put him aside either
indifferently or insolently. They could not understand a work of art
which did not delineate a literary episode or in which the postures were
not taken direct from the theatre. Courbet needed no literature to paint
great pictures. He went straight to nature, and his compositions grew
out of his sheer enjoyment in visible objects, whether they were
dramatic or not. To the public his pictures appeared ugly, even
repellent. Here was a man who painted a funeral realistically—_Dieu m’en
garde!_ With only the example of canvases filled with familiar gods and
goddesses and melting nudes in golden pink, he dared set forth, in a
sacred theme, peasants’ faces and peasants’ shoes, cloudy skies, and
holes in the brown earth. To those who had come to look upon art as
something ethereal and evanescent, L’Enterrement à Ornans was more than
blasphemy. It was this picture, falling like a bomb into the midst of
the vagaries of his time, that sounded the death knell of romanticism.
It was the last spade of earth on the graves of the classicists. The
mere picture was sensation enough, but Courbet was not content to let
the matter rest there. At the time of his exhibition in 1855, held in a
barrack of his own building on the Rond Point de l’Alma, he wrote a
defensive and provocative preface to his catalogue. In it he proclaimed
himself not only the first realist, but realism itself.

[Illustration: L’ENTERREMENT À ORNANS by COURBET]

Géricault’s Radeau de la Méduse and Delacroix’s Dante et Virgile aux
Enfers were acceptable to the public, the one because of its dramatic
interest, the other because of its literature. But L’Enterrement à
Ornans entirely lacked the popular qualities of these two other
pictures. It was full of rugged and hardy precision. Its insolent
ugliness of subject-matter and its implied indifference to all
tradition, seemed to express the quintessence of artistic degradation
and sordidness. At first view the picture appears to have been inspired
by El Greco’s Obsequies of the Count of Orgaz, but it is more likely
that these peasants of Ornans, each a notable of the town, with their
indifferent expressions and awkward gestures, were attributable to The
Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew of Ribera and La Folle of Géricault,
rather than to the master of Toledo. But that the Spanish helped paint
it is evident: some parts of the landscape are taken bodily from their
canvases. Meier-Graefe states that this funeral picture, like most of
the representative pictures of the nineteenth century, is not
representative of the artist himself. But did Meier-Graefe understand
more profoundly the synthesis of composition found in individual
painters, he would have seen that here was the famous S composition
which was used throughout the painter’s life. Instead of being set on
end, as was the practice of the Italians, it is used laterally and
extends from left to right in depth.

In colour also this picture is representative of Courbet, for it shows
his limitations in that medium. Delacroix brought a new palette to
painting, but could not use it. Courbet contented himself with a palette
as meagre as that of Caravaggio and Guercino. And yet, though colour has
come latterly to mean tactile form in its highest sense, this black
canvas, when placed beside either an Ingres, a David, a Delacroix or a
Gérard, appears less flat and inconsequential than the latter. The form
is even suggestive of Rembrandt, Giotto, Cézanne and Renoir.

Champfleury was the only friend of Courbet who dared defend him.
Delacroix was set against him, and the critics, without understanding
him, obscured the true importance of his art by talking of his want of
transcendentalism and sentiment. Especially were his landscapes the butt
of their ridicule, for painters up to that time had made use of
conventional arrangements of dainty trees copied for their drawing and
tone. In Courbet all this was changed. He organised landscapes as he did
still-lives and nudes. Objects, as such, meant nothing to him. In this
he struck a new and modern note which the good people of his day
considered not only bad art but a slur upon the spiritual meanings of
nature. Even in Les Baigneuses, where the figures are unimportant, the
trees are superb. In La Grotte he went further, for here the figure was
part of the whole. His paintings of the hills about Ornans had a
movement which gave off a sensation of weight entirely new in painting.
In Les Grands Châtaigniers he reached his apogee in landscape painting.
This picture is greater than those of any of the Englishmen.

Though many critics have written that Millet influenced Courbet, the
reverse is the truth. The former’s life work was largely a repetition of
the lights and darks found in Courbet’s earlier pictures. Les Casseurs
de Pierres is far greater than anything Millet has ever done, despite
the vast popularity of such purely sentimental pictures as The Angelus
and The Man with the Hoe. Courbet could never have been satisfied with
the angularity and absence of rhythm in the other’s work. In Millet’s
best canvases one finds at most only a parallelism of lines, and in his
lesser pictures even this amateurish attempt at organisation is lacking.
But in Les Casseurs de Pierres the arrangement is one which recalls the
competency of linear balance and development in Tintoretto’s Minerva
Expelling Mars.

When Courbet entered painting, he had neither prejudices nor a _parti
pris_. He tested his ability before engaging his full complement of
resources. Though untutored, he had that cast of intelligence which no
amount of study can produce and no amount of adverse criticism
influence. Delacroix, on the other hand, was the archetype of the highly
cultured and educated man. He foresaw the necessity for radical reform,
but was unable to bring it about significantly. Courbet instinctively
projected himself into that void at the brink of which tradition halts
and the unknown begins. And because he was a man of genius he did not
return empty-handed.

The art of Courbet was too aristocratic to be appreciated. Not
aristocratic in the Delacroix sense, but isolated and superior.
Rejecting the colour discoveries of his day, he created his own
materials. Delacroix foreshadowed the medium which was to serve as a
vehicle for the achievement of future generations, but it was Courbet
who brought to art a new mental attitude without which there would be no
excuse for modern painting. By turning men’s thoughts from ancient Italy
to the actualities of their own day, and by expelling the literary
canvas from art, he left those who came after him free to evolve a
medium which would translate the new vision. Delacroix’s heritage to art
was intellectual, Courbet’s dynamic. And though objectively the work of
Courbet is the uglier and less gracious, in it there is more of the
sublime. But both men are indispensable, and have a just claim to the
eternal respect of posterity.

The construction of form as voluminous phenomena—that integer of modern
painting which was lacking in Delacroix, Turner and Courbet, but which
has become one of the leading preoccupations of present-day artists—was
introduced by Honoré Daumier. This painter who, unlike his three great
contemporaries, fought for the pure love of the fight, was celebrated as
a caricaturist at twenty-five. Such fame was warranted, for he was
unquestionably the greatest and most trenchant caricaturist the world
has ever produced. From 1835 to 1848 he made capital of all those many
catastrophes which overtook France. Only the curtailing of the freedom
of the press on December 2, 1848, put an end to his career as
publicist. This culmination of his editorial activities was a beneficial
thing for both Daumier and the world, for it permitted him freedom to
devote himself wholly to the development of the larger side of his
genius. He endeavoured to interest his friends in his painting; but too
long had he been known as a critic of current topics for them to look
with serious eyes upon his more solid endeavours.

But though neglected by his friends, Daumier holds a position of
tremendous importance in relation to the moderns. His work developed
along lines unthought-of by either Delacroix or Courbet. Even his
cartoons were more than clever pictorial comments on national events.
Intrinsically they were great pieces of rugged flesh which had all the
appearance of having been chiselled out of a solid medium with a dull
tool. The richness of his line is as complete as in Rembrandt’s
etchings; and his economy of means reached a point to which painters had
not yet attained. His significance, however, lies more especially in his
new method of obtaining volume than in the flexibility of his line
drawings. He built his pictures in tone first. The drawing came
afterward as a direct result of the tonal volumes. This new manner of
painting permitted him a greater subtlety and fluency than Courbet
possessed. In fact, Daumier’s comprehension of form in the subjective
sense was greater than that of any Frenchman up to his time. Compare,
for instance, Daumier’s canvas, Les Lutteurs, with Courbet’s picture of
the same name. The massiveness of the one is monumental. One feels the
weight of the two struggling men, heavy and shifting, clinging and
panting. They are modelled by a craftsman who can juggle deftly with his
means. In Courbet’s picture the figures are seen carefully copied in a
strained pose by one who has not the complete mastery of his tools. In
Daumier’s picture we also sense that elusive but vital quality called
mental attitude. Superficially it is almost indistinguishable from its
negation, but to those who know its significance, it is of permeating
importance.

Contour and shading to his forerunners had meant two separated and
distinct steps in the construction of form. Daumier created both
qualities simultaneously as one emotion. Depth with other painters was
obtained by carrying their figures into the background by the means of
line and perspective. With Daumier it meant a plastic building up of
volume from the background forward. The feeling we have before his
canvases that we are looking at form itself and not merely an excellent
representation of it, is as strong as it is in a greater way when we
stand before a Leonardo da Vinci. In this he gave proof that he was a
draughtsman in the most vital sense. Unless he had felt form uniquely,
Le Repos des Saltimbanques and Le Bain would have been impossible of
creation. This last picture sums up what Carrière aspired to but failed
to attain.

[Illustration: LE BAIN by DAUMIER]

Recalling the great masters of form we instinctively visualise
Michelangelo first. For this reason perhaps Michelangelo is regarded the
major influence in Daumier. “_Il avait du Michel Ange dans la peau_,”
say the French: and certain it is that Daumier’s colossal simplicity and
feeling for tactility were derived from the Renaissance master. But
only in one picture, a composition called La République—1848, do we find
any direct and conscious influence. Frankly this is but a modernisation
of one of the sibyls on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The truth is
Daumier is more akin to Rembrandt than to Michelangelo. But there is in
him none of the conscious copying of Rembrandt that we find, for
instance, in Joshua Reynolds. The latter, admiring Rembrandt, essayed to
equal his power by imitating his externals with academic processes.
Daumier, temperamentally affiliated with his master, went deeper.
Putting aside the results of Rembrandt’s final brush strokes, he studied
the very functioning procedure of his art. Both used the human figure as
a _terrain_ for the unceasing struggle of light against dark. In the
process of painting the infinite play and by-play of opposed values on a
given theatre, they produced form as an inevitable result.

A critic has stated of Daumier: “He left hardly anything but sketches,
splashes of colour that resolve themselves into faces....” It is said
without attempt at profundity. Nevertheless the remark unsuspectingly
touches the crucial point of Daumier’s significance. The very resolution
of those “splashes of colour” into faces is the prefiguration of the
modern conception of form. In this particular Daumier, even more than
Rembrandt, was the avant-courier of Cézanne. This latter artist, through
his concern with the play of one colour on another, gave birth to form
more intensely than did either of the older men. Too much stress cannot
be laid on Daumier’s contribution to modern painting. By regarding the
two drawings, La Vierge à l’Écuelle and Renaude et Angélique—the one by
Correggio in chalk, the other by Delacroix in water-colour—we perceive
the attainment of form by less profound methods. But neither possesses
the significance of Daumier’s work.

Of Daumier’s colour little need be said. At times it emerges from its
sombreness and blossoms forth in all the hot softness of now the
Venetians, of again the Spaniards; but compared with the artist’s genius
for plastic form it is of subsidiary importance.

Although the inception of Daumier’s greatness can be traced to
Rembrandt, he reacted to many influences. Suggestions of Monnier and
Granville are to be found in his work. Decamps’s Sonneurs de Cloches was
studied by him and emulated. His simplifications stemmed from Ingres,
and his caricature of Guizot had the same qualities as that master’s
portraits. Delacroix also had some trifling influence on him in such
paintings as Don Quichotte. But Daumier’s influence on others is more
direct and far-reaching than his own garnerings of inspiration. He
foreshadowed the formal abbreviations of Toulouse-Lautrec, Forain and
Steinlen, and he affected, more than is commonly admitted, the works of
Manet, Degas, and Van Gogh. In his sculptured pieces, Ratapoil and Les
Émigrants, he paved the way for Meunier and Rodin. Even such minor men
as Max Beerbohm learned much from him without understanding him. And
apart from the vital new methods he brought to painting, the originality
of his subject-matter led modern men to copy him thematically. Le Drame
fathered a whole series of Degas’s paintings.

Daumier is only beginning to receive the intelligent appreciation which
in time may engulf his eminent contemporary, Courbet. For if choice
there is between the intrinsically artistic achievements of the painter
of L’Enterrement à Ornans and the creator of Silène, the preference
rests with Daumier.

The forces underlying the development of genius, working in conjunction
with the right circumstances, produce the fertilising methods which
nature uses to bring about a final flowering of a long period of intense
germination. Before the greatest eras of all art the battles have been
fought and won. The descendants of the pioneers become the introspective
and creative souls who open, free from the stain of combat, to the sun
of achievement. Delacroix, Turner, Courbet, Daumier—these are the men
who cleared the ground and thereby made possible a new age of æsthetic
creation. To Delacroix belongs the credit for giving an impetus to the
vitalisation of colour, and for freeing drawing from the formalisms of
the past. Turner raised the tonality of colour, and introduced a new
method for its application. Courbet heightened uniformly the
signification of objects in painting, and handed down a mental attitude
of untraditional relativity. And Daumier conceived a new vision of
formal construction. These men were the pillars of modern painting.



III

ÉDOUARD MANET


The purely pictorial has always been relished by the public. The
patterns of the mosaicists and very early primitives, the figured stuffs
of the East and South, the vases of China and Persia, the frescoes on
the walls of Pompeii, the drawings and prints of old Japan—all are
examples of utilitarian art during epochs when the public took delight
in the contemplation of images. Even the delicate designs on Greek
pottery, the rigid and ponderous arts of architectural Egypt and the
drawings and adorned totem poles of the North American Indians are
relics of times when the demand for art was created by the masses. For
the most part all these early crafts were limited to simple designs,
wholly obvious to the most rudimentary mind. The ancients were content
with a representation of a natural object, the likeness of a familiar
animal, the symmetry of an ornamental border, an effigy of a god in
which their abstract conceptions were given concrete form. At that time
the artist was only a craftsman—a man with a communistic mind, content
to follow the people’s dictates and to reflect their taste. Art was then
democratic, understood and admired by all. It did not raise its head
about the mean level; it was abecedary, and consequently
comprehensible.

When the Greek ideal of fluent movement took birth in art and became
disseminated, drawing, painting and sculpture began to grow more
rhythmic and individual. Slowly at first and then more and more swiftly,
art became insulated. The popular joy in the native crafts, despite the
impetus of centuries behind it, decreased steadily. The antagonism of
the masses to the artist sprang up simultaneously with the disgust of
the artist for the masses. It was the inevitable result of the artist’s
mind developing beyond them. He could not understand why they were no
longer in accord with him; and they, finding him in turn unfathomable,
considered him either irrational or given over to fantastic buffoonery.
So long had they been the dictator of his vision that his emancipation
from their prescriptions left them astounded and angered at his
audacity. The nobles then, feeling it incumbent upon them to defend this
new luxury of art, stepped into the breach, and for a time the people
blindly patterned their attitude on that of their superiors. Later came
the disintegration of the nobility; its caste being lost, the people no
more imitated it. From that time on, although there were a few
connoisseurs, the large majority was hostile to the artist, and made it
as difficult as possible for him to live. He was looked upon as a
madman who threatened the entire social fabric. His isolation was
severe and complete; and while many painters strove to effect a
reinstatement in public favour, art for 300 years forced its way through
a splendid evolution in the face of neglect, suspicion and ridicule.

For so many generations had the public looked upon art as the
manifestation of a disordered and dangerous brain that they found it
difficult to recognise a man in whose work was the very pictorial
essence they had originally admired. This man was Édouard Manet. Instead
of being welcomed for his reversion to decoration, strangely enough he
was considered as dangerous as his contemporary heretics, Delacroix and
Courbet. Courbet was at the zenith of his unpopularity when Manet
terminated his apprenticeship under Couture. The young painter had had
numerous clashes with his academic master, and the latter had prophesied
for him a career as reprehensible as Daumier’s. Spurred on by such
incompetent rebukes, Manet determined to launch himself single-handed
into the vortex of the æsthetic struggle. This was in 1857. For two
years thereafter he put in his time to good purpose. He travelled in
Holland, Germany and Italy, and copied Rembrandt, Velazquez, Titian and
Tintoretto. These youthful preferences give us the key to his later
developments. In 1859 he painted his Le Buveur d’Absinthe, a canvas
which showed all the ear-marks of the romantic studio, and which
exemplified the propensities of the student for simplification. It was a
superficial, if enthusiastic, piece of work, and the _Salon_ of that
year was fully justified in rejecting it. Two years later Manet had
another opportunity to expose. In the meantime he had painted his La
Nymphe Surprise which, though one of his best canvases, contained all
the influence of a hurriedly digested Rembrandt and a Dutch Titian.

In 1861 these influences were still at work, but the _Salon_ not only
accepted his Le Guitarrero but, for some unaccountable reason, awarded
it with an honourable mention. In this picture, Manet’s first Spanish
adaptation, are also traces of other men. Goya and even Murillo are
here—the greys of Velazquez and Courbet’s modern attitude toward
realism. In this canvas one sees for the first time evidences of its
creator’s technical dexterity, a characteristic which later he was to
develop to so astonishing a degree. But this picture, while
conspicuously able, is, like L’Enfant a l’Épée and also Les Parents de
l’Artiste, the issue of immaturity. Such paintings are little more than
the adroit studies of a highly talented pupil inspired by the one-figure
arrangements of Velazquez, Mazo and Carreño. Where Manet improved on the
average student was in his realistic methods. While he did not present
the aspect of nature in full, after the manner of Daubigny and Troyon,
he stated its generalisations by painting it as seen through half-closed
eyes, its parts accentuated by the blending of details into clusters of
light and shadow. This method of visualisation gives a more forceful
impression as an image than can a mere accurate transcription. As slight
an innovation as was this form of painting, it represented Manet’s one
point of departure from tradition, although it was in truth but a
modification of the traditional manner of copying nature. The public,
however, saw in it something basically heretical, and derided it as a
novelty. The habit of ridicule toward any deviation from artistic
precedent had become thoroughly fixed, ever since Delacroix’s
heterodoxy.

It was not until 1862 that Manet, as the independent and professional
painter, was felt. Up to this time his talent and capabilities had
outstripped his powers of ideation. But with the appearance of Lola de
Valence the man’s solidarity was evident. This picture was exposed with
thirteen other works at Martinet’s the year following. It was hung
beside the accepted and familiar Fontaineleau painters, Corot, Rousseau
and Diaz; and almost precipitated a riot because of its informalities.
In these fourteen early Manets are discoverable the artist’s first
tendencies towards simplification for other than academic reasons. Here
the abbreviations and economies, unlike those in Le Buveur d’Absinthe,
constitute a genuine inclination toward emphasising the spontaneity of
vision. By presenting a picture, free from the stress of confusing
items, the eye is not seduced into the by-ways of detail, but permitted
to receive the image as an ensemble. This impulse toward simplification
was prefigured in his Angelina now hanging in the Luxembourg Gallery.
Here he modelled with broad, flat planes of sooty black and chalky
white, between which there were no transitional tones. While in this
Manet was imitating the externals of Daumier, he failed to approach that
master’s form. Consequently he never achieved the plasticity of volume
which Daumier, alone among the modern men, had possessed. However,
despite Manet’s failure to attain pliability, these early paintings are,
in every way, sincere efforts toward the creation of an individual
style. It was only later, after his first intoxicating taste of
notoriety, that the _arriviste_ spirit took possession of him and led
him to that questionable and unenviable terminus, popularity. One can
imagine him, drunk with eulogy, reading some immodest declaration of
Courbet’s in which was set forth that great man’s egoistic confidence,
and saying to himself: “_Tiens! Il faut que j’aille plus loin._”

The famous _Salon des Refusés_, called by some critics of the day the
_Salon des Réprouvés_, gave Manet his chance to state in striking
fashion his beliefs in relation to æsthetics. For whereas mere realism
could no longer excite the animosity of the official _Salon_ jury, as it
had done twenty years before, immorality—or, as Manet chose to put it,
_franchise_—could. Therefore Manet was barred from the company of the
Barbizon school and the other favourites of the day. In the _Salon des
Refusés_, which must be held to the credit of Napoleon III, those
painters who had suffered at the hands of the academic judges were
allowed a hearing. Whistler, Jongkind, Pissarro and Manet here made
history. Manet sent Le Bain, which, through the insistence of the
public, has come to be called Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe. But despite the
precedent of Giorgione’s Rural Concert (the Concert Champêtre in the
Louvre), it was looked upon only as the latest manifestation of
degeneracy in a man who gave every promise of becoming a moral pariah.
The nude, contrasted as it was with attired figures, was too suggestive
of sheer nakedness. Had the nude stood alone, as in Ingres’s La Source,
or among other nudes, as in Ingres’s Le Bain Turc, the picture would
have caused no comment. Its departures in method were not extravagant.
The scene is laid out of doors, yet it bears all the evidences of the
studio conception; and those lights and reflections which later were
brought to such perfection in the pictures of the Impressionists and
Renoir, are wholly absent. But in one corner is a beautifully painted
still-life of fruits, a basket and woman’s attire, which alone should
have made the picture acceptable. This branch of painting Manet was to
develop to its highest textural possibilities.

From this time on Manet no longer used the conventional chiaroscuro of
the academicians. Instead he let his lights sift and dispel themselves
evenly over the whole of his groupings. This mode of procedure was
undoubtedly an influence of the Barbizon painters who had done away with
the brown sauce of the _soi-disant_ classicists. In his rejection of
details and his discovery of a means whereby effects could be obtained
by broad planes, Manet was forced by necessity to take the step toward
this simplification of light. Were colour to be used consistently in
conjunction with his technique, it must be spread on in large flat
surfaces. By diffusing his light the opportunity was made. He might have
omitted the element of colour from his work and contented himself with
black and white, as in the case of Courbet; but he was too sensitive to
its possibilities. He had observed it in the Venetians and Franz Hals,
as well as in nature; and in its breadth and brilliance he had
recognised its utility in enhancing a picture’s decorative beauty. Even
the colour of Velazquez was at times sumptuous. Manet, because his
simplicity of manner permitted a liberal application of colour, was able
to augment its ornamental power. It is true that today his large and
irregular patches of tints appear grey, but, to his contemporaries,
their very extension made them seem blatant and bold.

Courbet remained in great part the slave to the common vision of
reality. In his efforts to attain results he sacrificed little. This, in
itself, delimited his accomplishments. Nature to him appeared nearly
perfect, and he painted with all the wonderment of a child opening its
eyes on the world for the first time. On the other hand, Manet realised
that nature’s forces become objective only through an intellectual
process. This attitude marked a decided step in advance of Courbet.
Manet painted single figures and simple images devoid of all anecdotal
significance, out of his pure love of his medium and his sheer delight
in tone and contour. In other words, he represented the modern spirit
which repudiates objects conducive to reminiscence, and cares only for
“qualities” in art. His intentions were those of Courbet pushed to
greater freedom. Unlike his master he was a virtuoso of the brush. His
very facility perhaps accounts for his satisfaction with flat
decoration, for it concentrated his interest on the actual _pâte_ and
thereby precluded a deeper research into the psychology of æsthetic
emotion. But in his insistence on the æsthetic rather than the
illustrative side of painting he carried forward the ideals which were
to epitomise modern methods.

In this lay the impetus he gave to painting. Even with Rubens the
necessities of the day forced him, in his choice of themes, to adopt a
circumscribed repertoire, the subjects of which he repeated constantly.
In him we have mastery of composition with the substance as an
after-thought. Delacroix conceived his canvases in the romantic mould,
and adapted his compositions so as to bring out the salient
characteristics of his chosen theme. This was illustration with the
_arrière pensée_ of organisation. Daumier struck the average between
these two and conceived his subject in the form he was to use. Courbet
minimised the importance of objects as such by raising them all to the
same level of adaptability: but he invariably chose, as with an _idée
fixe_, his subjects from the life about him. Manet cared nothing for any
subject whether traditional or novel. That he generally chose modern
themes was indicative of that new mental attitude which recognises the
unimportance of subject-matter and urges the painter to abandon thematic
research and utilise the things at hand. He made his art out of the
materials nearest him, irrespective of their intrinsic topical value.

This was certainly an important step in the liberating of art from
convention. It proclaimed the right of the artist to paint what he
liked. Courbet would have painted goddesses if he had seen them. Manet
would have painted them without having seen them, provided he had
thought the result warranted the effort. Courbet, the father of
naturalism, extended the scope of subject-matter, while Manet tore away
the last tie which bound it to any tradition, whether Courbet’s or
Titian’s. After him there was nothing new to paint. It is therefore
small wonder that artists should now have become interested in the
forces of nature rather than in nature’s mien. Manet, by his
consummation of theme, foreshadowed the concern with abstractions which
has now swept over the world of æsthetics. Zola, like him in other ways,
never equalled him in this. L’Assommoir and Fécondité portrayed only the
extremes of realism. Manet painted all things with equal pleasure. Here
again is evident the continuation of that mental attitude which Courbet
introduced into painting. The qualities in Manet which inclined toward
abstraction have secured him the reputation for being a greater
generaliser than Courbet whose brutal naturalism could not be
dissociated in the public mind from concrete and strict materialism. For
this contention there is substantiation of a superficial nature. But a
mere tendency toward generalisation, with no other qualifications, does
not indicate greatness. In fact, were this purely literal truth
concerning Manet conclusive, it would tend to disqualify him in his
claim to an importance greater than Courbet’s. Carrière is an example of
a painter who is general and nothing more. Manet had other titles to
consideration.

What Manet’s enduring contributions to painting were have never been
surmised by the public. His recognition, coming as it did years after
his most significant works had been accomplished and set aside, was due
to a reversion of the public’s mind to its aboriginal admirations. Manet
is popular today for the same reason that the lesser works of Hokusai
and Hiroshige are popular, namely: they present an instantaneous image
which is at once flat and motionless. As in the days of the mosaicists
and early primitives, the appreciation of such works demands no
intellectual operation. Their recognisable subjects only set in motion a
simple process of memory. The Olympia, Manet’s most popular painting,
illustrates the type of picture which appeals strongly to minds innocent
of æsthetic depth. Its mere imagery is alluring. As pure decoration it
ranks with Puvis de Chavannes. But in it are all the mistakes of the
later Impressionists. Manet consciously attempted the limning of light,
but brilliance alone resulted. He did not realise that, in order for one
to be conscious of illumination, shadow is necessary. This latter
element, with its complementary, produces in us the sensation of volume.
True, there is in the Olympia violent contrast between the nude body,
the bed and the flowers, on the one hand, and the background, the
negress and the cat, on the other; but it is only the contrast of
dissimilar atmospheres. The level appearance of the picture is not
relieved.

The cardinal shortcoming in a painting of this kind is that it fails to
create an impression of either the aspects or the forces of nature. Such
pictures are only flat representations of nature’s minor
characteristics. The most resilient imagination cannot endow them with
form: the intelligence is balked at every essay to penetrate beyond
their surface. In contemplating them one is irritated by the emptiness,
or rather the solidity, of the _néant_ which lies behind. Courbet called
the Olympia “the queen of spades coming from her bath.” Titian, had he
lived today, would have styled it a photograph. Goya (who is as much to
blame for it as either Courbet or Titian) would have considered its
shallowness an inexcusable vulgarity. In painting it undoubtedly Manet’s
intention was to modernise Titian’s Venus Reclining now hanging in the
Uffizi; just as later it was Gauguin’s intention, in his La Femme aux
Mangos, to endow the Olympia with a South Sea Island setting. Such
adaptations are indefensible provided they do not improve upon their
originals. There is no improvement in Gauguin’s Venus; and Manet’s
picture, while it advances on Titian in attitude, is a decided
retrogression viewed from the standpoint of form.

In such pictures as the Olympia, Nana and La Jarretière we recognise
Manet’s effort to obtain notoriety. He was not an aristocrat as was
Courbet or Goya or Titian. It was not a need for freer expression that
induced him to paint pictures which shocked by their unconventionality,
but a desire to _abasourdir les bourgeois_. In choosing his
subject-matter he always had a definite end in view in relation to the
public; but his conceptions were spontaneous and were recorded without
deliberation. He painted with but little thought as to his method. This
fact is no doubt felt by the public and held in his favour by those who
believe in the involuntary inspiration of the artist. But art cannot be
judged by such childish criteria. Can one imagine Giotto, Michelangelo
or, to come nearer our day, Cézanne painting without giving the closest
and most self-conscious study to his procedure? Credence in the
theopneusty of the painter, the poet and the musician, should have
passed out with the advent of Delacroix; but the seeming mystery of art
is so deeply rooted in public ignorance that many generations must pass
before it can be eradicated.

The truth is that Manet himself had no precise idea of what he really
wished to accomplish. Up to the last year of his life he groped
tentatively toward a goal, the outlines of which were never quite
distinct. We today, looking back upon his efforts, can judge his
motivating influences with some degree of surety. In bringing about the
paradox of staticising Courbet, Manet feminised him. He turned Courbet’s
blacks and greys into pretty colours, and thereby turned his modelling
into silhouette and flattened his volumes. Thus was Courbet not only
made effeminate but popularised. Compare the superficially similar
pictures, Le Hamac of Courbet and Manet’s Le Repos. In the former the
movement in composition accords with the landscape and is carried out in
the pose of the woman’s arms and in the disposition of the legs. The
figure in the latter picture is little more than an ornament—a
symmetrical articulation. Manet has here translated the rhythm of depth
into linear balance. In this levelling process all those qualities which
raise painting above simple mosaics are lost. A picture thus treated
becomes a pattern, incapable of embodying any emotional significance.
Manet’s paintings are remembered because they are so instantaneous a
vision of their subjects. For this same reason Goya is remembered; but
beneath the Spaniard’s broad oppositions of tone is a limpid depth in
which the intelligence darts like a fish in an aquarium. In Manet the
impassable barrier of externals shuts out that world which exists on
the further side of a picture’s surface.

In Manet we have the summing up of the pictorial expression of all time.
His love for decoration never left him long enough for him to experiment
with the profounder phases of painting. In many of his canvases he was
little more than an exalted poster-maker. His Rendez-vous de Chats was
frankly a primitive arrangement of flat drawing, as flat as a print by
Mitsuoki. Even details and texture were eliminated from it. It was a
statement of his theories reduced to their bare elements. Yet, though
exaggerated, the picture was representative of his aims. A pattern to
him was form. Courbet’s ability to model an eye was the cause of Manet’s
repudiating the painter of L’Enterrement à Ornans. The two men were
antithetical; and in that antithesis we have Manet’s aspirations fully
elucidated. Even later in life when he took the figure out of doors he
was unable to shake off the influence of the silhouette. But the
silhouette cannot exist _en plain air_. Light volatilises design. This
knowledge accounts for Renoir’s early sunlight effects. Manet never
advanced so far.

The limitations and achievements of Manet are summed up in his painting,
Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe. This picture is undoubtedly interesting in its
black-and-white values and in its freedom from the conventions of
traditional composition. At first view its theme may impress one as an
attempt at piquancy, but on closer inspection the actual subject
diminishes so much in importance that it might have been with equal
effect a simple landscape or a still-life. There is no attempt at
composition in the classic sense. Even surface rhythm is entirely
missing: the tonal masses decidedly overweigh on the left. But the
picture nevertheless embodies the distinguishing features of all Manet’s
arrangements. It is built on the rigid pyramidal plan. From the lower
left-hand corner a line, now light, now dark, reaches almost to the
upper frame at a point directly above the smaller nude; and another
line, which begins in the lower right-hand corner at the reclining man’s
elbow, runs upward to his cap, and is then carried out in the shadow and
light of the foliage so that it meets the line ascending from the other
side. The base of these two converging lines is formed by another line
which runs from the man’s elbow along his extended leg. This is the
picture’s important triangle. But a secondary one is formed by a line
which begins at the juncture of the tree and shadow in the lower
right-hand corner, extends along the cane and the second man’s sleeve to
his head, and then drops, by way of the large nude’s head and shoulder,
to the basket of fruit at the bottom. This angularity of design is seen
in the work of all primitive-minded peoples, and is notably conspicuous
in the early Egyptians, the archaic Greeks and the Assyrians of the
eighth century B.C. It is invariably the product of the static
intelligence into which the comprehension of æsthetic movement has never
entered. It is the result of a desire to plant objects solidly and
immovably in the ground. Those artists who express themselves through it
are men whose minds are incapable of grasping the rhythmic attributes of
profound composition. Manet repeats this triangular design in the
Olympia where the two adjoining pyramids of contour are so obvious that
it is unnecessary to describe them. The figures in canvases such as La
Chanteuse des Rues, La Femme au Perroquet, Eva Gonzalès and Émile Zola
are constructed similarly; and in groups like En Bateau and Les Anges au
Tombeau (the latter of which recalls, by its arrangement and lighting,
the Thétis et Jupiter of Ingres) is expressed the mental immobility
which characterised Conegliano, Rondinelli, Robusti and their
seventeenth-century exemplars, de La Fosse, Le Moyne and Rigaud.

[Illustration: LE DÉJEUNER SUR L’HERBE by MANET]

If, however, Manet failed in the larger tests, he excelled in his
ability to beautify the surfaces of his models. His painting of texture
is perhaps the most competent that has ever been achieved. In his flesh,
fruits and stuffs, the sensation of hard, soft, rough or velvety
exteriors reaches its highest degree of pictorial attainment. These many
and varied textures are reunited in his Le Déjeuner—a canvas which must
not be confused with Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe. Here we have a plant, a
vase, four different materials in the boy’s clothing, a straw hat, a
brass jug with all its reflections, a table cloth, a wall, an old sword,
glassware, fruit and liquid. It is an orgy of textures, and Manet must
have gloried in it. One critic of the day wondered why oysters and a cut
lemon lay on the breakfast table. But we wonder why a cat with fluffy
fur is not there also. Castagnary suggested that Manet, feeling himself
to be the master of still-life, brought every possible texture into a
single canvas for purposes of contrast and because he delighted in the
material quality of objects. But the reason goes deeper. Manet was a
superlatively conscious technician, and that _sacrée commodité de la
brosse_, so displeasing to Delacroix, was his greatest intoxication.
Hals also was seduced by it. Later, when the new vision of light was
communicated to Manet by the Impressionists, his obsession for the
purely technical diminished in intensity. In that topical bid for
popularity, the Combat du Kerseage et de l’Alabama, we detect his
interest in a new economy of means which would facilitate his search for
broader illumination. This method took a step forward in Le Port de
Bordeaux, and later reached maturity in his canvases painted in 1882, of
which Le Jardin de Bellevue is a good example. But despite his heroic
efforts, these last pictures, painted a year before he died when
paralysis had already claimed him and he was devoting his time almost
entirely to still-life, were without fulgency, and never approached the
richness of even so slight a colourist as Monet.

Repose is a word used overmuch by modern critics to designate the
dominant quality of Manet’s painting. From an entirely pictorial point
of view the word is applicable, but in the precise æsthetic sense it is
a misnomer. The illusion of repose in Manet is accounted for by his even
use of greys, as in Le Chemin de Fer, Le Port de Bordeaux, the Exécution
de Maximilien and the Course de Taureaux. Even in Les Bulles de Savon,
the Rendez-vous de Chats, Le Clair de Lune and Le Bar des
Folies-Bergère—canvases in which is exhibited Manet’s greatest
opposition of tones—the ensemble is expressive of monotony. Real
repose, however, is something much more recondite than uniformity or
tedium. It is created by a complete harmonious organisation, not by an
avoidance of movement. Giotto’s Death of Saint Francis and El Greco’s
Annunciation have a simultaneity of presentation as unique as in Manet;
but, because their compositions are so rhythmically co-ordinated, they
present an absolute finality of movement and thus engender an emotional
as well as an ocular repose.

Manet’s actual innovations are small, smaller even than Courbet’s.
However, many critics credit him with grotesque novelties. There are
very few books dealing with modern painting which do not assert that he
was the first to note that flesh in the light is dazzlingly bright and
of a cream-and-rose colour. But in this particular there is no
improvement in Manet on the pictures of Rubens. He may have unearthed
this illustrative point; certain it is he did not originate it. Yet no
matter how slight his departures, we enjoy his pictures for their
inherent æsthetic qualities, and not for their approximation to nature.
Manet made many mistakes, but this was natural when we remember that in
the whirlpool of new ambitions one is prone to forget the lessons of the
past. Only by profiting by them can one go on toward the ever advancing
goal of achievement. We must not forget that this new spirit of
endeavour is only an impulse towards something greater, a rebellion
against arbitrarily imposed obstacles. If men like Manet lost track of
the fundamentals of the great art which had preceded them, it was only
that their vision was clouded by new experiments.

The actual achievements of Manet epitomise the secondary in art. His
attempt to combine artistic worth with popularity restricted him. That
he was misunderstood at first was his own fault in continually changing
his style. But acceptance or rejection by popular opinion does not
indicate the measure of a painter’s significance. And Manet is to be
judged by his contributions to the new idea. His importance lay in that
he took the second step of the three which were to exhaust the
possibilities of realism. In art every genuine method is consummated
before a new one can take its place. Michelangelo brought architecture
to its highest point of development; Rubens, linear painting; the
Impressionists, the study of light; Beethoven, the classic ideal in
music; Swinburne, the rhymed lyric. In fact, only after the _épuisement_
of a certain line of endeavour, is felt the necessity to seek for a new
and more adequate means of expression. Manet helped bring to a close a
certain phase of art, thus hastening the advent of other and greater
men. His accomplishments now stand for all that is academic and
student-like; and although his interest as an innovator passed out with
the appearance of Pissarro and Monet, men go on imitating his externals
and using his brushing. In the same sense that Velazquez is a great
painter, so is Manet. His influence has served the purpose of helping
turn aside the academicians from their emulation of Italian painting.



IV

THE EARLY IMPRESSIONISTS


Courbet was the first painter to turn his attention to naturalism. Manet
carried forward Courbet’s standard. Impressionism took the last step,
and brought to a close the objectively realistic conception in painting.
By this final development of naturalistic means unlimited opportunities
for achievement were offered. Impressionistic methods are now employed
by a vast army of painters in all parts of the world, and the number of
canvases which owe their existence to these discoveries is countless.
Specifically Impressionism is ocular realism. It represents that side of
actuality which has to do with light expressed by colour; and deals with
a manner of approaching natural valuations whereby the painter is
permitted to transfer a scene or subject to his canvas in such a way
that it will give the spectator the sensation of dazzling light, broad
atmosphere and truthful colours. To accomplish this Impressionism
confines itself to the play of a light from a given source—its
reflections and distributions on an object or a landscape. Therefore, it
is the restricted study of the disappearance of the local colour in a
model, and of the luminosity and divergencies of tones to be found in
shadow. It approximates to a nature which becomes, for the moment, a
theatre of chromatic light sensations. Subject-matter gave the
Impressionists no concern. They advanced materially on the spirit in
Manet which led him to paint any object at hand because of its
susceptibility to artistic treatment. The Impressionists painted
anything, not alone for æsthetic reasons, but because all objects make
themselves visible by means of light and shadow. This manner of painting
was the ultimate divorce of the picture from any convention, whether of
arrangement, of drawing or of a fixed palette. Herein it was an elastic
process _par excellence_, with no defined limitations.

Impressionism, though analytic and self-conscious, was not based on
science. One may look in vain for parallels between its theories and
those of Dove, Thomas Young and Chevreul. It was the imitation, pure and
simple, of the disintegrations of colour in nature’s broad planes. And
this achievement of _diversity in simplicity_ was brought about by the
only method possible:—the juxtaposition of myriad tints. In other words,
Impressionism was a statement that vision is the result of colour forces
coming into contact with the retina. However, the men of the movement
did not see nature as an agglomeration of coloured spots, but as a
series of planes made vibrant by light. To reproduce this vibration they
were necessitated to use nature’s methods: they broke up surfaces into
sensitive parts, each one of which was a separate tint. There are no
broad planes of unified colour in nature. In each natural atom are
absorption and reflection; and the preponderance of either of these two
attributes results in a specific colour. Before the advent of this new
school painters had made warm or cold green by combining green with
yellow ochre or raw sienna, or by the admixture of blues and purples.
But the Impressionists laid on these colours, pure or modified, side by
side, and let the eye do the work of blending. They discovered not only
that in green the shadow is tinged with blue, but that blue is the
direct result of the yellow-orange of light. Every one nowadays has
noticed that, in looking fixedly at a green, it appears now bluish, now
yellowish; just as in listening to an orchestra we can, by focusing our
attention, hear predominantly the bass or the treble. So the
Impressionists observed that in the most luminous colour there is a
proportion of absorption, and that in the darkest shadow there exists
some reflection. The association of these molecular properties is what
produces vibration in nature. By the application of these observations
the Impressionists generated a feeling of _grouillement_;—the movement
by contrast in the smallest parts.

In attempting to explain their canvases many commentators have credited
them with systems of complementaries which resulted in grey, and with
other exorbitant theories of oppositions. But one may look in vain in
their work for any synthesis of scientific discoveries. Colour, not
neutrality, was their aim; and, as they themselves admitted, they
painted _comme l’oiseau chante_. Birds are not conscious of the metallic
dissonance of diminished fifths; and the Impressionists were equally
unaware of the harshness of red with green, blue with orange, yellow
with violet. They only substituted a balance of cold and warm colours
for the balance of lines which the older painters had used. They copied
the tints they found in nature after analysing nature’s processes, in
order to arrive closer to its visual effect. In one way they almost
achieved colour photography, for their study, in its narrow character,
was deep, and their vision was highly realistic. But whereas they
depicted nature, they could call it up only in its instantaneous
aspects. In this ephemerality alone were they impressionists; indeed,
their methods were the most exact and probing of any painters of that
time. Each hour of the day raises or lowers the colour values in nature;
and he who would copy nature’s form as a permanent interpretation must
ignore the exactitude of its reflections and approximate only to its
local colours. This latter method is more truly impressionism than the
theories of the Impressionists. They repudiated local colours as being
too illusory, holding that the most highly coloured object modifies its
tint under the influence of the least variation of light. The point is
technically true, but it is an observation in objective research, and
the word Impressionism must not be accepted as explanatory of the
methods of the school it designates.

By decomposing the parts of a surface, in order to represent objects in
their atmospheric materiality, the Impressionists were impelled by a
force stronger than a mere desire for superficial accuracy: they felt
the need for complete and minute organisation in a work of art. In
landscape, where the many accidentals appeared to lack cohesion, the
Impressionists achieved co-ordination by a unity of light which welded
all the objects into an interdependent group. Plasticity of form had
resulted from the efforts of preceding painters, but here for the first
time was a plasticity of method which moulded itself like putty with the
slightest change of illumination. Preoccupation in this new
compositional element made its users forget, for the time being, the
older precepts for obtaining composition. This forgetfulness however was
not due entirely to exuberance over a novel procedure. The painters
antecedent to Delacroix had used landscape as unimportant backgrounds
for figures, and there was no precedent for its adaptation to
organisation. Courbet had composed landscape by the linear balance of
black and white volumes. The Barbizon artists had brought out-of-door
painting into more general notice; but their greys were insufficient to
give it more than a factitious and purely conventional unity. The
Impressionists, feeling the urgency for a more virile expression in
landscape work, saw a solution to their problem in the depiction of
light through colour. Thus their conceptions took birth.

Their technique, like Manet’s, was wholly consistent with their
objective. To the Impressionists this objective seemed possessed of the
merit of finality. Since Corot had carried painting out of doors and
Manet had portrayed studio light from every vantage point, what indeed
was left for this new group of men? They might have organised Manet or
Corot, but even the most competent of such modifications would have
presented an appearance like that of a Rubens or a Tiepolo. They were
too avid for genuine novelty to content themselves with slight
innovation; and they were too modern to derive satisfaction from the
stereotyped teachings of an antiquity whose tones were unemotional and
whose themes were hackneyed. The spirit of servility which is willing to
learn second-hand lessons and adopt indoor conceptions spelled decadence
to them. Their attitude was a healthy and correct one, for the cup of
linear tone-composition had been drained. They were wrong in that they
threw aside the cup: they should have filled it with more powerful
concepts. Their attitude was indicative of immaturity. The
Impressionists in truth were the adolescents of the modern art which was
born with Delacroix and Turner, and which only recently has become a
concrete engine for the projection of inspiration into an infinity of
possibilities.

Impressionism was more important than any preceding departure, for it
turned the thoughts of artists from mere results to motivating forces,
from the ripples on the surface to the power which causes the tides. It
foreshadowed the philosophical idea in art which concerns itself with
causes rather than effects, and thereby brought about a fundamental
reform which made of painting, not a mere vision, but an idea. The
Impressionists, it is true, worked from the surface down, but they had
the depths ever in mind; and the posing of their problem set in motion
in all serious painters that intellectual process which eventually would
begin with foundations and build upward. Impressionism was the
undeniable implication that the possibilities of the older art methods
had been exhausted, and that a substitution of a new method, however
fragmentary, was of greater importance than the sycophantic imitations
of an unapproachable past. Beneath this attitude we feel the broadness
of mind which, when a mistake has been made, does not ignore causes but
attaches to them different interpretations in an effort to arrive at the
truth. The Impressionists kept their palette intact; but they employed
its parts in a way that made new combinations possible. By doing this
they unconsciously reacted against the mere dexterity of brushing with
which so many painters, like Hals, Velazquez and Raeburn, became
obsessed and, as a consequence, failed to heed the deeper demands of
æsthetic research. By thus facilitating technique they not only reduced
the difficulties attached to the production of a picture, but made the
thing expressed of greater relative significance.

Pissarro, Monet, Sisley and Guillaumin who, with Bazille, composed the
original group of Impressionists, had all been influenced in youth by
the revolutionary doctrines of Corot and Courbet, and to a great extent
had adopted the palette of these two men. Landscape painting at that
time was almost a new development, and these four readily succumbed to
its inspiration. There is little of the strictly picturesque and still
less of the grandiose in the French landscape. Consequently a school
which worked along the line of old conventions could not have existed in
France. But when Rousseau and Diaz, striking out in a new direction,
poetised the charm of the hills and forests about Fontainebleau, the
painting of the out-of-doors was liberated both as to purpose and to
freedom of arrangement. The object of Turner’s work had been to
astonish and charm the spectator with nature’s vastness and complexity.
But, with the men of 1830, landscape art took on softness,
introspection, stillness, solemnity. In fine, it became more intimate.
Each tree and stone hid a nymph; each stream and hill, a mystery. With
the Impressionists all this was changed. They had seen and admired the
work of Manet. They applauded his reactions against studio lighting, and
later became his personal friends. Manet was then the cynosure of all
eyes in the art world of Paris, and it was only natural that he should
have been the dominating figure in a sort of _cénacle_ held in the Café
Guerbois in the quarter of the Batignolles. Here the revolutionists of
the day forgathered, and, by their uncompromising spirit, inspired one
another to practical protestations against the routine of the academies.
Manet’s eloquence argued away the older idea of lighting as a type; and
the younger men, using this negotiation as a starting point, gave birth
to the methods which congealed into Impressionism.

Although Monet and Pissarro were the first to profit by Manet’s
teachings, there is no definite history to tell who was the first of the
group to blossom into colour. However, there is little doubt that
Pissarro was the man. He was a Jew with a philosophic turn of mind, and
possessed more genuine intelligence than his confrères. Monet was the
cleverest and the most enthusiastic, and when the new process was
outlined it was he who first developed it to its ultimate consequences.
Pissarro, compared with Monet, was conservative, and his practicality
did not permit him so great an _élan_. His canvases beside those of
Monet’s appear almost tentative, and the greys he had adopted from Corot
never entirely forsook him. Both these painters went to London during
the Franco-Prussian War, and we may take it for granted that the works
of Turner had an enormous influence on them. They had already seen
Jongkind who, despite his adherence to the sombre greys of the older
men, had, five years previous, more than foreshadowed the later
divisionistic technique. But in Turner they discovered not only all that
Jongkind had to offer, but the additional quality of joyous and dazzling
colour. After their return their palettes became rapidly cleaner.

In 1874, in an effort to bestir the public, the Impressionists held an
exhibition. The excitement was all they could have desired, but it led
rather to obloquy than to sales. Again and again they exposed in the
hope of obtaining recognition, but not until 1888 were they successful.
The average spectator did not recognise nature in their canvases. The
vision was an unusual one, and bore but slight resemblance to what had
gone before. But gradually things underwent a change. Friends of the
Impressionists launched a campaign of proselytising. Now and then a
picture was sold to a collector; formerly restaurant keepers and
bricklayers had been the only buyers of their work. The popular press
softened its criticisms and in many instances went so far as to defend
their pictures. As a result of these numerous indications of a growing
approval among connoisseurs, the public, that almost immovable mass of
reactionary impulses, began to look with favour on the new works it had
so recently ridiculed. The great majority of people had cared only for
such canvases as those in which the intellect might jump from one
familiar object to another, recognising it wholly, comprehending its
uses, but without giving thought to its meaning. Being thus interested
primarily in a picture’s conventionally painted details, they were
opposed to any innovations which tended to obscure the actualities of
delineation. Later their attitude, influenced by acts of authoritative
sanction, relaxed. Instead of seeing, as formerly, only a series of
raucously coloured spots in these new pictures, the public began to
sense the deep reverence for nature that emanated from them. Thus has it
always been the case with art: appreciation for anything newly vital
lags far behind the achievement.

The true significance of Impressionism, however—like the true
significance of all emotion-provoking art—remained undiscovered to the
general. When the mean intelligence of mankind brings itself to bear on
a work of art, it applies itself through the channels of literature,
archæology, photography, botany, mineralogy and physiology. To be a
popular artist a painter must be something of a professor in all these
sciences. With all other considerations—such as psychology and
æsthetics—he need not trouble himself. The public, even after centuries
of rigorous training and constant association with art, is no nearer a
comprehension of rhythmic ensembles—perfectly synthesised form in three
dimensions—than it was during the Renaissance. The two major requisites
to an understanding of the formal relations in momentous art are a
highly developed sensitivity and an active intelligence. An eye and a
nervous system are not enough. Society as a whole may, after a long
course of training and sedulous study, reach that perceptive point where
it can grasp the simple æsthetic hypothesis founded on two dimensions.
But such a hypothesis is but a beginning. It embraces only the
rudimentary æsthetic organisations that are found in Japanese art, the
works of the Byzantine masters, the primitives of France and the
pictures of Botticelli, Manet and Gauguin. The form in art of this kind
is, strictly speaking, not form at all. It is balance, harmonious
rhythm, linear adjustment, parallelism, co-ordinated silhouette,
sensitive arrangement, outline melody—in fact, whatever is possible in
two dimensions. Significant form must move in depth—backward and
forward, as well as from side to side. Furthermore it must imply an
infinity of depth. This third (and sometimes fourth) dimension informs
all truly great art.

While the Impressionists did not attain to depth in the æsthetic
connotation of the word, they nevertheless went beyond mere linear
balance, for by the means of a higher emotional element—light—they
organised, in a superficial manner, all the objects in their canvases.
There were no dissevered objects, unrelated backgrounds, no concessions
to the hagiographa or other literature. What chance, therefore, had they
of being understood? Their subject-matter was too abstract; their
effects were too general. No line was accentuated above another. There
were no modifications to achieve vastness or splendour. Impressionism
was the unadulterated reproduction of atmosphere, the smile or frown of
a mood in nature. It is small wonder that the unæsthetic found it
obscure: in it there was too much rapture, too much frankness, too much
exultation in mere living, and too little restraint. It was the false
dawn in the great modern Renaissance of colour—the most ecstatically
joyful style of painting the world has ever seen. It was feminine in
that it was a reflection, and its hysteria may also be attributed to
this fact. The Impressionists seated themselves, free from all trammels,
before the face of nature. Nature dictated: they transcribed. Nature
smiled; and they, completely blent with it, smiled also. This very
enthusiasm is what kept them young and held them to their initial path.
To paint as they did was an intoxication, subtler and stronger than a
drug and more elating than young love.

The vital history of the individual men who formed this group reduces
itself to a record of their temperamental tastes in subject selection
and to a statement of the degree to which each developed the new method.
The individualities of the units of an experimental school are always
unimportant. Temperament can dictate to the artist only two phases of
variation: what he is to use in his composition, and those
transcendental qualities, such as joy and sorrow, drama and comedy,
which reflect the timbre of his predispositions. Rhythm, form, balance,
organisation, drawing—all these æsthetic considerations spring from
deeper matrices in a man’s nature than do his temperamental
predilections. Whether one man is intrigued by sunlight or another by
mist, mankind is, after all, so similar in externals, that one
individual’s slight departure from a predecessor, or his trifling
deviation from a contemporary, is of little moment. The true key to a
man’s genius lies in his ability to organise as well as, or better than,
others. The compositional figure on which he builds will alone give us
the substance of his character. We are all capable of receiving
sensations: we have our personal likes and dislikes for subjects, even
for actions and smells. But these choices are the outgrowths of our
instincts, mere habits of association. In nowise are they fundamental.
They are the physiological recognition of pleasant or unpleasant
impressions. Their importance is limited to the individual who
experiences them. Being the results of receptivity, they have no more to
do basically with the æsthetic expression of an artist whose work is
pure creation, than phonograph disks with the sounds they receive. By
the intelligence alone can a man be judged. Here there is order,
extensive in artists like Michelangelo, partially restricted in such
painters as El Greco and Giorgione, and severely limited as in the case
of the Impressionists. However, it must not be implied that the
intelligence alone can create. Such a contention would be preposterous;
but it is true that impressions must first be consciously organised
before they can be given concrete expression.

The intelligence of Pissarro was synthetic to a small extent, but not
once did it exhibit signs of extended apperception. He thought clearly
up to a certain point beyond which his art never went. His temperament
was not an uncommon one among Hebrews. He viewed life as a social
reformer who regards the world as a sad place, but one susceptible of
improvement. From this psychological standpoint he painted. His pictures
depict ubiquitous greys, occasionally brightened by a stream of lurid
light; sombre scenes in which the impression is one of late afternoon;
peasants who seem wearied of their unceasing and thankless labours;
gaunt trees which epitomise the decay of the year. His technique is not
dissimilar to that of Jongkind, and his drawing is allied to the
construction found in the Dutch landscapists of the early nineteenth
century rather than in those of his own group. That he was the
transition from Jongkind to Monet is a plausible contention; in him are
found qualities of both these other painters. But he was too
conscientious ever to attain to the technical heights Monet reached. If
one aspires to innovation of means, graphic traits have to be
sacrificed: steps must be taken in the dark. Those who cling with one
hand to the old while groping toward the new can never reach their
desires. Pissarro’s lack of constructive genius was too evident, his
timidity too great, his intelligence too literal for him ever to
effectuate new plastic forms. His instincts were those of a teacher, and
he displayed indubitable traits of an exalted doctrinaire. But his art,
with these limitations, was able and complete. Cézanne says he learned
all he knew of colour from him. This is not wholly true; but it is
certain that Guillaumin and Sisley are greatly indebted to his clarity
of reason.

Although Pissarro is the greater artist, Monet is the finer craftsman.
He is widely credited with the invention of divisionistic methods; but
in this conclusion an inaccurate syllogism has played havoc with the
facts. None of the Impressionists invented the _procédé de la tâche_;
and not having invented it detracts nothing from their achievement.
Liszt did not invent the pianoforte, yet he was its greatest master. The
practice of crediting Frenchmen with the invention and development of
methods has scant authority with which to justify itself. Poussin was an
offshoot, and a weak one, of the great Titian. Watteau and Boucher come
to us direct out of the corners of Rubens’s pictures. Daumier and
Courbet, temperamentally unrelated to the French tradition, stem from
the Dutch and the Spaniards. Cézanne emanated from the Dutch and the
Italians _via_ Impressionism. Matisse’s procedure is little more than a
modification of that of the Persians and the early Italians. Cubism was
imported from Spain by a Spaniard. Futurism is strictly Italian: there
is not a French name among its originators. Synchromism was brought into
the world by Americans. And Impressionism, which, like all these other
departures, has come to be looked upon as French, is incontrovertibly of
English parentage. True, there is small credit due the inventor. The man
capable of employing new discoveries (as Marconi employed the principles
of wireless telegraphy) is the truly important figure. But we should not
confuse discovery with employment. Since Monet was French, France has a
perfect right to claim the results of colour division. The honours
attaching to its discovery are Turner’s and Constable’s.

Monet, like many great men, had little schooling. He went direct to
nature, impelled by the new impetus toward landscape. His first pictures
in the Impressionist manner resemble Manet’s except for trivial
innovations in the differentiation of shadows; but in this difference we
divine the later Monet. Viewed cursorily these paintings appear to be
conventional figure pieces. But they are more than that. The figures
have no other significance than that which attaches to a vase or a
landscape. “Facial expression,” “sympathetic gestures,” the “appeal”—all
are absent from them. In these pictures the costume plays the hero’s
part. La Japonaise is representative of that treatment of subject
wherein the figure is only an excuse for a pattern of colour. The modern
attitude toward theme which Manet handed down is again in evidence in
Monet. Its _reductio ad absurdum_ was the late epidemic of illustrative
pictures by such men as Whistler, Shannon, Sargent, Zuloaga and
Alexander, the titles of which were derived from the flowers held in the
hands of the principals, a bowl of goldfish in the background, or the
colour of a lace shawl.

Monet, however, soon tired of figure pieces. His true penchant lay
toward landscape. In this field he found an infinity of colour
possibilities, innumerable subtleties of light gradation, and
ready-to-paint arrangements as appealing as the ones he had formerly had
to pose in his interiors. At first his technique was broad and radiant,
much like a dispersed Manet. The large flat planes of unified colour
which later were to disintegrate into a thousand touches, were laid on
silhouetted forms. His boat pieces in the Caillebotte collection in
the Luxembourg gallery, appear, in their simplicity and breadth of
treatment, like the unfinished underpainting of a Turner or a Rembrandt.
Much of the bare canvas is visible; and in them one feels the presence
of the experimenter. At this time the war drove Monet to London, and his
exile proved a salutary one. On his return his pictures bloomed with a
new brilliance, and his flat surfaces became fragmentised. Racial
characteristics no doubt establish a bond between Sisley and the English
landscapists, but nothing less than an active influence could have made
so typical a Frenchman as Monet paint a canvas like L’Église à
Varengeville in which Turner is so much in evidence. Turner is also
unmistakably present in Pissarro at times, as witness Sydenham Road, but
never to any great extent.

[Illustration: WATERLOO BRIDGE by MONET]

Despite his great debt to Turner, Manet and Pissarro, Monet owed even
more to the Japanese. They influenced his style and his selection of
subjects. From them he lifted the idea of painting a single object many
times in its varied atmospheric manifestations. But where the Japanese
shifted their vantage-ground with each successive picture, Monet’s
observation point remained stationary. His composition too, superficial
as it is, is frankly Japanese. It is generally represented by a straight
line which runs near the lower frame from one side to the other of the
canvas, and which supports the principal objects of the work. This line
slants, now up to the left, now up to the right; but seldom is it curved
as in the more advanced drawings of Hiroshige or Hokusai. His kinship
to the Japanese is, after all, a natural one, for the temperaments of
France and Japan are as similar as is possible between east and west.
The Japanese artists presented atmospheric conditions by means of
gradating large colour planes into white or dark. The consequent effects
of rain, snow, wind and sun are as vivid as Monet’s, but they differ
from the Frenchman’s in that they are concerned principally with
nature’s decorative possibilities. Monet adheres to graphic
transcription for the purpose of presenting the dynamics of a
mood-producing phase of nature. But though differing as to aims, they
both reach very similar visual results. Compare, for instance, Monet’s
suite of Les Peupliers with Hiroshige’s series of the Tokaido or with
Hokusai’s Views of Fuji. Many of the pictures are alike in composition
and choice of subject; but the European has achieved a living light,
while the Oriental has presented a more lucid and intensive vision.
These differences of purposes and similarities of appearance are again
discernible in Monet’s Coins de Rivière and Shiubun’s Setting Sun. A
further proof of this Impressionist’s affinities with the Japanese will
be found by collating Monet’s figure pieces with those of Utamaro.

There is one important point of divergence, however, between the arts of
Japan and Monet’s canvases. Whereas the Japanese ignored texture, Monet
at all times devoted himself more or less sedulously to its portrayal.
The Falaise à Étretat and The Houses of Parliament—London are examples
of his freedom from a rigid system of scientific application. In both
pictures the sky is drawn with broad intersecting strokes in order to
achieve transparency and vastness. The water, in the former, is painted
with long curved strippings to give the wave effect, as in Courbet’s La
Vague; and, in the latter, ripples are formed by minute touches. Monet’s
architecture is often built up with colour-spots as a man lays bricks;
and the cliffs in the Falaise à Étretat are corrugated in exactly the
same way the strata lie in nature. Later this preciosity of style
disappeared, except in his treatment of slightly ruffled water. His
brushing became irregular and elongated, and he applied his stroke so
that it would merge into the other innumerable touches of diverse
colour. His eyesight was highly trained, and after years of labour in
the conscious analysis of colour planes, he was able to divide these
planes unconsciously.

Monet was artistic in that he felt deeply what was before him. Henri
Martin, on the other hand, who painted with independent touches in the
hope of obtaining flickering sunlight, and who knew his palette fully as
well as Monet, laboured mechanically. His work is more optical than
emotional. He is a realist in the same sense that Roll is a realist; but
both these men present only the husk of reality. Monet, to the contrary,
experienced and expressed nature’s ecstasy. He is like a string which
vibrates to any harmony: Martin is little more than an eye. Both
finished their work in the open; and both stippled. But here the
parallelism ends, for where Monet completed the effects of the Japanese,
Martin only took light into the academies. Perhaps this is why Martin
was at once acclaimed by the public, and why Monet, during those first
dark years of struggle and poverty, was compelled to sell his canvases
for practically nothing. Duret confesses to having obtained one for
eighty francs. Martin was early accorded academic honours, and received
numerous government orders.

Monet found himself at home wherever there was light and water. His
canvases describe scenes from all over Europe. But his most famous
pictures are his two series, Les Meules and Les Nymphéas. In the first,
a single haystack is set forth in a diversity of illuminations and
seasons; and the second repeats a small pond of water-lilies, in shade
and in sun, ruffled and calm. His La Cathédrale, Venice and London
series are also widely known. These represent acute observation and an
implacable inspiration to work, for they had to be finished
simultaneously. Their accomplishment was a stupendous _tour de force_.
At sunrise Monet would go forth with twenty blank canvases so that the
changes of sunlight and mist might be caught from hour to hour. They
seem infantile to us today—these imitations of the subtleties of light,
these meteorological histories of haystacks and lilies, these
atmospheric personalities of cathedrals and canals. Yet it is by just
such self-burials in data that one exhausts the æsthetic possibilities
of nature’s actualities. And not until this probing to the bottom has
been accomplished does the artist possess that complete knowledge which
impels him to push forward to something newer and more vital.

Sisley was the last of the original five to adopt Impressionistic
methods. He had long had an admiration for the exploits of the more
revolutionary painters, but a comfortable income had acted as a
sedative on his ambitions. He did not feel the necessity for difficult
endeavour. But when, at the death of his father, he found himself
penniless and with a family to care for, he joined the ranks of
Pissarro, Monet, Guillaumin and Bazille. He had talent and an accurate
eye, and his earlier academic work, done in the sixties, served as a
practical foundation. After he had adopted the more modern technique of
Pissarro and Monet, he was prepared for the achievement of new art. If
we had no other proof that Impressionism at its inception was a shallow
craft, Sisley’s immediate mastery of it would be conclusive, for his
appropriation of its means was not an æsthetic impulse but a financial
expedient. But more extensive corroboration can be found in a score of
academies where Impressionism is taught and taught conclusively.

There is no more or less actual composition in Sisley than in other of
the Impressionists. He supplied no innovations, and he differed from his
fellows only in so far as his temperament indicated variation. In Monet
and Guillaumin there is a concentration and precision which the
Englishman fell short of. His nature was less akin to these
Impressionists than to the Turner of wide and open skies, of the
softness and dreaminess of summer, of that perfect satisfaction which is
content with inaction. Sisley’s very colour preference for which the
public reproached him—light lilac—indicates his penchant for prettiness
and repose. His choice of theme was invariably dictated by a poetical
and sentimental need for the intimate.

In Guillaumin we have a man who gave promise of good work but who, up to
the last, failed in its fulfilment. Indubitably talented, he never
succeeded in reaching that point where talent is only a means to an end.
But nevertheless there was in him a solidity of modelling, a real
feeling for the ponderous hardness of hills and plains. He was a friend
of Cézanne, and undoubtedly learned much from that master of form. At
first he had painted in sombre tones, but later, after meeting Cézanne
and Pissarro in the _Académie Suisse_, he adopted their lighter and more
joyous colour schemes. There is a canvas in the Caillebotte Collection
in the Luxembourg which, in its broadness of treatment and extensive
planes, suggests Gauguin both as to gamut and conception. Guillaumin was
the most masculine talent of the early Impressionist group. He cared
less for the transient views of nature than for its eternal aspect. His
colour, by its liberality of application, counts more forcibly than that
of Pissarro, Monet or Sisley. His contributions to the new idea,
however, were comparatively small. He was not an explorer, but followed
diligently in the path others had marked out. Only after he had won a
fortune in a lottery did he break away from his environment. But this
release came to him too late. His formative period of development had
passed, and his work, from that time on, did not alter in technique.
Only in his picturesque and bizarre subject-matter is noticeable any
deviation from his habitual routine.

[Illustration: PAYSAGE by GUILLAUMIN]

The individual achievements of the Impressionists, however, no matter
how competent, are of minor importance. Impressionism was a new weapon
in the hands of art’s anarchists. It has come to be regarded as a
faultless faith whose devotees can do no wrong. There has been little or
no adequate literature devoted to its exposition, its causes and
influence; and the exaggeration of its attainments are as grotesque as
the calumny with which it was at first received. It was not an ultimate
and isolated movement, but a simple and wholly natural offshoot in the
evolution of new means. The artists who fathered it were, except in one
instance, men whose enthusiasm outstripped their abilities as composers.
Their greatest good lay in that they turned the thoughts of painters
toward colour, and outlined, summarily to be sure, the uses to which
this new and highly intense element might be put. They expressed just
what their desires permitted them:—nature in all its visible changes.
Those exquisite moments of full sunlight on land and water, of cloud
shadows over the hills, of the warm brilliancy of a blue sky on the
upturned faces of flowers; the stillness of summer amid the woods; the
cold serenity of snow-clad fields—all were seen and captured and
immortalised by these men. They were the greatest painters of effects
the world has ever known. They never strove to evoke the sensation of
weight in the objects they painted; and that organisation of parts,
which is a replica of the cosmos, they were too busy to attempt. Their
very deficiencies were what permitted them so complete a vision of the
only side of realism which still remained for painting to investigate.

The Impressionists did not embody concretely the teachings of their
forerunners, but used them all in the abstract. Delacroix had
sacrificed photographic truth in drawing in order to present a more
intense impression of truth. Daumier had built form as nature builds it,
colour aside. Courbet had turned painters from the poetic contemplation
of a great past to the life about them. Manet had made images of
whatever was at hand for the pure love of painting. The Impressionists
turned to the things nearest them, paid scant heed to scholastic
drawing, translated Daumier’s doctrine of form into light, and like
Manet painted for the joy of the work. As experimenters they were
valuable; but their pictures, to those unsentimental persons whose
appreciations of art are wholly æsthetic, mean little more than records
of how a cabbage patch appears at sunrise, a lily pond at midday, or a
country lane at twilight. The Impressionists did not amalgamate and
express the dreams of their forerunners. They were one of those
transitional generations whose vitality is spent in a stupendous
endeavour to conceive before the time is ripe. The need for a great
birth had not yet made itself felt; for only when the period of embryo
is complete can great art be born. Renoir brought forth that issue; and
with him evolution seems to halt a moment before plunging onward. The
meagre æsthetics of the early Impressionists could not lead to the
highest artistic results. Indeed, their animating aims had to be
abandoned before Renoir could attain to true significance.



V

AUGUSTE RENOIR


The entire past progress of painting is condensed and expressed in each
of its great men. The creation of new art cannot be accomplished
overnight, any more than that of a new organism; it must stem from first
impulses and be formed on the differentiations of the past. Those men
who declare themselves primitives and seek to acquire the eyes and minds
of the Phœnicians or Aztecs are as conscious of their inability to
create new art forms as are those visionaries who live in a mythical
future and try to prophesy the forms that are to come. No man is born
too soon or too late. There are those who strive toward classic
intellectual ideals, toward Utopian economic states, toward new orders
of society: but such reformers are only the malcontents. The truly great
and practical men quickly assimilate the impulses of their own epochs
and push the frontiers of the mind’s possibilities further into the
unknown. These latter comprise the maligned vanguard of heroic thinkers
who fight the battles for their weaker followers. Often, however, these
followers rise to great heights, for in the world of endeavour two
conspicuous types exist—the man who experiments and the man who
achieves. Delacroix, Manet and the Impressionists belong to the first;
Courbet and Renoir are of the second.

In Renoir’s life story, as in that of Titian, Rubens and Rembrandt, we
see in miniature the evolution of all the painting that preceded him—the
bitter struggles with the chimeras of convention, and each slow change
that came over drawing, style, colour and composition. In the end, after
a life full of near defeats, strife, yearning and anxiety, we behold the
great man emerge triumphantly from his broken fetters and take his place
beside the masters of the past. Some painters have more arduous fights
than others, for the odds against them are greater. Rubens and Delacroix
seemed the pampered favourites of a high destiny: Courbet and Renoir had
to cleave and chisel each step of the way through the adamant of public
suspicion. The world appears incapable of recognising either an
intensification or a modification of an old and accepted formula. Hence
Courtois and Puget were preferred to Delacroix; Ribera and Rembrandt to
Courbet; the Avignon painters to Manet; Corot, Diaz and Rousseau to the
Impressionists; and Rubens and Ingres to Renoir. In all of these
parallelisms, the latter had their roots in the former. They were
complications and variations of their forerunners—dissimilar only in
method and manner.

Renoir began to paint at an early age. The poverty of his family
necessitated him to make his own living, and at the age of thirteen he
was in a factory painting porcelains. Five years later he applied for
work at a place given over to the decoration of transparent screens.
Here his unusual facility permitted him to paint ten times as fast as
his fellow decorators, and since he was paid by the piece, he soon saved
enough money to give himself an education in the art which had now
become with him a conscious instinct—painting. From his earliest youth
he had evinced a discontent with the slow-moving minds about him, and it
was natural that he should first look upon art through the eyes of his
great revolutionary contemporary, Courbet. His earliest work, of which
Le Cabaret de la Mère Anthony and Diane Chasseresse are the best-known
examples, reflected Courbet in both palette and conception. Even later,
when Manet claimed him, he clung to his first influence. For while his
work now reached out toward the substance of light to be found in La
Musique aux Tuileries, it revealed at the same time all the form of the
Ornans master. Le Ménage Sisley and Lise strikingly combine these two
early influences.

Since humanity has emerged from the darkness of unconsciousness and the
individual from the darkness of the womb, it is consistent with nature
that in a man’s creative development—the route of which lies between
dark and dark—the use of black should be his first instinct. Renoir,
like all painters of great promise, started with this negation of
colour. But wherein his intellectual distinction manifested itself was
his innate proclivity for the rhythm of surface lines which he alone of
all his contemporaries recognised in Courbet. In Lise, painted in 1867,
a year after his Diane Chasseresse, both of these early penchants are
evident. Black is the keynote of his sunlight; and while in conception
the canvas is akin to Manet, it is a Manet made dexterous and masterly.
It contains a balance and a linear rhythm of which that painter was
ignorant. Lise is one of the few Renoirs into which the influence of
Velazquez and Goya can be imagined. Even in its pyramidal form, which
when used by most painters becomes a static figure, there is a movement
at its apex which opens into a shape like a lily. This is brought about
by the tilt of the sunshade and the continuation of the line of the sash
outward in the tree trunk. By just such obvious and simple signs as
these in early works, can we foretell an artist’s later developments.

The next year, 1868, Renoir’s work is more net, more able in its
balance, more sure in its effect. Le Ménage Sisley is one of his finest
early examples of how this rhythmic continuity of line obsesses a mind
avid for form, colour, vitality. At first glance we see only an
irregular pyramid formed by the outline of the two figures; but after a
minute’s study we notice that on the right the line of the skirt curves
gracefully inward to the waist-line, sweeps up to the woman’s neck, then
begins an outward flexure, and finally disperses itself amid the tree’s
slanting branches in the right-hand upper corner. On the left, the
outline of the man’s right leg and arm and hair forms another curve
which bends back the line of the opposing curve of the woman’s dress,
and completes the figure of the pyramid. But the first curve, the force
of which is seemingly ended at the woman’s waist, is continued in the
outline of the light tonality which begins at the man’s right elbow,
curves outward to the frame, then inward, and ends on the upper frame a
little to the left of the man’s head. Furthermore, the volume made by
the light tonality in the upper left-hand corner serves as a balance to
the form of the woman’s tunic. This composition is, in all essentials,
the same as in Lise, and embraces that rhythm in two dimensions which
Manet did not know, and that balance of tonal form of which Manet was
never capable. Manet’s mind was that of the lesser Dutch and Spaniards.
Renoir’s was the plastic and flowing mind of the Latin races, never
satisfied with angularity and immobility, but needful of the smooth
progression of sequence and movement.

The recognition of the artistic necessity for linear rhythm led Renoir
to search for it in others than Courbet. Among the painters by whom he
might profit, Delacroix stood nearest his own time. To him Renoir
turned; and it was out of him that Renoir’s greatness was to grow.
Delacroix’s organisations appealed to him—especially the triangular one
which opens at the top. His admiration for this artist’s talent led him
to paint in 1872 a canvas called Parisiennes Habillées en Algériennes,
an ambitious essay to compete with Les Femmes d’Alger dans Leur
Appartement. Intrinsically the picture was a failure, but it taught its
creator more than he had heretofore learned concerning colour and
drawing. In it are discernible indications of the formal
unconventionalities and the chromatic brilliancies which later were to
be such dominant qualities in Renoir’s work. Although for two years he
had used Impressionistic methods, it was through this picture that
Delacroix introduced him to the Impressionists’ colour. Manet had
already introduced him to Ingres: and these two incidents went far
toward laying the foundation for his greatness. On neither the
Impressionists nor Ingres did he build a style; but from both he
learned something of far more value:—freedom from the dictates of style.
Here again Delacroix had a hand, for by studying this artist’s uses of
Ingres’s simplifications, Renoir was able to make these simplifications
plastic.

Renoir’s colour up to this time had been restrained by the dictates of
his epoch. But with the inspiration and encouragement given him by Les
Femmes d’Alger dans Leur Appartement, it burst forth with all the force
of long-imprisoned energy, and drove him out of doors. In this picture
he found excuse to carry colour to any extreme he desired. At once the
instincts of the porcelain painter, ever latent in him, came uppermost.
Delacroix, in giving him the Impressionists’ freedom of colour, had
brought him back to those rich and full little designs he had painted on
china between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. In this early training
alone lies the explanation of his later _matière_ which has for so long
puzzled the critics. Many attribute his colour effects to Watteau. But
Renoir had developed his technique before he knew the older master.
Years previous he had been intensely interested in the very material of
his models. In Le Ménage Sisley, La Baigneuse au Griffon and La Femme à
la Perruche is evinced the love of the connoisseur for rare and rich
stuffs. Furthermore he had begun to turn his eyes toward Impressionist
methods two years before he painted Les Parisiennes Habillées en
Algériennes. Up to that time his brushing had been broad like Manet’s or
Courbet’s; immediately afterward it tended toward spotting, and Monet
took the upper hand. Watteau’s manner of application served only to
substantiate Renoir in his choice of method.

The years from 1865 to 1876 constitute a period of Renoir’s life rich in
its promise of splendid things. His keen admirations and high
enthusiasms made of him throughout this time a disciple. But his
achievements, small as they were, were more sumptuous and effectual than
either Manet’s or Monet’s. Their true significance, though, lay in their
assurance of what was to come after he had completed that unlearning
process through which all great men must pass. Only by sitting at a
master’s feet can one acquire the knowledge that informs one which
influences should be utilised and which cast aside. One cannot learn
from experience the total lessons of many men, each one of whom has
given a lifetime to the study of a different side of a subject. If these
men are to be surpassed their life work must be used as a starting
point. Renoir began thus. He had fallen under the sway of Courbet,
Manet, Delacroix and Monet; but after eleven years he had exhausted his
creative interest in both their theories and their attainments. These
men had expressed all that was in them. For Renoir to cling to them was
to stand still. If he was to go down in history as a constructive genius
and not merely as an able imitator, it was time for him to strike out
alone.

He did not hesitate. The portrait of Mlle. Durand-Ruel, done in 1876,
marks his transformation. In it he achieved the scintillation of light
which is not linked with colour or painting, but which seems to arise,
by some mysterious alchemy, from the surface of the canvas. In this
picture, and also in the Moulin de la Galette, finished in the same
year, he consummated the fondest ambition of the Impressionists, namely:
to make the spectator feel a picture, not as a depiction of nature’s
light, but as a medium from which emanates the very force of light
itself. But Renoir did not stop here: to this achievement he added form
and rhythm—two attributes which the Impressionists, preoccupied with
objectivity, were too busy to attempt. And in addition he displayed a
technique so perfect in its adaptability to any expression, that its
mannerisms were completely submerged in the picture’s total effect.
These were the qualities which Renoir was to develop to so superlative a
degree. He had begun to express form in 1870 in his Portrait de Dame.
Two years later in his Delacroix adaptation he had branched out into
colour. And in his very first canvases there was rhythmic balance of
lines. In 1876 all these tendencies coalesced. In consequence Renoir
blossomed forth free from aggressive influences, knowing his own
limitations and possibilities. This cannot be said even of those
excellent works, La Loge, La Danseuse and La Fillette Attentive, done
the two preceding years. It is only by contemplating such pictures as
the portrait of Mlle. Durand-Ruel, La Chevelure and La Source that we
can perceive the path along which his development was to take place. For
these canvases, though far more significant than the works of Pissarro
and Monet, are almost negligible beside his later work. He was a man
never satisfied with results, no matter how exalted. His every new
achievement was only a higher elevation from which his horizon ever
receded.

[Illustration: LE DÉJEUNER DES CANOTIERS by RENOIR]

One of Renoir’s important advances in method is his liberation from the
circumscribed use of black. Although in some of his work of 1876 there
are still traces of that tone used organically, they are so slight that
they may be disregarded. Black was the very keynote of the paintings of
his day. It was looked upon as a necessity in the creation of volumes.
Courbet did little without it, and Manet brightened it only with
occasional flashes of colour. Today we know that it is not a technical
necessity, that pure colours, in fact, when properly used, can produce
the most solid forms. But whereas we have been able to profit by the
teachings of Cézanne and the Synchromists, Renoir had to learn this fact
by bitter experiments in a new element. In La Balançoire, done in the
same year as the Moulin de la Galette and now hanging with that picture
in the Luxembourg, black is entirely absent. This little canvas was
probably an experiment actuated by Monet, for never afterward did he on
principle lay black aside. While he realised its unimportance as a
fundamental for constructing volume, he nevertheless felt its need as a
complement to colour—the need of the static and the dead to accentuate
the plastic and alive.

It is during this period that critics are prone to see Gainsborough in
Renoir. But their reasons for such a comparison are superficial, and go
no further than the fact that both painters dealt with feminine themes
in a similarly intimate manner. No genuinely artistic likeness can be
found between Mrs. Siddons, for instance, and the Ingénue. The one is
merely a spirited portrait without composition or tactility: the other
is an exquisite bit of form and colour, which we feel would be as solid
to the touch as it appears to the eye. If we are to compare Renoir to
English painters at all, let us designate Hogarth and Romney, although
any such comparative method of criticism is apt to lead at once to
misunderstanding. However, even these two men are distinctly inadequate
as measures for Renoir. In the graphic arts Englishmen exhibit no
feeling for rhythm. Indeed, it may correctly be said they possess no
graphic arts. Rhythm is a factor which has made itself felt only in
their poetry, and here it can hardly be called more than a division of
interval, or tempo. Rossetti in his paintings is seemingly more
conscious of its power than any other Englishman, and occasionally
attempted to produce it by the primitive device of curved lines. But,
after all, Rossetti was Italian. On the whole Renoir and the English
artists are two fundamentally dissimilar to be estimated relatively. The
finest qualities of Renoir’s art grew out of his instinct for fluent
movement, for intense undulations, for hot gorgeous colour, for freedom
from all traditional prescriptions.

The evolution of these instincts was by no means a mechanical one. After
he had amalgamated the leading qualities of his art, his interest would
often reveal itself more strongly in one direction than another. Thus
many of his canvases show a retrogression toward emphasis of light;
others toward form; still others toward linear rhythm. Yet no matter
which one of these qualities predominated, the others also remained
intact. More importance, however, attached to his preoccupation with the
treatment of light. His experiments and consequent development in this
field are of initial significance in judging his later work. In 1878 he
had evidently foreseen the cul-de-sac into which the natural
distribution of light would lead. The very volatility and translucency
of illumination and its matter-dispelling qualities, constituted the
greatest drawback to its use in the creation of form. In other words its
sheer beauty nullified the deeper aims of painting. In two decorative
Panneaux of reclining nudes, done in the same year, Renoir makes his
first attempt to escape from the naturalism of light. The use of light
is here restricted to a colour force which serves only to bring form
into relief. From that time on, although he had many struggles with its
power over him, he had conquered its insidious influence. It became his
servant, whereas before it had been his master. In his earlier canvases,
wherein sunlight had played a leading part, he had placed the sun
patches, gleaming and vibrant, wherever they naturally fell. After 1878
he began placing them arbitrarily on points where formal projection was
needed.

The subtle manner in which he constructed and posed these patches
precluded any discovery of his reasons for altering their natural
location. But Renoir was not fully satisfied, and soon abandoned this
phase of _pleinairisme_. Later the spots of sunlight appeared on cheeks,
shoulders, knees, or any other salients which called for powerful
relief, thereby losing their flat and detached appearance. This
moulding of them into intense aggregations had much to do with Renoir’s
fullness of form. His long experience had given him a complete knowledge
of their naturalistic effect. He knew it was impossible to make them
remain on the same plane with the surrounding shadow, and he understood
the reasons for this phenomenon. It was not therefore remarkable that,
in his later method of applying them, he was sure of his results. As
soon as he realised that sunlight dispersed matter by obscuring some
points and accentuating others, he knew that by an intelligent
employment of this factor of luminosity he could at will accentuate
certain parts of his canvas and obscure others. This knowledge led him
naturally to create his own light, irrespective of how it actually
existed. This was an important step toward its complete abrogation, and
brought arbitrary means in painting just so much nearer. He had already
distorted volumes for purposes of organisation in the same manner that
he now distorted light. Indeed every great painter has taken this
liberty with form; but each one has to learn the device anew in its
relation to his own separate vision.

There are few shadows, as such, in Renoir. We find darks and lights in
scintillating succession, but we may search in vain, even in his
canvases of 1878 or 1879, for those shadowed outlines which are the
result of light. If light there is, it is only the light which springs
from our own eyes—light which seems to come from the direction of the
beholder, like the reflection of a light in water. Move as you will
before his pictures, it follows you, for it is the illumination of that
part of the picture nearest the eyes of the painter. Where a form is
full, there Renoir contrives to have a light fall. This artifice may
strike us today as childish, since we have outgrown our concern with
light; but let us remember that from the beginning the depiction of
lights and shadows had been a fixed practice, and that their tones had
formed the only basis for chiaroscuro. With the Impressionists light
became the _atout_ of painting. Renoir made of it a vital form-creating
element. Herein we have its evolution: first, a convention; next, an
obsession; last, a utility. So were the æsthetic possibilities of light
exhausted, just as the æsthetic possibilities of the human form were
exhausted by Michelangelo.

In this last step of liberating light from convention, Renoir approached
nearer to nature than any antecedent painter. After all, a human being
in the sunlight appears to us as a solid moving mass. Only those who
look upon nature as a flat pattern of shades and lights are misled by
sun patches. So, in Renoir’s adapting the source of light for the
purpose of producing solidity of form, we are cognisant of the
palpability of his figures whether they are in light or shadow, or both.
Thus he created the actual impression of volume we all get before a
moving form. This arbitrary disposition of light and shadow also gave
fullness and intensity to his form, and accentuated the poise, so subtle
and unexpected, we feel in even his slightest works. But while this was
the secret of his attainment of volume, the compositional use to which
he put this volume requires another explanation—one which has its roots
in the very depths of the man’s genius. There had never been such form
in the French school as that which Renoir gave it in 1880. The Tête de
Jeune Fille and Les Enfants en Rose et Bleu, done about this time, must
have been the despair of even the sculptors of his day. And these were
but the beginning. Many phases of his art were yet to be emphasised and
developed before the Renoir we know today was to be perfected.

It was in 1884 that he began to “_apprendre le dessin_.” For four years
he continued this self-training in the precision of draughtsmanship. As
a boy he had begun his painting in a manner more competent than the most
advanced style of the average artist, as is evidenced by the able use of
colour as design in his early porcelains. And although he was driven to
this work by necessity, the incident was a salutary one. It turned his
thoughts toward those abstract organisations of colour which always
afterward haunted him. Later he learned all the tricks of the day in the
school of the realists, and succeeded in surpassing his masters. Next he
studied the Impressionists and went beyond them also. Then he
co-ordinated his knowledge and established his individual greatness.
This period of his development gave France much of its finest painting,
and his Baigneuse done at this time is an undoubted masterpiece. His
reversion to the rudiments of drawing was the result of a burning desire
to develop rhythm and form. His technical difficulties had been
conquered at an early date: he needed only dexterity in drawing to
achieve his end. Not only did Renoir attain to his objective, but, by
comprehending the principle of the placements and displacements of
volumes, he learned the advantages of line accentuation in obtaining
movement.

We now come to those pictures which show Renoir’s intimate relation to
Rubens through Boucher and Watteau: to his alfresco bathing figures.
Some one has pointed out that his Baigneuses of 1885, one year after he
had devoted himself to drawing, was inspired by Girardon’s lead-reliefs
in the gardens at Versailles. The commentary is undoubtedly true; but
even so, of what significance is it? Aside from the superficial fact
that in the works of both appear bathing women in more or less abandoned
poses, Renoir had nothing in common with the school of Largillière,
Pater, Fragonard, Le Moyne, Santerre and Girardon. In all such
observations one senses the restriction of the critic’s viewpoint to
illustration. An artist may find inspiration in any visual form, but
this form is of no more æsthetic importance to him than a photograph. In
Picasso’s paintings of violin fragments we are scarcely permitted to
deduce an inspiration from Stradivarius. Grotesque as this analogy may
seem, it is applicable to the contention that Renoir stemmed from
Girardon. For there is nothing whatever in Renoir’s bathing girls to
suggest a psychological parallel between them and the leaden frieze at
Versailles. If Renoir saw in that frieze an attractive pose, it was with
an eye to its adaptability to composition. In Girardon there is only a
pretty and sensual chaos. In Renoir we have a masterly organisation
wherein the actual positions of the young women are not even remarked.
Compare, for instance, Girardon’s version of the figure of the girl
throwing water on her playmates, with the corresponding figure in
Renoir’s drawing. The body of the former is without doubt a more
faithful replica of its model; in Renoir it has become impossibly
elongated and voluminous. Its head is too small; its back too long; its
hips are too large—and yet withal it is an exquisite bit of rich form
which has as concrete a tangibility as that of a real body. One cannot
judge it by its contour; one must bury oneself in its very weight.

Had Renoir advanced no further than his masterly Baigneuse of 1884, he
would nevertheless have gone down in history as a great artist. But
compared with the same subject done in 1888, it appears stiff. We feel
in it the rigidity of a master whose great qualities are without a
directing intelligence. In the later canvas, Renoir is less preoccupied
with details. As a result there is a greater plenitude of bulging form,
a purer rhythm. And there is also an added movement caused by the linear
harmony of the background, by the hair over the shoulder, and above all
by the turning of the head so that its weight is shifted over a hollow.
An apparently simple thing—this turning of a head. Yet Michelangelo’s
genius, as well as that of all great artists, is dependent on the
knowledge of when a head should be turned or a limb advanced. This
knowledge is what transforms action into movement, tempo into rhythm,
the static into the plastic, the dead into the living. It is the final
penetration into composition; on it all æsthetic form is built. Renoir
acquired it in his period of so-called dry drawing. Its dawn came in La
Natte and Mère et Enfant. It was still developing in the Baigneuse; and
in La Baigneuse Brune and Nu à l’Étoffe Vert et Jaune, both done after
1900, this knowledge was becoming sure of itself. Between 1884 and 1892,
however, Renoir’s new strength was not wholly mastered. There was
conscious effort in its employment. This is seen in La Fillette à la
Gerbe and Les Filles de Catulle Mendès and in that otherwise miraculous
canvas, Au Piano. In Le Croquet, 1892, he begins to exhibit, in his use
of new means, the same prodigious adroitness he displayed in his earlier
and slighter works. And in Les Deux Sœurs the effects of labour entirely
vanish, and he once more paints with magistral unconcern.

From that time forward Renoir’s complete genius was but a matter of
evolution. And here let it be remembered that his transcendent
competency was the result of academic training, for of late we have
heard many objections to this kind of discipline. We have been invited
to behold the water-colour and crayon works of the untutored, assured
that they were as fine as Matisse’s drawings. And we have been asked to
accept, as a corollary, the statement that all painters are better off
without the pernicious influence of schools. We have had modern
paintings pointed out to us as examples of what inspiration and freedom
from convention can do. We have heard the constantly reiterated
assertion that academies cramp genius, restrict vision and force all
expression into stipulated moulds. To concede to these extravagant
assertions would be to ignore the history of great painting, for during
all the significant epochs of art the school was at its zenith. Without
it there could be no genuine achievement. No amount of mere inspiration
has ever enabled an artist to paint an eminent canvas. No amount of
uncontrolled emotionalism has ever permitted one to make an æsthetically
moving work of art. No untrained man, no matter how high his natural
gifts, has yet been able to record adequately his feelings. All the
records of past accomplishment go to show that no person who has not
been profoundly educated in the purely objective (not utilitarian)
forms, and in the abstract qualities of painting, such as anatomy and
technique, has succeeded in conceiving an artistic organisation.

The school has never obscured or dwarfed genius, nor is it probable it
ever will. To the contrary it assists the truly great man in his
self-fulfilment and weeds out the mediocre man. It turns the student’s
thoughts to methods rather than to inspiration. It directs the attention
of incompetent and merely talented persons, incapable of rising above
its teachings, into side issues. Thus it relegates their work to the
_soupentes_ of the world: whereas, if they had been permitted to labour
at random, they would only have choked the market of genuinely æsthetic
production. The school teaches discipline, precision, and the control of
wayward impulses, without all of which the greatest artist could only
incompletely express himself. These are the things which Renoir felt he
lacked; and in the midst of his career he halted long enough to acquire
them. It may be argued that his was intelligent training, while that of
the schools is unintelligent. But all discipline is beneficial to the
artist. Only slavish minds, hopeless from the first, succumb to it. The
fact that a man capitulates to academic training attests to an
incompetency so great that, under no circumstances, however favorable,
could it have arisen to a point capable of producing great art. Giotto,
El Greco and Rubens passed through rigid training and rose above it. And
the apprenticeship demanded of the old Egyptian, Chinese and Greek
artists was longer and more tedious than any of our school courses
today.

Renoir’s scholastic training was his salvation. With the advent of the
twentieth century he struck his pace. All his qualities converged toward
the construction of rhythm. In 1900 he painted a large and ambitious
canvas of an attired maid combing a nude’s hair, La Toilette de la
Baigneuse, which is more extended and conclusive than any of his
previous works. The forms lean in opposition and complete each other. In
them is a perfect poise which subjectively evokes an emotion of
movement. Even the lights and darks are separated so as to give the
strongest effect. The very hat and tree trunk are integral parts of the
whole, and there is not a line in the picture which does not develop
logically to a harmonic completion. The luscious plenitude of form is
equalled only by the finality of the rhythm.

Another picture of the same period is the Baigneuses in the Vollard
collection, a duplicate of his Baigneuses of fifteen years before. Now
all the hardness is gone from the contours. The differentiation of
texture between the flesh and water and foliage is absent. The lines are
less angular and true, and both the distant nudes’ attitudes are
changed. The first canvas recalled Ingres; but the second brings up
Cézanne, for it is pure composition with every nugatory quality
eliminated. It demonstrates the possibility of creating abstract unity
in three dimensions with the objective reality at hand. The picture
contains movement in the vital sense, and possesses a tactility as great
as a Giorgione done with modern means. In fact, comparison of these two
Baigneuses will straightway divulge the advantages that lie in modern
methods. The first is extremely able, and has the unfinished foundation
of a great composition. The second, because of what Renoir had learned
of freedom, is as intense as a Rubens in that painter’s own manner; and
in addition it has an emotional element to which the Antwerp master
never attained.

Two years later this obsession to create form as an impregnable block,
no matter in how many integers it might be divided, made him turn his
attention to Daumier; and in Le Jardin d’Essoyes and his heads of Coco
he surpasses even this master of organisation. Having assimilated this
new influence Renoir added it to his own store of knowledge, and four
years later painted his greatest picture, Le Petit Peintre. After this
there was little more to be done in Renoir’s style unless he extended
his vision to greater surfaces. This he has not done. But he has added
other masterpieces to the ones already mentioned. His Ode aux Fleurs
(d’après Anacréon), the two decorative Panneaux of the tambourine player
and the dancer, Coco et les Deux Servantes, La Rose dans les Cheveux
and La Femme au Miroir are all worthy of a place beside the greatest
pictures of all time. In these last paintings nature’s form is
transcribed in a purely arbitrary manner. Many of the parts are
exaggerated to create greater projection or more perfect proportion in
relation to the whole. Texture has developed into a unified surface, and
simple linear balance has become poise in depth. The colouring has grown
so subtle that it is impossible in many places to tell just what it is,
for in it is a whole spectrum that makes it living.

[Illustration: BAIGNEUSES, 1885 by RENOIR]

[Illustration: BAIGNEUSES, 1902 BY RENOIR]

Renoir was a man who fundamentally was not revolutionary, an artist who
was shown the way by others, a genius who culminated a great and febrile
epoch. His beginnings were imitative of the painters of his day. He
climbed the ladder from dark to light, from the stiff to the mobile. His
first works under Courbet and Manet were no better than those of
Hankwan. Later his pictures began to flow rhythmically in simple lines
as in the Head of a Chinese Lady by Ririomin. Then they began to extend
into depth, and as early as 1881 they surpassed Titian. From then on
they approached steadily to the completeness of a modernised Rubens.
That Renoir never reached that master’s greatness is due, not to his
lack of acute and complete vision, but to his restriction of it to small
works. A composer who writes a symphony in which each minute part is an
intimate factor of the whole, is greater than he who writes only an
overture whose entirety is no greater than one of the symphony’s
movements. Renoir, in so far as he went, was as great as the greatest.

One cannot think of a Renoir canvas merely as a painting. It is a new
and visually complete cosmos. In looking at his work the intelligence
enters a world in which every form has interest, every line completion,
every space a plasticity: in short, a world in which everything is
visibly interrelated. A host of influences have been read into Renoir,
and indeed there were many in his development. But they were only the
steps by which he mounted to high achievement. So unimportant are the
works of most of these other men when compared with Renoir’s personal
accomplishments, that one may visualise this artist as a raindrop on a
window, which, as it flows downward, consumes and embodies all those in
its path. Courbet, Monet, Delacroix and Manet, had they no other claim
on posterity than as instructors of Renoir, would not have lived in
vain. The Chinese, the Greeks, the Renaissance, even that full Indian
sculpture in the Chaitya of Karli of the eleventh century B.C.—are all
within him. That they are temperamental affinities rather than direct
influences none can deny; but, strange as it may seem, he has traits
which directly recall each one of them. They all have the ineradicable
germ of genius in them; and that germ, being changeless and eternal,
lies at the root of all æsthetic creation. For this reason a great man
belongs to all time. He embraces all the results of the struggles which
have gone before. In the possession of Renoir we have no apologies to
make to antiquity, any more than in having produced Cézanne must we
abase ourselves before the artists who are yet to come.



VI

PAUL CÉZANNE


The dilettante, avid for accounts of an artist’s eccentricities, will
find abundant and varied material of this nature in half a hundred books
written by critics of almost every nationality on that astounding and
grotesque colossus, Cézanne. Perhaps no great artist in the world’s
history has been so wantonly libelled, maligned and ridiculed as he. Nor
has there ever been a painter of such wide influence so grossly
misunderstood. Cézanne has been endowed with most fantastic powers,
dismissed with a _coup d’esprit_ for attributes he never possessed, and
canonised for qualities he would have repudiated. Like Michelangelo he
has been both the admiration and the mystery of critics. And he is at
once the idol and the incubus of present-day artists. His letters alone
have formed the technical basis of one great modern art school. A
fragmentary phrase of his mentioning geometrical figures was seized upon
by a Spaniard and made the foundation for another school. His mention of
Poussin drove a horde of Scandinavians, Austrians and Bohemians to a
contemplation of that artist. Cézanne’s very limitations have been the
inspiration for an army of hardy imitators who believe it is more vital
to imitate modernity than to reconstruct the past. Indeed it may be
said that all art since Impressionism is divided into two groups, one
which endeavours to develop some quality or qualities in Cézanne, the
other which attempts the anachronism of resuscitating the primitive art
of a simple-minded antiquity. For even this latter group, Cézanne is in
part responsible. Did he not say that we must become classicists again
by way of nature? And did this not give reactionary and servile minds
ample excuse to cling with even greater passion to a dead and rigid
past? In his great sense of order his disciples saw only immobility;
their minds, redundant with parallels, harked back to the Egyptians.
Thus has he been emulated: but, among all these branches shot out from
the mother trunk, it can be stated incontestably that only one has
understood him, has penetrated beneath the surface of his canvases, has
realised his true gift to the art of the future. And this one, strangely
enough, is the furthest removed from imitation.

Cézanne’s biography is of value to the art student, for it embodies in
concrete form the factors which motivated his æsthetic apperceptions. By
Cézanne’s biography is meant, not the distorted interpretations of the
incidents of his life, now so well known, or the superficial conclusions
deduced by his biographers from hearsay; but those actions and
temperamental characteristics which are impartially set down at first
hand by Émile Bernard. To this chronicler we are indebted for
practically all the authentic personal anecdotes of the artist. He had
always admired Cézanne, and in 1904 a personal friendship was
established between them, which endured until the latter’s death. After
Cézanne had overcome parental objections and had definitely decided on
an artist’s career, he spent much of his time in Paris. Many influences
entered into his early life. He had met Zola at school and had been
intimate with him. Through him he had become acquainted with Manet, and
while he appreciated Manet’s friendliness, he could never understand
that artist’s great popularity. He preferred Courbet as a painter, and
studied him sedulously. His great influence, however, came from
Pissarro. For that persuasive Jew’s memory he always harboured a deep
respect.

Cézanne’s youth, if one may call forty years a youth, was, as he himself
put it, filled mostly with “literature and laziness.” Not until his
final renunciation of city life and his return to the south did his best
work begin. At first he made friends timidly. He was a man who could not
brook opposition, who was extremely sensitive to rebuffs; and those good
people of provincial France were brusquely aggressive in all their
beliefs and traditions. At every thought he expressed they sneered. He
clashed violently and disastrously with the local celebrities who had
the sanction of the established schools. In Paris he had been a frank
and even garrulous companion; but at each contact with the narrow,
self-centered and righteous community of Aix, he withdrew into himself.
His natural spontaneity and good-fellowship turned inward, became
restrained and pent-up. He grew sensitive and wary, and in later life
this defensive attitude developed into abnormal irritability. To those
who could understand, however, he unburdened himself on all subjects,
and his opinions were always the result of profound thought. But he
never entirely divulged his methods. If questions became too pertinent,
he consciously led his interrogators astray. “They think I’ve got a
trick,” he would cry, “and they want to steal it. But nobody will ever
put his hooks on me (_pas un ne me mettra le grappin dessus_).” He had
already suffered enough at the hands of self-seekers. He had been
extravagantly ridiculed by his boyhood friends. He had been robbed and
bullied by his hired architect; and having money he had been considered
prey by the village widows. He permitted himself to be browbeaten
because of his antipathy to any kind of friction. It is small wonder he
became misanthropic.

The popular opinion of Aix was that he was crazy, and his chroniclers,
almost without exception, have echoed this belief. But, to the contrary,
his was the highest type of the creative mind, always in search for
something better, never satisfied with present results; the type of mind
which gives no thought to the acquisition or retention of property. His
joy lay in his creations of the moment, but his desires were far ahead.
Some one who showed him one of his early treasured canvases was
ridiculed for liking “such things.” Every day Cézanne watched his
evolution: to him this progress was the essential thing. He left his
unfinished works in the meadows, in studio corners, in the nursery. They
have been found in the most out-of-the-way places. He had given large
numbers of them to chance friends on the impulse of the moment. His son
cut out the windows of his masterpieces for amusement, and his servant
and his wife used his canvases for stove cleaners. He saw his work put
to these uses tranquilly, knowing that later he would do better, that he
would “realise” more fully. His mind was too exalted to be impatient
with the pettinesses of life. His great aversion was politics, and
unlike Delacroix, he was above nationality. During the Franco-Prussian
War he hid with a relative that he might pursue his own ideal rather
than sacrifice himself for the protection of his tormentors. What did he
care for France when his whole admiration was for Italy and Holland?
Painting, not the preservation of nationality, was his innermost
concern. In evading conscription he called down upon him the public
abuse which such actions evoke. But it passed him by: he was too
absorbed in his work to heed, just as later he was too engrossed to
follow his mother’s hearse to the funeral or to seek a market for his
pictures. At every step he paused to study the rapports of line, of
light, of shadow, of colour. At table, in conversation or at church, he
never for a moment lost sight of his desire. One can find a parallel for
this intellectually ascetic creature only in the old martyrs. He was the
type that renounces all the benefits and usufructs of life in order to
follow the face of a dream.

With such self-confidence no adversity could daunt him, no logic draw
from him a compromise, no flourish of enthusiasm distract him from his
course. Zola says of him: “He is made in one piece, stiff and hard under
the hand; nothing bends him; nothing can wrench from him a concession.”
This quality of character was a thing which Zola, the slave of words,
could not understand. Cézanne, through much contact with letters, saw
the danger of literature to the painter. “Literature,” he wrote,
“expresses itself through abstractions, while painting, by means of
drawing and colour, makes concrete the artist’s sensations and
perceptions.” Zola libelled him at great length in L’Œuvre. Cézanne’s
reply was simply that Zola had a “mediocre intelligence” and was a
“detestable friend.” In their youth Cézanne took the ascendency over
Zola in Latin and French verse; even in his old age he could recite long
passages from Virgil, Lucretius and Horace. He knew literature and was
able to judge it. His criticisms of Zola are as penetrating as any that
realist has called forth. His reputation for barbarism, vulgarity and
ignorance has little foundation in fact. To be sure, he did not desert
his work for social activities: he despised the polished and shallow wit
of men like Whistler: and he bitterly attacked those painters who strove
for _salon_ popularity. It is therefore not incredible that the
accusations against him were but the world’s retaliation for having been
ignored by him.

Cézanne’s work from the first contained the undeniable elements of
greatness. In his first, almost black-and-white still-lives, executed
under the influence of Courbet (it is not tenable that they were done
under Manet, as is commonly believed: they are too solidly formed for
that), there is exhibited a passionate admiration for volume and for
full and rich chiaroscuro. We are conscious of the artist’s gropings
for those fundamentals he was finally to discover in the seclusion of
his rugged country of the south. Even his early figure pieces carry this
sensual delight in objectivity to a greater height than did Delacroix by
whom they were inspired. And they attest to a freedom from academic
principles which was not surpassed by the Impressionists. These
paintings are classic in the best sense; in them is an orderliness which
Manet and the Impressionists never possessed. Yet, withal, they are only
the results of the literary influences from Delacroix and of his
admirations for other painters. They are not purely creative, but the
qualities of creation are there. To those who can read the signs, they
unmistakably indicate the beginnings of a full and masterly growth.

His potentialities began to actualise with his comprehension of El Greco
and the Venetians. From that period on his power for organisation
steadily developed, and it was still advancing at the time of his death.
But organisation touched only the compositional side of his work: it was
the resultant element. His inspiration toward colour which emanated from
Pissarro was what precipitated him irrevocably into painting. Colour, by
presenting so many problems, claimed him entirely. To that Impressionist
he owes much, not to that artist’s actual achievement, but to the
incentive he furnished. During his intimacy with Pissarro, Cézanne
completed his assimilation of all the traits in others which were
relative to himself. His beliefs and intransigencies became
crystallised. The road opened into fields where that new element of
colour, which had taken on so vital a significance, led to an infinitude
of emotional possibilities. Though Cézanne never completely became a
defender of Pissarro’s theories, he always looked upon the
Impressionists as innovators whose importance as such could not be
overestimated. He realised that without them he himself would not have
existed, and that they had sketched out a preface to all the great art
which was to come. Without them there undoubtedly would have been great
artists, but he knew that a painter with the means of a Renoir is
greater than one who, though equally competent in organisation, is
limited in the mechanics of method. Restricted means permit only of
restricted expression. The Impressionists, having made an advance in
æsthetic procedure, facilitated the experimentations of Cézanne. But he
in turn recognised the restrictions of the Impressionists’ methods:
indeed, he saw that their theories could apply only to a very
circumscribed æsthetic field; and he was not content with them. He
studied assiduously in the Louvre and absorbed the myriad impulses which
had impelled the great masters of the past. The Louvre and Pissarro
constituted his primer. From the one he got his impetus toward
voluminous organisation; from the other, his impetus toward colour. From
their fragmentary teachings he went on to greater achievements.

There is little or no documentary history of Cézanne’s early years.
Consequently his youthful admirations are not recorded in detail. But we
know enough to gauge his early tastes. He travelled in Holland and
Belgium, and though he never went to Italy, he greatly admired
Tintoretto and Veronese. He had a high esteem for that master of style,
Luca Signorelli, who, had he not gone into architecture, might have
become one of the world’s great painters. In his studio Cézanne kept a
water-colour by Delacroix—hung face to the wall that it might not fade,
and beside it a lithograph by Daumier whom he regarded highly. We may be
sure he fully understood the limitations of these men aside from their
ambitions. To him they were points of departure rather than goals to
aspire to. Both of them he surpassed early in his career. Cézanne
admired also the Dutch and Flemish masters. He had an old and
dilapidated book of their reproductions full of bad lithographs done by
inferior craftsmen. But he overlooked all their defects in his
remembrance of the originals. Here, as elsewhere, he ignored those
details which to another would have militated against enjoyment. His
mind was too comprehensive and analytic to be led astray by the flaws on
an otherwise perfect work: it penetrated to the essentials first and
remained there.

Thus it was in his work. The exact reproduction of nature in any of its
manifestations never held him for a moment. He saw its eternal aspect
aside from its accidental visages caused by fluctuating lights. In this
he was diametrically opposed to the Impressionists who recorded only
nature’s temporary phases. They captured and set down its atmosphere and
were satisfied. Cézanne, regarding its atmosphere as an ephemerality,
portrayed the _lasting force_ of light. “One is the master of one’s
model and above all of one’s means of expression,” he wrote. “Penetrate
what is before you, and persevere in expressing yourself as logically as
possible.” It is this penetration which separates Cézanne by an
impassable gulf from those purely sensitive artists who are content with
the merely physiological effects of an emotion. In the process of
penetrating he became familiar with those undercurrents of causation
from which has sprung the greatest art of all ages.

In a Cézanne of the later years not only is the form poised in three
dimensions, but the very light also is poised. We feel in Cézanne the
same completion we experience before a Rubens—that emotion of finality
caused by the forms moving, swelling and grinding in an eternal order;
and added to this completion of form, heightening its emotive power, is
the same final organisation of illumination. The light suggests no
particular time of day or night; it is not appropriated from morning or
afternoon, sunlight or shadow. So delicate and perfectly balanced is
this light that, with the raising or the lowering of the curtain in the
room where the picture hangs, it will darken or brighten perfectly,
logically, proportionately with the outer light. It lives because it is
painted with the logic of nature. Whether the picture be hung in a
bright sunlight or in half gloom, it is a creature of its environment.
Its planes, like those of nature, advance and recede, swell and shrink.
In short, they are dynamic.

[Illustration: BAIGNEUSES by CÉZANNE]

If this feat of Cézanne’s seems to border on metaphysics, the reason is
that there has been no precedent for it in history. It was, in fact, a
purely technical accomplishment based wholly on the most stringently
empirical research. The manner in which he arrived at this achievement
may not be entirely insusceptible of explanation. It has been pointed
out how the Impressionists broke up surfaces into minute sensitive
parts, some of which reflected or absorbed more than others. That which
gives us our sensation of colour is the atomic preponderance of one of
these attributes. Thus if an atom or combination of atoms reflects
highly it translates itself through the retina into our brains as a high
force, namely, as a yellow. If an atom absorbs more than it reflects, it
takes and retains the reflective force of light, and, in discharging
this limited power, produces in us the sensation of blue. Now, that
point on a round object where the light is strongest is the point
nearest the light. As the planes of the object curve away from the light
they diminish in brilliancy. The further the plane from the point
nearest the illumination, the less light it has to reflect. Consequently
it will appear bluish. The Impressionists were satisfied with recording
this blue of shadow merely as the complement of the light which was
yellow. But Cézanne studied each degradation of tone from yellow to
blue. In this study he discovered that light always graduates from warm
to cold in precisely the same way; and, that, provided the model is
white, each step down the tonic scale is the same on no matter what
object. But this discovery was little more than a premise. He was now
necessitated to solve the problem of just how much the local colour of
an object modifies the natural colours of the light and shadow which
reveal that object. In all coloured objects the modifications are
different, according to the laws of colour complementaries and
admixtures. By keeping these laws always in mind, and by applying his
discovery of the consistent gradations of the colours of light, he was
able to paint in such a way that, no matter how much or how little
outside light of a uniform quality fell on his canvas, the colours he
had applied would, as they retreated from the most highly illuminated
point on the picture, absorb a graduatingly smaller quantity of actual
light, and would thus create emotional form in the same manner that
nature creates visual form. Hence, the planes in a Cézanne canvas
advance or recede _en masse_, retaining their relativity, as the eye
excludes or receives a greater or a lesser quantity of light; and since
the light never remains the same for any period of time, the planes
bulge toward the spectator and retract from him with each minute
variation of illumination.

In all painting prior to Cézanne, the natural variations of light
distorted the objects of a picture: that is to say, the colours of
external light changed the character of the applied colours, making some
advance and others retreat; and because these applied colours were not
put on with the exact logic of natural gradations, the proportions
between them could not be maintained. Thus in one light certain objects
advanced more than others, and in another light certain objects receded
more than others. Their relativity was lost. Hence, not only was the
picture’s composition and balance altered, but the appearance of its
objects belied the actual measurements. These variations were so small
that the untrained eye might not have seen them, any more than an
untrained ear may not detect the slight variations of pitch in music.
But to the man whose eye is trained, even to the degree that a good
musician’s ear is trained, pictures appear “off” in the same way that a
poorly tuned piano sounds “off” to the sensitive musician. Cézanne, had
he never achieved any intrinsically great art, would still be a colossal
figure in painting because of this basic and momentous discovery. The
Impressionists had been content with the mere discovery of light. Their
theory was, not that one can enjoy the natural light of out-of-doors
more than the abstract light in a canvas, but that, since every one of
nature’s moods is the result of degrees of illumination, these moods can
only be recorded by the depiction of natural light; and therefore
out-of-door light is an æsthetic means. Cézanne recognised the
limitations of this theory, but considered it an admirable opening for
higher achievement. He thereupon stripped the Impressionists’ means of
their ephemeral plasticity, and, by using the principles, and not the
results, of nature’s method, gave them an eternal plasticity which no
great art of the future can afford to ignore, and which in time, no
doubt, will lead to the creation of an entirely new art.

Although Cézanne had many times given out broad hints of his methods,
his friends and critics were too busy trying to discover other less
concise qualities in his work to appreciate the full significance of his
occasional words. Herein lies the main reason why an untechnical
onlooker and admirer can never sound the depths of art. He is too
detached, for, not having followed its logical evolution from the
simplest forms to the most complex, he is unable to understand the
complicated mechanism on which it is built. Critics for the most part
are writers whose admiration for art has been born in front of the
completed works of the great masters. Unable to comprehend them fully,
they turn to a contemplation of the simple and naïf. Their process of
valuation is thus reversed. Great art is as a rule too compounded for
their analytical powers, and they end by imagining that the primitives
and the mosaicists represent the highest and most conscious type of the
creative will. What to them is incomprehensible appears of little value;
and here we find the explanation for the popular theory that the test of
great art is its simplicity, its _humanitas_, its obviousness. Persons
who would not pretend to grasp without study the principles of modern
science, still demand that art be sufficiently lucid to be comprehended
at once by the untutored mind. A physician may tell them of profundities
in medical experimentation, and they will accept his views as those of
an expert in a science of which they are ignorant. But when an artist
tells them of recondite principles in æsthetics they accuse him of an
endeavour to befuddle them. The isolation of bacilli and the application
of serums and anti-toxins are mysteries which call for respect. The
equally scientific and obscure principles of colour and form are absurd
imaginings. And yet without a scientific basis art is merely an
artifice—the New Thought in æsthetics. Readily comprehensible painting
is no further advanced than readily comprehensible therapeutics.

Émile Bernard was little different from the average critic. In
attributing to Cézanne his own limitations, he restricted what he might
otherwise have learned. But the literalness with which he recorded the
artist’s sayings makes his book of paramount interest. We read for
instance that Cézanne once remarked: “Here is something incontestable; I
am most affirmative on this point: An optical sensation is produced in
our visual organ by what we class as light, half tone or quarter tone,
each plane being represented by colour sensations. Therefore light as
such does not exist for the painter.” By this he broadly hinted at an
absolute relativity between the degrees of light forces—a relativity
which translates itself to us as colour gradations. Again Cézanne said:
“One should not say model but modulate.... Drawing and colour are not
distinct; as one paints one draws. The more the colours harmonise
[namely: follow nature’s logical sequences], the more precise is the
drawing.” Precision in drawing to Cézanne meant among other things the
ability to produce volume. Again: “When colour is richest, form is at
its plenitude. In the contrasts and rapports of tones lies the secret of
drawing and of modelling.” In a letter he wrote: “Lines parallel to the
horizon create vastness (_donnent l’étendue_), whether it be a section
of nature, or if you choose, of the spectacle that the _Pater omnipotens
æternus Deus_ spreads before our eyes. Lines perpendicular to this
horizon give depth. And since nature for us human beings exists in depth
rather than surfacely, the painter is necessitated to introduce into
light vibrations, represented by reds and yellows, a sufficient amount
of blue to make the air felt.”

These observations are of paramount interest because they touch on the
essential principles of his _esthétique_. They are at once an
explanation and a measure of his significance. Like all great truths
they appear simple after we know them, or rather after we have
experienced them. Daumier might have stated with certitude the same
principles in relation to tone, for he always practised them
qualifiedly. Though his means were limited, he employed those means as
fully as his materials permitted. Cézanne, because he possessed the
greater element—colour, constructed his canvases as nature presents its
objects to the sight, as a unique whole. With all of the older painters
drawing came first, chiaroscuro second and colour third—three distinct
steps, each one conceived separately. Daumier was the first painter to
approach simultaneity in execution. Ignorant of colour, he conceived his
drawing and chiaroscuro together. Cézanne went a step beyond, and
conceived his drawing, form and colour as one and the same, in the exact
manner that these qualities, united in each natural object, present
themselves to the eye. His method was the same as the mechanism of human
vision. Compared with Cézanne, Monet was only fragmentary. Not only in
methods did they differ but in objective as well. The Impressionists’
aim was to reproduce nature’s externals: Cézanne’s desire was to
reproduce its solidity. Both achieved their ends. Cézanne’s pictures
are as impenetrable as sculpture. Every object seems hewn out of marble.

Solidity alone, however, though a high and necessary virtue of painting,
is a limited quality. Unless it is made mobile it gives off the
impression of rigidity. It is to painting what the rough clay is to
sculpture—the dead material of art. In order for it to engender æsthetic
empathy it must be organised, that is, it must be harmonised and poised
in three dimensions in such a way that, should we translate our bodies
into its spacial forms, we should experience its dynamism. This Cézanne
did, and therein lay his claim to greatness. In his best canvases there
seems no way of veering a plane, of imagining one plane changing places
with another, unless every plane in the picture is shifted
simultaneously. Cézanne’s solidity is organised like the volumes in
Michelangelo’s best sculpture. Move an arm of any one of these statues,
and every other part of the figure, down to the smallest muscle, must
change position. Their plasticity, like Cézanne’s, is perfect. There is
a complete ordonnance between every minute part, and between every group
of parts. Nothing can be added or taken away without changing the entire
structure in all its finest details. Cézanne once said to Ambroise
Vollard, a picture merchant, who had called attention to a small
uncovered spot on a canvas which the artist had pronounced finished:
“You will understand that if I were to put something there haphazardly,
I should have to start the whole picture over from that point.”

The individual solidity of Cézanne’s colour planes is due to the
eternalism and absolutism of his light. But it was the other qualities
which entered into his art which brought about the interdependence of
the parts and evoked the sensation of unity we feel before them. One of
these qualities was a perfect rapport of lines. Cézanne, better than any
other painter up to his day, understood how one slanting line modifies
its direction when coming in contact with another line moving from a
different direction. When colour was first investigated realistically,
artists saw that two pure complementary tints, when juxtaposed, tended
to draw away from each other and to differentiate themselves. Therefore
they set about to study the influence that one colour has upon another,
assuming that lines were more static and absolute and consequently did
not change at contact with other lines. Cézanne recognised the fallacy
of this assumption, and wrote: “I see the planes criss-crossing and
overlapping, and sometimes the lines seem to fall.” He realised that the
laws governing the opposition of line are most important in the
production of the emotion of movement. In all the old painters this
emotion was engendered by just such devices, but with them the laws were
only dimly suspected—instincts rather than applied science. In
contemplating their work we seem torn by some physical impulse to follow
one line, but cannot, because the lure of the other line is equally
great.

To the man of sensitive and trained eyesight this physical emotion is
incited also by nature, only nature is more complex than art and is
without æsthetic finality. Thus in regarding the rapports of two lines
in nature, one leaning to the right and one to the left, the highly
sensitive person feels unrest and strife, and subconsciously produces
order and calm by imagining a third line which harmonises the original
two. Cézanne looked upon nature with perhaps the most delicate and
perceptive eye a painter has ever possessed, and his vision became a
theatre for the violent struggles of some one line against terrible
odds, for the warring clashes of inharmonious colours. He saw in
objective nature a chaos of disorganised movement, and he set himself
the task of putting it in order. In studying the variations and
qualifications of linear directions in his model, he discovered another
method of accentuating the feeling of dynamism in his canvases. He
stated lines, not in their static character, but in their average of
fluctuation. We know that all straight lines are influenced by their
surroundings, that they appear bent or curved when related to other
lines. The extent to which a line is thus optically bent is its extreme
of fluctuability. Cézanne determined this extreme in all of his lines,
and by transcribing them midway between their actual and optical states,
achieved at once their normality and their extreme abnormality. The
character, direction and curve of all lines in a canvas change with
every shifting of the point of visual contact. Since the unity of a
picture is different from every focus, all the lines consequently assume
a slightly different direction every time our eye shifts from one spot
to another. Cézanne, by recording the mean of linear changeability,
facilitated and hastened this vicissitude of mutation.

Another contribution he made to painting was his application of the
stereoscopic function of the eye to all models by means of colour. From
the earliest art to Cézanne, objects have been portrayed as if conceived
_in vacuo_, with absolute and delimited contours. Such portrayals are
directly opposed to our normal vision, for whenever we focus our sight
on any natural object whatever, each eye records a different perspective
representation of that object; there is a distinct binocular parallax.
Certain parts are seen by one eye which are invisible to the other. But
these two visual impressions are perceived simultaneously, combined in
one image; that is to say: the optic axes converge at such an angle that
both the right and left monocular impressions are superimposed. The
single impression thus produced is one of perspective and relief. This
is a rudimentary law of optics, but on it our accuracy of vision has
always depended. In the lenticular stereoscope the eye-glasses are
marginal portions of the same convex lens, which, when set edge to edge,
deflect the rays from the picture so as to strike the eyes as if coming
from an intermediate point. By this bending of the rays the two pictures
become one impression, and present the appearance of solid forms as in
nature. The problem of how to transcribe on a flat surface in a single
picture the effect later produced by a stereoscope with two pictures,
has confronted painters for hundreds of years. Leonardo da Vinci in his
Trattato della Pittura recorded the fact that our vision encompasses to
a slight degree everything that passes before it; that we see around all
objects; and that this encircling sight gives us the sensation of
rotundity. But neither he, nor any artist up to Cézanne, was able to
make æsthetic use of the fact. The vision of all older painting
(although by the use of line and composition it became plastic because
used as a detail) was the vision of the man with one eye, for a one-eyed
man sees nature as a flat plane: only by association of the relative
size of objects is he capable of judging depth. Cézanne saw the
impossibility of producing a double vision by geometric rules, and
approached the problem from another direction. By understanding the
functioning elements of colour in their relation to texture and space,
he was able to paint forms in such a way that each colour he applied
took its relative position in space and held each part of an object
stationary at any required distance from the eye. As a result of his
method we can judge the depth and sense the solidity of his pictures the
same as we do in nature.

Cézanne was ever attempting to solve the problem of the dynamics of
vision. An analysis of his pictures often reveals a uniform leaning of
lines—a tendency of all the objects to precipitate themselves upon a
certain spot, like the minute flotsam on a surface of water being sucked
through a drain-hole. We find an explanation for this convergence in one
of his letters. He says: “In studying nature closely, you will observe
that it becomes concentric. I mean that on an orange, an apple, a ball
or a head there is a culminating point; and this point, despite the
strong effects of light and shadow which are colour sensations, is
always the nearest to our eye. The edges of objects retreat toward a
centre which is situated on our horizon.” It is small wonder that
Cézanne, obsessed with the idea of form and depth, should have had
little admiration for his contemporaries, Van Gogh and Gauguin, both of
whom were workmen in the flat. He let pass no opportunity of expressing
himself on these artists who of late years have become so popular. Van
Gogh was to him only another Pointillist; and he called Gauguin’s work
“_des images Chinoises_,” adding, “I will never accept his entire lack
of modelling and gradation.” Does not this explain his aversion to the
primitives in whom he saw but the rudiments of art? How could Cézanne,
preoccupied with the most momentous problems of æsthetics, take an
interest in enlarged book illuminations, when the most superficial
corner of his slightest canvas had more organisation and incited a
greater æsthetic emotion than all the mosaics in S. Vitale at Ravenna?

Cézanne was never attracted by the facial expressions, the manual
attitudes, or the graceful poses of his models. The characteristics of
materiality meant nothing to him. He was perpetually searching for
something more profound, and began his art where the average painter
leaves off. Realistic attributes are interesting only as decoration;
they are indicative of the simplicity of man’s mind; they are unable to
conduce to an extended æsthetic experience. Van Gogh and Gauguin said
well what they had to say, but it was so slight that it is of little
interest to us today. We demand a greater stimulus than an art of two
dimensions can give; our minds instinctively extend themselves into
space. So it was with Cézanne. He left no device untried which would
give his work a greater depth, a more veritable solidity. He
experimented in colour from this standpoint, then in line, then in
optics. With the results of this research he became possessed of all the
necessary factors of colossal organisation. He knew that, were these
factors rightly applied, they would produce a greater sensation of
weight, of force and of movement than any artist before him had
succeeded in attaining.

Their application presented to Cézanne his most difficult problem. He
must use his discoveries in these three fields in such a way that the
very disposition of weights would produce that perfect balance of stress
and repose, out of which emanates all æsthetic movement. The simplest
manifestation of this balance is found in the opposition of line; but in
order to complete this linear adjustment there must be an opposition of
colours which, while they must function as volumes, must also accord
with the character of the natural object portrayed. In short, there must
be an opposition of countering weights, not perfectly balanced so as to
create a dead equality, but rhythmically related so that the effect is
one of swaying poise. Obviously this could not be accomplished on a flat
surface, for the emotion of depth is a necessity to the recognition of
equilibrium. Cézanne finally achieved this poise by a plastic
distribution of volumes over and beside spacial vacancies. He mastered
this basic principle of the hollow and the bump only after long and
trying struggles and tedious experimentations. He translated it into
terms of his own intellection: to the extent that there was order within
him so was he able to put order into his pictures. This vision of his
was intellectual rather than optical; and M. Bernard unnecessarily tells
us that, so sure was Cézanne of his justification, he placed his colours
on canvas with the same absolutism he used in expressing himself
verbally. His art was his thought given concrete form through the medium
of nature. His painting was the result of a mental process—an
intellectual conclusion after it had been weighed, added to, substracted
from, modified by exterior considerations, and at last brought forth
purged and clarified and as nearly complete as was his development at
the time.

For this reason Cézanne resented the presence of people while he worked.
To attain his ends his mind had to be concentrated on its ultimate
ambition. It could support no disturbing factors. Even though he had no
trick which might be copied, he once said to a friend: “I have never
permitted anyone to watch me while I work. I refuse to do anything
before anyone.” Had he allowed spectators to stand over him he probably
would have fatigued them, for his work progressed by single strokes
interspersed by long periods of reflection and analysis. M. Bernard
would hear him descend to the garden a score of times during the day’s
work, sit a moment and rush back to the studio as if some solution had
presented itself to him suddenly. At other times he would walk back and
forth before his picture awaiting the answer to a problem before him. It
is such deliberateness in great artists that has, curiously enough,
acquired for them a reputation for esotericism. Their moments of deep
contemplation and their sudden plunges into labour have been interpreted
as periods of intellectual coma shot through occasionally by “divine
flashes of inspiration” coming from an outside agent. The reverse is
true, however. An artist retains his sentiency at all times. He
necessarily works consciously, with the same intellectual labours as a
scientist. A painter can no more produce a great picture unwittingly
than an inventor can construct an intricate machine unwittingly. They
are both labourers in the most plebeian sense.

Cézanne’s hatred for facile and thoughtless workmen who continually
entertain amateurs, was monumental. To him they were pupils who, by
learning a few rules, were able to paint conventional pieces after the
manner of thousands who had preceded him. They represented the
academicians with whom every country is overrun—the suave and
satisfied craftsmen who epitomise mediocrity, whose appeal is to minds
steeped in pedantry and conservatism. In France they come out of the
government-run Beaux-Arts school to which the incompetents of both
America and England flock. Cézanne harboured a particular enmity for
that school; anyone who had passed through it aroused his scorn. “With a
little temperament anyone can be an academic painter,” he said. “One can
make pictures without being a harmonist or a colourist. It is enough to
have an art sense—and even this art sense is without doubt the horror of
the bourgeois. Thus the institutes, the pensions and the honours are
only made for cretins, farceurs and drolls.”

In writing of Cézanne one is led to make a comparison between him and
his great compatriot, Renoir, for it is almost unbelievable that one
century could have produced two such radically different geniuses.
Renoir, first of all, was not an innovator: he was the consummation of
Impressionistic means. In Cézanne, to the contrary, we see a man
dissatisfied with the greatest results of others, ever tortured by the
search for something more final, more potent. “Let us not be satisfied
with the formulas of our wonderful antecedents,” he said many times, and
he might have added, “and of our wonderful contemporaries.” Renoir was
the apex of an art era, while Cézanne was the first segment of a greater
and vaster cycle. Renoir, by mastering his means at an early date,
acquired a technical facility to which Cézanne, ever on the hunt for
deeper conceptions, never attained. Renoir’s genius was for linear
rhythm. In the acquisition of this there entered, in varying degree,
form, colour and light; but the line itself was his preoccupation.
Cézanne’s genius was for plastic volume out of which the rhythmic line
resulted. That is: the one constructed his creations out of colour and
made colour appear like form; while in the other’s creations, which are
the result of colour, the colour is _felt to be form_. In Renoir is
_recognised_ the solidity and depth of form, while in Cézanne the colour
is a functional element whose dynamism gives birth to form which is
_felt subjectively_. Renoir synthesises nature’s forms, by grouping them
in such a way that the lines move and are harmonious. Cézanne looks for
the synthesis in each subject he sits before, and instead of grouping
his forms arbitrarily, he penetrates to their _inherent_ synthesis. This
is why almost every one of his pictures is built on a different
synthetic form. His penetration gave him at each essay a different
vision of the organisms of a particular subject, a vision which varied
as the subject varied. In Renoir movement is attained by _relating the
lines_: Cézanne has produced harmony by _accentuating their
differences_. In the former the lines lead smoothly and fluently into
others, until they all culminate in a line which carries the movement to
a finality; while in the latter we feel little of that suavity of
sequence: the lines are formed by the spaces between his volumes rather
than by linear continuation. Cézanne, if less pleasing, is the more
powerful; and with all his lack of suavity he is the more complex and
less monotonous. The extraordinary _imprévu_ of his formal developments
and his unique manner of stating parallels recall the symphonic works of
Beethoven. The ensembles of both are made up of an infinitude of smaller
forms, and both display a colossal power of absoluteness in setting
forth each smallest form. Renoir’s work is more on the lines of Haydn.

After Michelangelo there was no longer any new inspiration for
sculpture. After Cézanne there was no longer any excuse for it. He has
made us see that painting can present a more solid vision than that of
any stone image. Against modern statues we can only bump our heads: in
the contemplation of modern painting we can exhaust our intelligences.
Cézanne is as much a reproach to sculptors as Renoir is to those who
continue to use Impressionist methods. He is the great prophet of future
art, as well as the consummator of the realistic vision of his time.
Both men deformed nature’s objects—Renoir slightly to meet the demands
of consistency in his preconceived compositions; Cézanne to a greater
extent in order to make form voluminous. Some of his deformations
resulted from extraneous line forces which, when coming in contact with
an object’s contour, made it lean to the right or left, or in some other
way take on an abnormal appearance as of convexity or concavity.

M. Bernard thinks these irregularities in Cézanne the result of
defective eyesight. But such an explanation is untenable. There is
abundant evidence to show that, to the contrary, they are the result of
a highly sensitised sight—a sight which simultaneously calls up the
complementary of the thing viewed, whether it be a line, a colour or a
tone. This double vision is only a dependency of the plastic mind which,
instead of approaching a problem from the nearest side, throws itself
automatically to the opposite side, and, by thus obtaining a double
approach, arrives at a fuller comprehension. While slanting his line and
distorting his volumes Cézanne was unconsciously moulding the parts to
echo the organisation of the whole. In turning his pictures into
block-manifestations, he strove for a result which would conduce to a
profounder æsthetic pleasure than did the linear movements of Renoir.
After we have enjoyed Renoir’s rhythms we can lay them aside for the
time as we can a very beautiful but simple melody. The force of Cézanne
strikes us like that of a vast bulk or a mountain. Contemplating his
work is like coming suddenly face to face with an ordered elemental
force. At first we are conscious only of a shock, but when our wonder
has abated, we find ourselves studying the smaller forms which go into
the picture’s making. In the 1902 Baigneuses of Renoir each separate
figure is a beautiful and complete form which fits into and becomes part
of the general rhythm. In Cézanne the importance of parts is entirely
submerged in the effect of the whole. Here is the main difference
between these two great men: we enjoy each part of Renoir and are
conducted by line to a completion; in Cézanne we are struck
simultaneously by each interrelated part. Viewing a canvas of the latter
is like going out into the blazing sunlight from the cool sombreness of
a house. At first we are aware only of the force of the light, but as we
gradually become accustomed to the glare, we begin to perceive
separately objects which before had been only a part of the general
impression. The fact that Cézanne invariably spoke of the “motif” should
have given his friends a clue to his conception of composition. Before
him composition had been to a great extent the formation of a simple
melody of line in three dimensions, constructed by the forms of objects.
It corresponded to the purely melodious in music, the opening of the
theme, its sequence of phrasing and the finale. Cézanne chose a motif,
and in each movement of his picture it is to be found, varied,
elaborated, reversed and developed. Each part of his canvas is a
beginning, yet each part, though distinct as a form, is perfectly united
both with the opening motif and with every variation of it.

[Illustration: POMMES SUR UNE TABLE by CÉZANNE]

In this little-understood side of Cézanne’s genius lies an infinitude of
possibilities. Without an ability to organise, all his knowledge is
worthless to the painter. He himself could apply it, and his
understanding of the exact adaptability of a form to a hollow permitted
him to express his knowledge with a force his followers lack. His
sensitiveness to spaces and the characters of his forms recall at times
the works of Mokkei who used protuberances and hollows (namely:
accidents of portraiture and landscape) to enrich and diversify form.
Nature to Cézanne was not simple, and he never depicted it thus. Even in
his bathing pieces, whose disproportions are deplored by many, the
composition is minutely conceived, not on a simple harmonic figure, but
on complicated oppositional planes. Not only are the surface forms
perfectly adapted to a given space, but the directions taken by these
forms are as solidly indicated and the vacancies made by them are as
solidly filled in, as in a Rubens. Indeed these canvases, as
block-manifestations, are nearly as perfect as the pictures of El Greco
who was the greatest master of this kind of composition.

Cézanne should be numbered among the experimenters in art. With him, as
with the Impressionists, the desire was to learn rather than to utilise
discoveries. The painters from Courbet to Cézanne were the first to
usher in an authentically realistic art mode, and they were also the
first who sensed the possibilities of inanimate reality for æsthetic
organisation. Others before them had regarded nature strictly _en
amateur_, using only the human body for abstract purposes. Even
Michelangelo said that aside from it there was nothing worth while.
These modern innovators refuted his assertion by proving the contrary,
namely: by introducing order into chaotic nature. Their simple
arrangements, however, would not have satisfied Michelangelo who, like
all men who come at a florescence when the lessons have been learned and
it remains only to apply them, demanded an arbitrary organisation which
should be not only ordered but composed. Cézanne did little composing in
the melodic sense of the word. He stopped at the gate of great
composition which, after pointing the future way, he left for his
successors to enter. His synthetic interest was limited to the eternal
fugue qualities of nature. He undoubtedly saw the futility of creating
polyphonic composition from lemons and napkins, but he had not found a
menstruum in which the qualities of his materials would disappear. The
old masters had done all that was possible with the recognisable human
body; Cézanne’s desires for the purification of painting kept him from
attempting to improve on their medium.

Among a great scope of oil subjects one cannot say through which of them
Cézanne has exerted the strongest influence. His landscapes have made as
many disciples as his portraits, and his figure pieces and still-lives
are universally copied. But his greatest work, his water-colours, has
almost no following. In these he found his most facile and fluent
expression. His method of working in oil had always been the posing of
small, slightly oblong touches of colour which gave, his canvases the
appearance of perfect mosaics. In his water-colour pictures these
touches are placed side by side with little or no thought of their
ultimate objective importance, and they become larger planes of unmixed
tints juxtaposed in such a way that voluminous form results. His work in
this most difficult medium has an abstract significance, for in it even
the objective colouring of natural objects is unnoticeable. The colours
stand by themselves; and while the aspect of Cézanne’s pictures in this
medium is flat and almost transparent, the subjective emotion we feel
before them is greater than in his oil work. In these pictures there was
no going back to retouch. They had to be visualised as a whole before
they could be commenced. Each brush stroke had to be a definite and
irretrievable step toward the completion of the ensemble. As we study
them a slow shifting of the planes is felt: an emotional reconstruction
takes place, and at length the volumes begin their turning, advancing
and retreating as in his oil paintings, only here the purely æsthetic
quality is unadulterated by objective reality. In these water-colours,
more than in any of his other work, has he posed the question of
æsthetic beauty itself. When we contemplate them, we are more than ever
convinced that Cézanne was the first painter, that is, the first man to
express himself entirely in the medium of his art, colour. Unfortunately
these pictures are difficult of access. Only occasionally are they
exposed in a group. Bernheim-Jeune has a magnificent collection of them,
and it is to be hoped they will soon find their way into public museums.
Eventually, when a true comprehension of this great man comes, they will
supplant his other efforts. His desires for a pure art are here
expressed most intensely.

Cézanne, however, is not always able to “realise,” as he put it. Even in
these water-colours he did not attain his desire. He started too late in
life to acquire complete mastery over his enormous means. “One must be a
workman in one’s art, must know one’s method of realisation,” he said.
“One must be a painter by the very qualities of painting, by making use
of the rough materials of art.” He failed to gain that great facility by
which supreme realisation is achieved, because the span of life accorded
him was too short. He was old when his best work was begun, and like
Joseph Conrad, he had passed his youth before the great ambition fired
him. “Realising” to him meant the handling of his stupendous means as
easily as the academicians handled their puny ones. This he could never
do, and his age haunted him to the end. Many have taken him literally
when he said he desired to expose in Bouguereau’s _Salon_, but though he
earnestly wished it, he desired to be received there as Bouguereau was:
as one who had mastered his expression. “The exterior appearance is
nothing,” he explained. “The obstacle is that I don’t realise
sufficiently.” In other words, he did not have great enough fluency to
permit only the highest qualities of his art to be felt. In his gigantic
efforts to “realise,” his pictures changed colour and form many times
before they were finished. His respect and admiration for inferior men
like Bouguereau and Couture was due to their enviable facility in
handling their means. He knew that the fundamental and unalterable laws
of organisation had been found and perfected by the old masters, and
that, so long as we were human, we must build on their discoveries.
“Only to realise like the Venetians!” he cried. And later: “We must
again become classicists by way of nature, that is to say, by
sensation.... I am old, and it is possible I shall die without having
attained this great end.” A year before his death he said: “Yes, I am
too old; I have not realised, and I shall never realise now. I shall
remain the primitive of the way I have discovered.”

The prediction proved true, but his destiny was none the less a glorious
one. Deprived of the phrenetic impulse which took him in all weathers
over country roads to the “motif” from six o’clock in the morning until
dark, he would never have achieved what he did. The fact of this great
modern genius going to work in a hired carriage, too weak to walk,
should be a lesson to those painters who are always awaiting the
combination of propitious circumstances which will provide them with a
perfect studio, a perfect model and a perfect desire. Cézanne, however,
knew his high place in art history. Once when Balzac’s Le Chef-d’Œuvre
Inconnu was brought up in conversation and the name of its hero,
Frenhofer, was mentioned, he arose with tears in his eyes and indicated
himself with a single gesture. So sure was he of what he wanted to do
that when he failed he discarded his canvases. Many of them are only
half covered. He could never pad merely to fill out an arbitrary frame.

With Cézanne’s death came his apotheosis. As he had predicted, thousands
rushed in and cleverly imitated his surfaces, his colour gamuts, his
distortions of line. His white wooden tables and ruddy apples and
twisted fruit-dishes have lately become the etiquette of sophistication.
But all this is not authentic eulogy. Derain, his most ardent imitator,
is as ignorant of him as Nadelmann is of the Greeks or Archipenko is of
Michelangelo. And the majority of those who have written books
concerning him merely echo the unintelligent commotion that goes on
about his name. Cézanne’s significance lies in his gifts to the painters
of the future, to those in whom the creative instinct is a sacred and
exalted thing, to those serious and solitary men whose insatiability
makes of them explorers in new fields. To such artists Cézanne will
always be the primitive of the way that they themselves will take, for
there can be no genuine art of the future without his directing and
guiding hand. His postulates are too solidly founded on human organisms
ever to be ignored. He may be modified and developed: he can never be
set aside until the primal emotions of life are changed. Only today is
he beginning to be understood, and even now his claim to true greatness
is questioned. But Cézanne, judged either as a theorist or as an
achiever, is the preeminent figure in modern art. Renoir alone
approaches his stature. Purely as a painter he is the greatest the world
has produced. In the visual arts he is surpassed only by El Greco,
Michelangelo and Rubens.



VII

THE NEO-IMPRESSIONISTS


The Impressionists, although they turned their backs upon casual
selectivism and branched out into analytic research, had—contrary to the
generally accepted opinion—no precise and scientific method of colour
application. This came later with the advent of a group of painters who
have been called, in turn, Pointillists, Divisionists,
Chromo-luminarists and Neo-Impressionists, but who chose to regard
themselves only as the last of these four designations. And there is
perhaps more logic in this nomenclature, for it is not limited
technically; it contains no claim to achievement as does
Chromo-luminarism; and it suggests this new school’s consanguinity with
the movement out of which it grew. With Delacroix’s Journal, the
pictures of Claude Monet and Chevreul’s pioneer treatise on colour, De
la Loi du Contraste Simultané des Couleurs, the Neo-Impressionists
evolved a coldly scientific method of technique. By carrying a simple
premise to its ultimate conclusion, regardless of everything save the
exacting demands of logic, they endeavoured to heighten the emotional
effect of the Impressionist vision. In this movement, as in other
similar ones, can be detected the spirit which animates the ardent
visionary when he contemplates a novel method—the spirit which invites
him to go to even greater extremes. In it there is as much enthusiasm as
serious purpose, as much of the essence of youth as of the _arriviste_.
In no instance has such a spirit led to significant results; and the
Neo-Impressionists prove no exception. In looking too fixedly at means,
they lost sight of their ends. Their début took place at the last
concerted exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886 where the canvases of
Seurat and Signac were hung beside those of Cassatt, Bracquemond,
Morisot, Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Gauguin, Guillaumin, Redon,
Schuffenecker, Tillot, Degas, Forain and Vignon. Here was seen for the
first time the logical extension of the earlier methods of Monet and
Pissarro.

Georges Seurat had once been a good student at the Beaux-Arts, but his
quick, precise and questioning intelligence had saved him from falling
under the professorial injunctions. Most of his studying was done in the
art museums where he contemplated for long the old masters. Here he
discovered that “there are analogous laws which govern line, tone,
colour and composition, as much with Rubens as with Raphael, with
Michelangelo as with Delacroix: rhythm, measure and contrast.” (By
rhythm, measure and contrast he meant curved lines, space and
opposition.) Still searching for the secrets of art he studied the works
of the Orient and the writings of Chevreul, Superville, Humbert, Blanc,
Rood and Helmholtz. Then, by analysing Delacroix, he found
substantiation for his discoveries. The result of this study was, as
Signac tells us, his “judicious and fertile theory of contrasts.” From
1882 on he applied it to all his canvases. The theory in brief was to
use scientifically opposed spots of colour of more or less purity. This
method he might have learned direct from the first modern French master,
for in that artist’s Journal are discussed at length colour division;
optical admixture; the dramatic unity of colour, line and subject; and
the juxtaposition of complementaries for brilliancy.

Paul Signac’s evolution was different. He had first been under the
influence of Pissarro, Renoir, Monet and Guillaumin, and though being a
zealous pupil of their methods, he knew little of their motives. It was
only after he had observed the interplay and contrast of colours in
nature that he sought explanation in the works of his masters, the
Impressionists. Failing, he turned again to nature. In copying it, he
discovered that in the gradation from one colour to another, let us say
from blue to orange, the transition was always muddy and disagreeable
when mixed on the palette, although if distinct spots of these two
colours were juxtaposed in alternating ratio, the modulation would be
smooth and clean. This observation impelled him to seek a method whereby
this “passage” could be highly clarified. Consequently he completely
divided the Impressionists’ spots so that each individual touch remained
pure and at the same time left patches of the white canvas showing for
purposes of brilliancy. His next step led him to Chevreul whose theory
of complementaries he committed to memory. His technical education he
now deemed complete.

Seurat and Signac first met at the _Salon des Artistes Indépendants_ in
1884, and their discoveries were at once mutually appropriated. Signac’s
colour divisions, combined with Seurat’s more scholarly equilibrium of
elements, formed the nucleus from which evolved the Neo-Impressionists
who later repudiated Impressionism, using it only as the point from
which they leapt off into a morass of set formulas. It was a laudable
desire on the part of these new men, especially of Seurat, to try to
snatch from a purely inspirational school its halo of mystery and to
place painting methods on a sound rationalistic basis. But while they
were right in believing a picture should be more than the visual
accompaniment to sentiments, they should have gone deeper than the mere
exterior of painting. For example, they should have tried to see in what
plastic way their colour theories could be used, instead of limiting
themselves to the synthetic unity of æsthetic illustration. And they
should have tried to make a form-producing faculty of their light
instead of introducing into it another poetic element in the shape of
dramatic line. But they were more concerned with the clothes in the
wardrobe of art than in its body. Their painting, as a result, was
without sustaining structure.

With the Impressionists, as with all significant art movements, the
desire for change and for higher emotional power came first: the method
came later. With the Neo-Impressionists this order was reversed. Their
canvases for this reason are less emotional than those of their
forerunners. By limiting their palettes to certain pure colours they
restricted their diversity of interest. Even their aim at a scientific
art has gone far of the mark because their science was in many instances
faulty. By conditioning their methods on the observations of inaccurate
writers they were able to progress only so far as these observations
went. Chevreul is far from authoritative today: in fact there is no
comprehensive scientific work on colour in existence. Tudor-Hart, the
greatest of all colour scientists, has blasted many of the older
accepted theories of such men as Helmholtz, Rood and Chevreul, and his
experiments have shown conclusively that many of their postulates are
unreliable. The Neo-Impressionists were unaware of Chevreul’s errors,
and their minds were too literal to enable them to make new and more
advanced observations in the realm of colour. The meagre attention paid
them is not due to their novelty, but to the fact that they have done
nothing the Impressionists did not do better. They are like a cartridge
which, having all the combustible ingredients, fails to explode because
it is wet.

The Neo-Impressionists may, in refutation, point to music as a
scientific art. But it must be remembered that taste brought about the
construction of chords and that the mathematical explanation came later.
The primitive peoples who found an æsthetic pleasure in broken-up major
chords were ignorant of nodal points and the laws of vibration. The
early Assyrians had a pipe of three notes, C, E and G, perfectly
attuned, yet they were ignorant of the science of harmony. Taste in the
arts has always come first: science follows with its interpretations.
The Impressionists, through instinct, created their marvels of light
and atmosphere. Afterward the science of optics explained their efforts.
Personal taste was their only criterion, and no books could have taught
them their lesson, because their methods were so plastic that whatever
was to them artistically consistent was right. Had they been familiar
with science, it still would have remained to be applied: and it is only
by the superimposition of taste that knowledge in the artist becomes
pregnant. The Divisionists, by making a hard and fast code of science,
enslaved themselves to the demands of theories. The functioning of their
tastes was nullified. They therefore fell short of art.

In Signac’s book, D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme, are
explained many points of divergence between this school and that of the
Impressionists. The difference of the two methods may be exemplified by
describing the manner in which each approached a landscape wherein the
grass and foliage were partly in shadow and partly in sunlight. In such
a landscape the artist’s eye records a fleeting, dimly-felt impression
of red in that part of the green of the shadow which is nearest the
light region. The Impressionists, satisfied with having experienced this
sensation, hastened to put a touch of red on their canvas, while the
actual colour in nature might have been an orange, a vermilion, or even
a purple. In this haphazard choice of a red Signac detected
slovenliness. He says that the shadow of any colour is always lightly
tinted with the colour’s complementary; that if the light is
yellow-green the shadow will be touched with violet; if orange, the
shadow will contain blue-green. Had the Impressionists known this fact
and cared to use it, says Signac, they could have made their pictures
scientifically correct by posing the exact complementary of light in
their shadow. And he adds that it is difficult to see in just what way
this process would have harmed their work.

It is, however, not so difficult as he imagines. If, in copying nature
by a strictly scientific vision as the Neo-Impressionists advocate, we
closely study the light, we will discover not only that a local colour
is modified by the colour of the sun’s rays, but that an added suite of
colours is introduced by the absorption of some of the object’s
particles, by the encompassing air, and by the circumjacent reflections.
We may have (1) the local colour which, let us say, is green, (2) the
colour of sunlight, (3) the colour caused by atmospheric conditions, (4)
the reflection of sky, and (5) the reflection of the ground.
Furthermore, if the object has any indentures their shadows will lower
to a limited degree the whole tone of the object. At the least
calculation then we have (1) green, (2) yellow-orange, (3) any colour in
the cold region of the spectrum, (4) blue or violet, and (5) green,
brown, Venetian red or any colour in the warm region of the
spectrum:—all of which colours change and shift unceasingly, dependent
on the density of the air which obscures, to a lesser or greater degree,
the sun’s rays and hence changes the reflection from sky and ground,
thereby modifying the local colour. Thus it is impossible when copying
nature even to determine the colour of its lightened parts. And if a
colour premise cannot be established, it is obviously impossible to find
its exact complementary.

Suppose we admit that an approximate colour can be recorded for that
part of the landscape’s green which is in the light, that is, the green
whose complement is to be placed on the outskirts of the shadow. Let us
say that this green is technically a yellow-green, since it is in the
sun. Now the complement of yellow-green is not, as the
Neo-Impressionists hold, violet, but red-violet or purple. But, were
red-violet used in the shadow, its effect would be false, because, in
order for yellow-green to call up its pure complementary, the light
itself must be an intense yellow-green—so intense in fact that the local
colour of the object (whatever it is) is entirely absorbed and unable to
influence the light. Then, and only then, would the shadow be pure
purple, for the local colour, being nullified, would not interfere with
the optical sensation of complementaries. But on an object which appears
yellow-green in the light, the yellow of which is the sun’s rays and the
green the local colour, the shadow also is modified by the local colour
in the same proportion that the light is modified, only its modification
is in an opposite direction; that is, the yellow of the sun’s rays, in
raising green to yellow-green, lowers the green of the shadow to
blue-green. Therefore the shadow is not the complementary of the light
colour. But in the darkest part of the shadow, which is the boundary
dividing it from the light, there is a sensation of red derived from
purple, purple being the complementary of the yellow-green. Thus in a
blue object, though the pure complementary of the lighted part would be
orange, the shadow in sunlight is merely dark blue with that fugitive
sensation of red through it. In the shadow on such an object Signac
calls for pure orange, claiming that a vermilion, a lake or a purple is
out of place. His colour science in the abstract may be unimpeachable,
but his physics is faulty. The _sensation_ caused by the complementary
of the lighted part is that of a reddish tint; and so long as the
painter introduces a colour into the shadow so as to give this
impression of red, he is at least empirically, though not
scientifically, correct. There is only a sensation of red, not a
definite spot where red can be placed; and for the canvas to be truthful
emotionally there must be only that sensation of red in the painted
shadow. And the only way to produce it without making a spot of orange,
which is a light colour and which in its pure state has no properties in
common with shadow, is to use a colour which is intimately connected
with shadow and which contains the elements of both light and shadow.
Thus in the cold bluish-orange shadow of a blue object there must be
placed a cold lake or a purple which partakes of both the light and
shadow and therefore does not offend the eye by its isolation. In the
bluish or blue-green shadow of a yellow-green object, a purple is too
aggressive and blatant, while a blue-violet or an attenuated violet is
doubly harmonious.

Indeed there is another reason why complementaries should not be used,
but merely their approximations set down. Perfect complementaries
neutralise each other and, when optically mixed or applied in such small
particles in a pure state that at a short distance the eye cannot
distinguish their limitations, produce a metallic and acid grey which is
to colour harmony what noise is to music. When C and G♭ are struck
together the sensitive ear revolts in the same way a sensitive eye
revolts at complementaries in colour. But while in music a minor, or
diminished, fifth is displeasing, by increasing or reducing the interval
a semitone, by making it, for instance, C—F or C—G, a pleasing effect
can be obtained. In colour also this principle holds good. The
complementary combination of red and green is harsh, but by placing red
with one of the spectrum tones on either side of green a pleasurable
harmony is at once established. The Impressionists through instinct
generally made use of colours which primitively or softly harmonised,
again proving the ascendency of taste over system, for if taste is
sensitive it will be verified by science. Science, however, cannot
create taste. When we consider the Neo-Impressionists’ antagonistic and
neutralising complementaries, it is difficult to understand their
criticism of Impressionism. The Impressionists, they said, “put a little
of everything everywhere, and in the resulting polychromatic tumult
there were antagonistic elements: in neutralising each other, they
deadened the ensemble of the picture.” Now in the entire range of colour
from violet to yellow there is hardly a possible dual combination which
cannot be made harmonious by the addition of one or two other colours.
In this process of complication lie the infinite harmonic possibilities
of sound as well as of colour. There are no two notes in music which,
though when struck together are jarring, cannot be drawn into a perfect
chord by the introduction of certain other notes. And any two lines, no
matter how inapposite, can be æsthetically related by other lines
properly placed. Even were the Neo-Impressionists, in their criticism,
referring to the placing of blue in light and of yellow in shadow, they
would still be open to refutation, for their predecessors, by placing on
their canvases the colours they had _felt_ in contemplating their
models, were once more emotionally right although not exactly right from
the standpoint of abstract science.

With all the brilliancy of their pure pigments the Neo-Impressionists
have yet to produce a canvas as brilliant or as harmonious as those of
the Impressionists. The reason is not far to seek. In an Impressionist
picture there is a certain amount of neutrality caused by mixing the
colour of light with that of blue shadow; and this mixture heightens the
scintillation of the ensemble. The Divisionists, on the other hand, went
so far as to abolish neutrality altogether. In raising all values to a
point of saturation, they diminished the brilliancy of the picture as a
whole. It is to be doubted seriously if even Signac is still of the
belief that the Pointillists’ squares of colour blend optically.
Theoretically they should, but actually the impression we receive is not
one of vibrant light. We see only an extended series of spots which are
all about the same size—a size which was varied but little as the
dimensions of the canvas varied, as was the case with the
Impressionists. But these latter artists mixed their spots not only on
the palette but on the canvas as well, and blent them into neighbouring
spots. The result was a richly decorated surface whose minute parts do
not foist themselves upon our sight. But in Signac, Cross, Van
Rysselberghe, Dubois-Pillet, Luce, Petitjean, Van de Velde or
Augrand, who developed these means to their ultimate limits, these spots
are so displeasing and obtrusive that it is mentally impossible to lose
sight of them in the contemplation of the pictures. All of these artists
produce flat work, with the possible exception of Van Rysselberghe who
has merely superposed this technique on an obvious and insensitive
academism. He is to the Neo-Impressionists what Henri Martin is to
Monet.

[Illustration: LES TOURS VERTES À LA ROCHELLE by SIGNAC]

There has been too much credit taken by the Neo-Impressionists for the
discovery of this stippling technique. As a matter of fact it is not
wholly original with them. Turner, Constable, Delacroix, Jongkind,
Fantin-Latour, Cézanne and the Impressionists were all interested in
breaking nature up into parts in order to arrive at a dynamic
representation of the whole. The process with them was commendable, but
the Chromo-luminarists carried it to such an extreme that they saw
nature only in order to break it into spots. They repudiate vehemently
the appellation of Pointillists, and the name that Émile Bernard gave
them—Pointists—has remained beneath their notice. They point out that
one may be a Pointillist without being a Divisionist, for Pointillism is
the using of colour in spots so as to avoid its flat application, while
“division” is the application of separated spots of pure pigment for the
purpose of bringing about an optical admixture. The idea of optical
admixture was born when some one placed several planes of different
colours on a disc and, by revolving it rapidly, caused them to blend
perfectly. Immediately the Neo-Impressionists jumped to the conclusion
that distance would accomplish the same result with any-sized spots.
This assumption was their initial error. There is a very definite limit
to the size of colour spots which at a distance will blend optically,
and the artists of this school, with the one exception of Seurat, made
their spots too large. Delacroix never juxtaposed large strips of
complementaries in one plane, but applied hachures of almost the same
tint. The effect would have been little different had he painted flatly,
except for the richer _matière_ this method produced. The Impressionists
mixed their colours both on the palette and on the canvas, except when
they wished to reproduce a certain texture that called for small lights
and shadows placed side by side. And Cézanne modulated his colour spots
so that there were no jumps or hiatuses between them.

The Neo-Impressionistic methods have no such subtleties. In applying
their colour these painters keep each spot separated from its neighbour
by a tiny bit of white canvas which is intended to give added light to
each part. The spots are unmixed and are applied straight from the
palette in preponderating proportions to obtain certain general colour
impressions. They use only the seven colours of the prismatic spectrum,
and in thus restricting their palette they have limited their range of
greys. Since nature itself is a series of high-pitched greys in which
only occasionally does a pure colour appear, they were inadequately
equipped for reproducing it. If, by raising all tints to their purity,
they hoped to obtain the maximum of colouration and therefore the
maximum of luminosity, they overlooked the fact that to produce any
light whatever there must be negation or shadow. They failed to achieve
light because they equalised the brilliancy of all colours. Even to
produce colour there must be black or grey. Their equilibrium of
elements led to the cold grey aspect of their work and to the acid and
inharmonious effect of their colour.

The desire of the Neo-Impressionists to improve upon the Impressionistic
vision was a sincere one, and in their striving for dramatic means for
heightening the already intense emotional power of their forerunners’
work, they showed themselves to be animated by an ambition for change
and improvement without which no vital innovation can be made. Their
desire was commendable, but their science was inadequate. Their modern
spirit was best shown in their search for the significance of line in
its harmonic relation to colour and tone. The impetus to this search
emanated from Seurat who dictated to his biographer, Jules Christophe:
“Art is harmony; harmony is the analogy of contraries (contrasts), the
analogy of likes (gradated), of tone, of tint, of line;—tone, that is to
say, the light and dark; tint, that is to say, red and its complement
green, orange and blue, yellow and violet; line, that is to say,
horizontal directions.... The means of expression is the optical
admixture of tones and tints and of their reactions (shadows) following
fixed laws.” Delacroix had already turned his eyes in the direction of
the harmony of lines and colours. It will be recalled that he wrote in
his Journal: “If to a composition, interesting in its choice of subject,
you add a disposition of lines, which augments the impression, a
chiaroscuro which seizes the imagination, and a colour which is adapted
to the characters, it is then a harmony, and its combinations are so
adapted that they produce a unique song.... It is good not to let each
brush stroke melt into the others; they will appear uniform at a certain
distance by the sympathetic law which associates them.”

The Neo-Impressionists, taking their cue from Seurat’s observations,
state that the first consideration of a painter before a blank canvas
should be to determine what curves and what arabesques are going to
divide the surface, and what colours and tones cover it. Even in this
aim they went further than the Impressionists who neither ordered nor
synthesised their works formally. The Neo-Impressionists say they do not
commence a canvas until they have determined its complete arrangement.
Then, guided by tradition and science, they harmonise the composition
with their conception. That is to say, they adapt the lines, colours and
tones to an order which æsthetically expresses the character of emotion
their model calls up in them. They hold that horizontal lines give calm;
ascending lines, joy; descending lines, sorrow; and that the
intermediary lines represent the infinite variations of emotions that
lie outside these first three types. But they offer no explanation of
the analogies between these intermediate lines and the kinds of emotion
they are supposed to call up. They go on to explain that hot tints and
light tonalities should be applied to ascending lines, cold tints and
sombre tonalities to descending lines, and an equal amount of light and
dark to the horizontal lines. “Thus,” they add, “the painter becomes a
creator and a poet.”

All this theorising would be important for the dramatic illustrators
were it entirely true. But while a line placed horizontally may
represent calm, the same line made perpendicular or laid at an angle of
forty-five degrees will also produce calm. The straight line varies so
little in its significance, no matter at what angle it is placed, that
its direction is negligible from an emotional standpoint. The _degree of
curve_ in a line is its emotional element, and only when varying curves
come in contact is the highest formal emotion obtained. The straight
line is the lifeless, the static, the immobile. As such it can serve
only as a foil to the curved line, for it is the straight that makes the
curved of value. Their theory concerning hot colours and high tones is
sounder than their linear theory; but in copying a joyous landscape is
one not _forced_ to put on high tonalities and hot colours, since it is
in _seeing_ these high values that we experience the sensation of joy?
And is it not from the low values in nature that we receive our
sensation of sorrow? One may accentuate the colours and tones, but if
they are too strongly intensified they will approach the other extreme
and produce dead and mournful landscapes. This accentuation the
Neo-Impressionists carried to the limit permitted by their pigments.
Their ideas of line and of joyous and sombre colours are undoubtedly of
value if profoundly and extensively comprehended and properly applied.
But, in order to become significant, line must only delimit organisation
and become volume; and colour, instead of merely producing joy and
sorrow, must bring about form. Then again, there is that world lying on
the further side of flatness which must be explored.

With all their theorising and attempts to obtain brilliancy, the
Neo-Impressionists produce only grey work. From the first these artists
were too coldly intellectual, and it matters little whether their
science was right or wrong when we contemplate their pictures. Were
their science perfect they could never have created art which goes
beyond the arabesque and the poetry of arrangement, for they were not
fundamental even in their aims. They have all painted different subjects
in slightly varying manners, but, apart from Seurat’s, all their
canvases have these things in common: a uniform range of colour, a set
method of technique, and the hard and “noisy” contrasts which in their
larger works produce a veritable din. Those of the Neo-Impressionists
who are still living claim to have completed Cézanne, Pissarro and
Delacroix, to have perfected a method, to have expanded logically the
Impressionists to something worth while, to be in accord with Rood and
Chevreul, to have brought great harmony into painting, to have taken
painting into the pure realms of poesy and symphonic musical
composition. Alas, that their claims have no substantiation in our
receptivities!

[Illustration: UN DIMANCHE À LA GRANDE-JATTE by SEURAT]

Seurat, the founder, was the only genuinely artistic man of the
movement, and an early death denied him his chance to develop. Though
seduced by too exacting a process, he has nevertheless given us some
sensitive and delicately beautiful canvases. Le Chahut, Le Cirque and Un
Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte are saturated with light, and in them is
an undeniable order of parallel lines. His colours were never as harsh
and acid as those of his confrères, and his pictures have a blond
tonality which the other men of the movement entirely lack. His crayon
drawings, from the standpoint of tonal experimentation, are interesting
and seem almost like paintings. He had a great talent, and had he lived
we might have expected great things from it. He was more vitally
interested in style than in technical methods, and in his conclusions
stemmed directly from Delacroix. His spottings were much smaller and
more effective than those of the other Pointillists. His desire was to
express an idea through the medium of nature, not to copy nature in
order to relate the sensation it gave the artist. His painting was
synthetic. All details and accidents of colour and silhouette he set
aside as useless. His is an art of parallels and analogies, of
sensitivity and analysis; in fact, it has all those qualities which,
were they present in greater strength, would produce significant
pictures. He was of one piece; and his development, once he had begun to
paint, was an even one toward a definite goal. In him, alone of the
members of the group, we find an artist and not an illustrator. Those
who liken him to Aubrey Beardsley have less reason for their comparison
than the ones who see parallels between Gainsborough and Renoir. Compare
the quoted remarks of Seurat concerning tone, line and colour with
Signac’s summing up of his method, and the temperamental differences
between the artist and the scientist will at once be seen. Signac says
his method is “observation of the laws of colour, the exclusive use of
pure tints, the renunciation of all attenuated mixings, and the
methodical equilibrium of elements.”

One of the most noted followers of the Neo-Impressionistic methods was
the Hollander, Vincent van Gogh. Although generally considered in
critical essays as an unrelated phenomenon in the art heavens, he is
closely allied to Signac and to Delacroix through Seurat. He adopted
painting, one is inclined to believe, because his verbal eloquence was
inadequate to bring the Belgian miners to repentance. He had studied for
the ministry, but like most men who, finding themselves strictly limited
in one vocation, essay another, he found himself equally limited in his
second. He drifted back to Holland and began to study painting in the
studio of Mauve, a relative of his by marriage. His ardent, even
flamboyant, desire to do good to everyone who crossed his path needed an
outlet, and he found an emotional substitute for pamphleteering in the
physical and mental exertion of painting. In this work he could preach
unchecked, secure from arrest. He loved Millet because Millet loved the
down-trodden. He loved Delacroix because of that artist’s dramatic
inspiration. He loved Daumier because he imagined he saw in Daumier a
satire on the beast in man. He loved Monticelli because in that
Provençal he sensed a wild gypsy mind and a kindred unrestraint in the
use of colour. And he loved Diaz because Diaz was a poetic woodman.

Before coming to Paris Van Gogh had studied in the Antwerp Academy, and
while in the French capital he met and was influenced by Pissarro. Here
he also became acquainted with Bernard and Gauguin, adopting the
Divisionistic methods from Seurat. He used only pure colours on his
palette and mixed them only with white and black. Later he went to Arles
where in two years, from 1887 and 1889, he painted the great bulk of his
work, averaging four canvases a week through sickness, drink, insanity
and disease. In him we have a perfect example of just how little can be
done with pure enthusiasm unorganised by intellectual processes. His
pictures display an entire lack of order, whether it be of colour, line
or silhouette: there was never any form in them. His work is plainly the
labour of the fanatic who, in a fury of pent-up desire to express
himself, suddenly seizes a palette and brush and applies colours almost
at random. Indeed, some of his pictures were completed in a few minutes.
Even many of those in which the symbology had to be thought out at
length, were painted in an hour.

That Van Gogh was an illustrator is undeniable; but he was an
illustrator of the abstract gropings of an unbalanced mind avid for
dramatic emotions, rather than of exterior nature. His landscapes seem
to portend the calm before some great upheaval, or to express a
supernatural energy poised for an act of total annihilation. In them
there are frenzied lines running zigzag and at random, and rolling
clouds of purple and lurid yellow hanging over raucously bright roofs.
His portraits remain with us as memories of a feverish nightmare. They
are too hollow and immaterial to appear even as a depiction of form. His
colours carried out this feeling of dramatic terror, and because they
were not harmonised with either line or tone, they became all the more
chaotic. He never kept to the spots that Signac and Seurat had given
him. His impatience was too great; the fire burned too furiously. He
elongated them into strips like straw, and they give his work the
appearance of haystacks. He covered with one stroke more space than
Seurat covered with twenty strokes.

This has been called his own _apport_ to art. In Gauguin, however, the
same stroke is used, not so heavily loaded with pure colour, to be sure,
but just as long. But in Gauguin the strokes are less noticeable because
they all have an analogous direction. With Van Gogh they rush wildly
about, now one way, now another, sometimes covering the canvas entirely,
sometimes separated to let the white show through. This separating was
not done for the same reasons as in Signac, but because Van Gogh’s
impatience was too great to permit him to go back and cover. His figures
are outlined in broad black or coloured lines, and colours are
juxtaposed with their complementaries. In a Portrait d’Homme, done in
1889, the background is laid in with a bright green over which are
superimposed polka-dots of pure vermilion surrounded by a darker green,
the whole striped with yellow and light vermilion flourishes. On this is
a yellowish face whose pompadour hair is made of black, vermilion and
light violet. The collar is light green, red and blue; the striped
cravat, red and white; the coat, violet and green; the shirt, pure green
outlined in pure lake, with orange buttons on it; and the picture’s
inscription—Vincent, Arles, ’89—is signed in vermilion. In this
painting is evidenced his impetuous method. He seemed to feel that
the greater the exertion, the greater the relief from that repressed
passion which egged him on to action.

[Illustration: PORTRAIT DE L’ARTISTE by VAN GOGH]

Landscapes he liked, and he took pleasure in doing copies of other men.
In such works there was no hard and set reality to follow as in
still-lives and portraiture. Here the colour could be splashed on almost
haphazardly. He himself said that still-life was a relaxation. He felt
this because to paint still-life his enthusiasm was restricted. Anything
served for a subject—an old boot, a single vase, a coffee-pot. One
imagines he tossed these models onto a table from the opposite side of
the room, and painted them in whatever position they fell. In this
carelessness the public sees “inspiration.” And indeed his canvases were
inspired, but only in the same way a starving man is inspired to throw
himself upon a sumptuous meal. He painted because he was forced to, and
when painting is merely a physical necessity indulged in to express an
unordered religious mania, it ceases to interest the æsthetician who
searches for a complete cosmos bodied forth in subjective form.

As a decorator Van Gogh is too turbulent and forward; as a painter of
easel pictures he is too chaotic and unintelligible; but as a blast of
misdirected enthusiasm he is not without power. His symbolism, while not
being of the variety which presents Grecian figures as abstract virtues,
is nevertheless of the same order. He tells us that in painting a young
man he loved, he would make the head a golden yellow and orange, and the
background a rich and intense blue, as well as transcribing the
physical likeness to epitomise his love. Thus depicted the young man
would be “like a bright star in the boundless infinite taking on a
mysterious importance.” Again he writes: “Had I had the strength to
continue, I would have done saints and holy women from nature, who would
have seemed to belong to another age. They would have been the bourgeois
of the present, having many parallels with the old primitive
Christians.” We see what he was after.

Van Gogh possessed all the modern socialistic ideals. He held that
individuals could do nothing alone, but should work in communities, one
doing the colour, one the drawing, another the composition, etc. In his
desire for this democratic art factory is seen his absence of
self-confidence. It is not strange when we consider his adherence all
his life to so childish a technical programme as Divisionism. This
adherence marked the main difference between him and Gauguin. The latter
detested the Divisionistic method. He wanted to adapt nature’s colour
and effect to decoration, while Van Gogh wanted to make only abstract
dramatic tapestries. They both succeeded; and though the canvases of
Gauguin have the peaceful utilitarian destiny of interior decoration
awaiting them, Van Gogh’s work, once we are rid of the modern habit of
welcoming all disorganised and purely enthusiastic work as profound,
will be laid aside forever. He was psychiatric and expended the greater
part of his feverish energy through the channel of painting. But he did
little more than use a borrowed and inharmonious palette to express
ideas wholly outside the realm of art.



VIII

GAUGUIN AND THE PONT-AVEN SCHOOL


The descriptive in art has always seduced the eye of the superficial
majority. From this accidental and nugatory side of painting the public
has derived all its enjoyment. The moment a depicted object is
recognised, the general pleasure in the arts increases; and the moment
the accepted vision of the object is modified or distorted, this
pleasure decreases and in many instances ceases altogether. One school
which deals with a certain class of subjects has its own admirers; while
another school which treats of dissimilar subjects has a different
following. Furthermore, the manner in which subjects are
portrayed—realistically or impressionably, poetically or prosaically—has
its individual adherents. Persons whose temperamental tastes make them
antipodal to one method of transcription become enthusiastic over
another, irrespective of the fact that the æsthetic merits of the
different procedures are equal. Those whose criterion is prettiness are
naturally attracted to Whistlerian and Cubistic modes. Idealists lean
toward the symbolic and transcendental painters like Van Gogh and Redon.
Hardy persons who live largely on the physical plane prefer Ribera,
Franz Hals, Sorolla or Dürer. Simple sensualists admire Goya, Rubens,
Bronzino, the erotic prints of the Japanese, or the pictures of the
Little Dutchmen. Biblical students choose the primitives or the painters
of religious subjects. Architects like Guardi, Gentile Bellini and
Canaletto. Personal tastes in life dictate tastes in art; the reason
some have a wider taste than others is because their interests are
larger.

The average person forms his art attachments in the same way he chooses
friends. For this reason many art lovers are passionately attracted to
Gauguin, while others, obsessed with the theories of modernity, are
impervious to the inherent appeal he incontestably possesses. The
Impressionists were enamoured of nature. Their pictures have an almost
human physiognomy and are thoroughly joyous. In them one senses the
abstract love of beautiful country-sides, blue distances and
scintillating lights. They arouse an emotion in the popular mind because
of the familiarity of their themes. Gauguin was not content with the
landscapes of civilisation. He wanted something more elemental—scenes
where an unspoilt and untamed nature gave birth to a race of simple and
colourful character. He felt the need of harmonising his people with
their _milieu_. To him it seemed inconsistent to place a fully dressed
man or woman in a primitive forest or on the banks of a turbulent stream
innocent of commercial traffic. There was a positive immodesty in
combining a puny figure, whose body was too distorted by work to show
itself unclothed, with the majestic nakedness of a primeval landscape.
Millet’s peasants in plowed fields and Raffaelli’s clothed figures in
busy streets were not incongruous; but in most of the landscapes of
Gauguin’s day cultivated moderns stalked where Corot had once put nymphs
and Titian, Antiopes.

Gauguin’s sense of harmony in idea precluded any such irrelevancies and
anachronisms. His painting was perhaps the highest and most consistent
type of illustration the world has produced. Judged from this
standpoint, on which it was based consciously, his art was complete. And
inasmuch as he did not strive for profounder things, it is from this
standpoint that he must be approached. What impetus he gave to art came
out of his desire to view nature simply, like a child, at the same time
equipped with all the weapons of a modern intelligence. His art
consequently has not only the interest of historic reconstruction but an
added interest which, in spite of our veneer of cultivation and
education, we all feel at times for perfect lassitude and elemental
unrestraint. No man is so intellectual that he cannot enjoy occasional
recreation and a forgetfulness of mental activities. Indeed the greatest
minds react so completely at times that they demand the crudest
stimulants—melodrama, wild Arabian chants, romance and physical
intoxication. Gauguin, appearing in the midst of gigantic and
epoch-making æsthetic endeavours, embodied this spirit of reaction. It
was a grave and serious world in which he found himself—the world of
Cézanne, Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. His nature was too timid
and simple for him to throw himself into the whirlpool. Instinctively he
sought a haven far removed from the strife about him.

In the contemplation of the canvases of this modern savage we enter
that side of the broad field of æsthetics where the whole world can
escape, as for a holiday, from the stress of intellectual research,
there to enjoy art simply and receptively, as one enjoys a dream of
strange lands. In Gauguin there is a power which impels our interest,
hunts out our instinct for the exotic and calls to the fore a romantic
love of adventure and a desire for far countries. In this appeal no
other painting succeeds like his—not even the Persian landscapes, the
Chinese pictorial visions of heaven, or the lurid images of Gustave
Moreau. In Gauguin’s South Sea Island canvases are crystallised our
hopes for a Utopian peace, our vague memories of an untramelled
prehistoric age. Calm and sunlight, the sea and wild mountains—all are
here. And we find ourselves amid a peaceful, music-loving and simple
people who, we imagine, would welcome the tired traveller and gather
round him with offerings of fruit and flowers as he lands on their
golden beach.

Gauguin is purely an image-maker. So abstract a painter is he that his
pictures are merely the point of departure from which our thoughts leap
into an unlimited world of pleasurable visualising. They move us
emotionally, even mentally, but never æsthetically. We feel before them
exactly what we feel when reading that extraordinary and unique book of
his, Noa Noa. Indeed he was more literary than artistic, and to
appreciate him fully one should read first his biography written by Jean
de Rotonchamp,—then Noa Noa. After that his pictures will take on a new
meaning. He makes his dreams so forceful that we too start to dream
before them. His art is of the same calibre as that of Altichiero,
Michelino da Bosozzo, Ortolano, the Borassa school, Manet and Degas. All
these men are illustrators of a high order; all are impelled by the
complete sincerity of their visions; and all are interesting because of
their freedom of expression. It is a new adventure each time we see one
of their works, for adventure is merely contact with the unexpected. In
Gauguin this _imprévu_ is not restricted to unconventionality of balance
and the extraordinary arrangement of objects; but expresses itself in
the actual subject-matter as well. His savages, ready to kill or love
with equal unconcern, bring up to us our childhood enthusiasms for the
tales of Swift, Defoe and Pierre Loti. His pictures epitomise the call
of the natural, the delight in perfect freedom, the ideal of an
unclothed age.

But though his work is calm and outside the world of strife and
endeavour, his life was turbulent, and tortured by reiterated
disappointments. Toward the end he wrote to a friend that he fell
over-often, and arose only to fall again. As with the sailor new
horizons ever stretched before him, and their promise of better things
was never consummated. His energy was drained by a continual struggle
against the forces of civilisation just as the sailor’s is weakened by
unceasing battles against the elements. The spot where at last he found
refuge was far from his ideal. But in this ideal world he always
imagined himself living, and his painting took on its colour and
atmosphere. Just as he advised his followers to draw a curtain in front
of their models, so he drew the veil of imagination before his eyes and
saw only what he wished to see. In this almost fanatic idealism he was
undoubtedly actuated by fear of life’s gross realities, for he was not
content merely to live apart: he was forever attempting to ameliorate
the trying conditions which arose from French misrule in the Marquesas.
For his pains he was condemned to gaol and later was made an outcast.
This friction with the established order, however, had to do only with
Gauguin the man. Gauguin the artist remained to the end a contented and
passionate dreamer.

To understand his art and its actuating impulses it is necessary to know
something of his colourful and adventuresome life. Of all modern
painters, he, more than any other, was reflected in his work. As a youth
he had gone to sea and served a six-year apprenticeship before the mast.
He next became a successful banker and to all outward appearances was
satisfied with the status of a wealthy citizen. But all the time the
love of change and the nostalgia for strange lands were at work within
him, and though spending six days a week in an office he painted every
Sunday. It was Pissarro, admired by Gauguin from the first, who
persuaded him to forego everything save his art. This he did in 1883.
From that time on he became a derelict who had to seek support from his
friends. Although at times he was forced to work in offices, edit papers
and grow fruit, the donations from those he knew were the backbone of
his resources. He had met Van Gogh in Paris in 1886, and two years later
accepted the latter’s invitation to visit him on the bounty of Van
Gogh’s brother Theodore at Arles in the south of France. Here, where he
had expected to find conditions conducive to work, his life was,
according to his own accounts, in constant danger. The Dutchman, he
says, attacked him often, and sometimes Gauguin, awaking with a start,
would see Van Gogh stealing across the room to him with a knife. Such a
life was impossible, and after a regrettable incident in which he was
blamed for the amputation of Van Gogh’s ear, he returned to Paris. The
year before this he had made a short trip to Martinique, and while in
Europe had lived at Pouldu, Copenhagen, Rouen, Pont-Aven, Concarneau and
Paris. Again he went to Brittany. He wanted quiet and was ever ill at
ease among the superficialities of a hypocritical civilisation. But
there, while protecting a negress, he was attacked by some sailors, and
his injuries forced him to return once more to Paris. The negress had
preceded him, and when he arrived he discovered that she had robbed him
of his entire studio equipment.

At this time, Verlaine, Moréas, Aurier, Julien Leclerc and Stuart
Merril, who called themselves the symbolist poets, saw in him a comrade.
In 1891 they gave a benefit performance in the Vaudeville for him and
Verlaine. Maeterlinck’s L’Intruse was staged for the first time, and
Gauguin’s share of the proceeds was enough to pay his passage to his
longed-for tropics. Two years later found him back again with many
canvases and a strange and grotesque costume, heavy rings on every
finger, wooden shoes and a cane of his own carving. He was impatient for
praise and admiration and large sales; but none of these came to him.
At a sale of his work in the Hôtel Drouot in 1895 so small a sum was
realised that his friends again took pity on him, and Carrière secured
him a cheap passage back to his beloved islands. His adventures in the
tropics make poetic and romantic reading. His premature death, at which
only one old cannibal was present, was a fitting climax to a life given
over to a hopeless search for the ideal.

While still in a banker’s office, and before he had met Pissarro,
Gauguin had painted as an amateur; and as early as 1873 he had exposed a
landscape. But when he became personally acquainted with Pissarro, who
had a way of inflaming the minds of the younger and naturally
revolutionary men of his day, his impulses toward art became
overpowering. His early training under this violent heretic was so
thorough that he never made a concession to the public or retrogressed
toward scholastic formulas. Being a born painter, he quickly absorbed
the ideas of the Impressionists, and exposed with them in the Rue des
Pyramides in 1880 and 1881. His first canvases were wholly
Impressionistic and much like Guillaumin’s. Even as late as 1887, after
he had known Cézanne and had become imbued with the blazing brilliancy
of Martinique, Gauguin still clung to his earlier technique. His Paysage
de la Martinique is one of his best-ordered works and also one of his
most fluent. However, he had become dissatisfied with Impressionist
precepts and had gone to Brittany to get closer to a more natural
people, to a cruder and more rugged landscape. There he had seen and
admired the Gothic statues, the simplicity of which appealed to him
intensely. On his return from the South Seas these statues, direct,
stiff and archaic, combined with his late vision of scintillant light
and hot, luscious colour, became active influences in his work.

Gauguin had a considerable amount of Peruvian Indian blood in him, and
his desire for the South was not a superficial one. Rather was it an
atavistic necessity for the wild that made him intolerant of cities and
culture and highly complex modes of living. This same instinct,
manifesting itself through his art, drove him toward a simple and direct
statement of a vision, toward an unrestraint which no civilised
community would permit him. He wanted something naïve—something
expressed by broad planes and rich colours. He had imitated the
Impressionists, copied Manet’s Olympia and seen Giottos; and by reducing
these varied influences to their simplest terms he made his art. Émile
Bernard, an indifferent painter and writer, who temperamentally was not
unlike Gauguin, claims priority for this manner of painting; but even if
it were true, it would mean nothing. Gauguin’s canvases of 1888 give
undeniable promise of what he would eventually do, and in 1889 his
Jeunes Bretonnes fully reveals the trend of all his later endeavours.
Bernard was at best but a clever imitator, and his canvases in Gauguin’s
style appear inferior and superficial when compared with such pieces as
Tahïtiennes and Ruperupe.

The Impressionists went toward descriptive beauty, but Gauguin searched
for and found an emotional interpretation of nature adapted to large
decoration. It is problematical whether or not he is artistically
indebted to Van Gogh, for one can attribute the fact that he painted his
best European pictures immediately after his return from Arles either to
Van Gogh’s teachings or to the effects of southern colour and
atmosphere. The question though is of little importance. Every man, no
matter how great or small, goes through a formative period in which he
receives numerous influences. At any rate, just before Van Gogh died he
called Gauguin “_maître_.” During their final periods, however, we know
that the two men differed totally; and in 1891 Gauguin showed that he
was under no man’s influence. In the Femmes Assises à l’Ombre des
Palmiers and Vaïraoumati Téi Oa, he was already the Gauguin we know so
well. The first is a sunlit landscape with the hills and palm-trees
broadly and flatly painted. The women who are seated in the great pool
of cool shade have all the sagely childish drawing that we find later in
his more complete pictures. In the second, the flowered stuffs, the
heavy limbs and the perpendicularity of design, which appear so
frequently later on, are more than suggested; and the colour has all the
beauty of his best efforts.

It was after Gauguin’s first sojourn to the Islands that he came back to
France a barbarian, eager to stupefy the world of arts not only by his
pictures but by his very attire. In this he failed. The public had
barely recovered from its Impressionist shock, and Gauguin went to
Brittany. Here he gathered about him many of the painters he had known
before, as well as some new ones, and formed a group of young men who
were ready to react against the pettiness of the Neo-Impressionistic
methods and to establish a new art school. They called themselves
Synthesists, afterward Cloisonnists, and some of them later became
Classicists. Here forgathered Sérusier, Maurice Denis, Filiger, De Hahn,
Seguin, Verkade, Anquetin, Laval, Louis Ray, Chamaillard, Fauché,
Bernard and Schuffenecker, few of whom are discoverable today. Among
these painters the slightest tendency toward divisionistic methods was
looked upon as heresy; and religious pictures were in the ascendant,
especially with Verkade. The enthusiasm of these young men for their
simple and “synthetic” retrogression to the elemental led them to
decorate tavern walls and ceilings, to paint windows and barn doors, and
to proclaim themselves on all occasions as the only authoritative and
vital artists of the day. They had forgotten Renoir and Cézanne because
they detested all intellectual and scientific accuracy. And they had not
known the latter with sufficient intimacy to be directly influenced by
his work. Under the sway of Gauguin’s unsophisticated æsthetics and
Bernard’s rhetorical eloquence they went far afield in their search for
a simple and elemental synthesis. Zeal was not wanting. They argued,
caroused and fought continually. This last activity was the cause of
Gauguin’s lameness all the rest of his life. Little or nothing of
lasting merit came out of this group which, though it moved from
Pont-Aven to Pouldu, has come to be known as the Pont-Aven School. Most
of its members are dead or have been swallowed up in the commercial
currents of today. A few, like Bernard, Fauché and Schuffenecker, are
doing indifferent art. They contributed nothing to the modern idea
outside of the impetus they gave to the anti-academic spirit. There was
among them more enthusiasm than talent, more polemical energy than
genius.

Gauguin, though he talked as loudly as the others, painted also. At
length their conversations lost their novelty for him. He felt once more
the call of his Islands. He was still after an ideal, a congenial
setting. These things France could not give him. Again, the necessity of
accepting charity from his friends was too humiliating a trial for a
nature so timid. His high-handed attitude was only a mask to hide his
desire to shrink away. He was always uneasy in cities and unhappy among
people who did not try to understand him. He detested the
artificialities of Parisian women. His robust sensuality craved a more
solid and artless Eve. In France his nature, so responsive to the glow
of colour and the primitive lure of archaic forms, saw only chill tints
and inutile complications. To him the South meant the richness and heat
of romantic emotions, the satiety of the senses. It appealed to his deep
love of chaotic and untrammelled nature. He had tasted it before in his
seafaring, and he turned to it now as to an only salvation. It was at
this time that Carrière arranged the passage. Gauguin was never to see
Europe again.

The Impressionists had made infinitesimal spots of colour in order to
imitate as exactly as possible the colour effect of nature and to
increase the dynamic power of a canvas by making it give off a light of
its own. By this technique they had incorporated both air and sunlight
into their art. The Neo-Impressionists made mathematical the
Impressionists’ haphazard stippling and had turned the spots into almost
symmetrical squares. The squares were slightly separated, and the bare
canvas was permitted to show between them in order to achieve a greater
brilliance and a more vivid light. Van Gogh later elongated these
squares into threads until his pictures resembled tapestries. There was
no longer the technical unconcern in painting which Pissarro and Monet
had prescribed. Paradoxically enough, while art was growing more
scientific it was also becoming less significant. With the men of
Pont-Aven the reaction against a too technically self-conscious painting
began to set in. Their ardent advocacy of primitive conception and
method was the rebound from the pseudo-scientific verbiage which, in the
“advanced” studios, took the place of good painting. Consequently they
favoured the broad arrangement of surfaces; classic, if the artist
leaned temperamentally in that direction; barbaric, if his tastes so
inclined him; Gothic, Chinese, Japanese or primitive—all according to
which his inclination led him. But all work had to be completed during
the first fury of inspiration, conceived imaginatively, and executed
from the decorative standpoint. Gauguin, by his quick wit and youthful
impetuosity, easily dominated the circle and developed, through the
constant interchange of opinions, his vague ideas concerning a
“synthetic” art. On his third and last voyage to the Islands his
greatest work was done. Here he carried out those ideas which had had
their inception at Arles and which had become crystallised at Pont-Aven.
He made his art entirely out of colour, but instead of profiting by the
teachings of Daumier and Cézanne whose visions were the most
simultaneous in the history of art, he chose rather to emulate the early
and ingenuous schools of plastic expression. In this his painting was
retrogressive.

But there was another and more important side to Gauguin. He at least
strove for a larger and more purely emotional interpretation of nature
than had been attempted before: and our interest in him is due largely
to the broad and peaceful vision he gives us. Monet put many greens in
one tree. Gauguin saw the tree as green, but by depicting it in broad
planes of pure pigment, he made it a more intense green than Monet could
ever have done. “A metre of green is greener than a centimetre of
green,” said Gauguin; and this principle he applied to all his work.
Instead of portraying light by colour as the Impressionists did, he
interested himself only in the colour which resulted from light. Thus he
was able to raise his paintings to the highest possible pitch of purity,
while still being preoccupied with nature. In painting a landscape where
a woman with a cerulean blue dress was seated among green trees on an
ochre beach with purple hills in the rear, and where the yellow sunlight
shone on the tree trunks and in the woman’s hair, Gauguin would first of
all draw apart the blues as much as possible. The woman’s dress would be
painted almost blue-green, and in order to contrast this colour with the
other blue in his subject, he would paint the sky blue-violet-violet.
Thus he would produce a greater range of emotional colour than if the
two blues had been pale and similar in tint. Furthermore, he would make
the sunlight a yellow-orange-orange and the sand a spectrum yellow. The
trees would then be recorded as yellow-green and the hills as
red-red-purple. By this process all the parts of the picture were
differentiated, with the result that the canvas had a strong carrying
power. This power was further increased by the figures being sharply
outlined.

Gauguin’s composition has little importance. It takes the form of
perpendicularities, and rarely is any rhythmic order discernible. It is
of a piece with the Romanesque painting in Saint-Savin near Poitiers.
All his objects are personifications of calm, and are rooted in their
environment as well as in the earth. They do not seem merely to pose
there: Gauguin’s work is not superficial to this extent,—but they grow
naturally out of their matrix like flowers or trees, unconscious but
immovable. The passivity which pervades them is not the calm of
completion or of the perfect rest which comes after mental exercise, but
rather the calm of the lethargic mind which avoids thought, dislikes
action and is content to dream. Technically this feeling is caused by
lines at right angles to the horizon, by big simple planes on which the
eye can rest free from the disturbance of line opposition, by large flat
patterns of dark tonality conducive to peace and introspection. Even the
contoured volumes have a greater extent of base than of apex and thus
add to the picture’s aspect of immobility. Gauguin’s drawing is
interesting in that it portrays a race highly susceptible of
picturisation. His models are impelling because it is an adventure to
explore their parts, their joints, their distortions and disproportions.
Their beauty is heavy and cumbersome, like that of the stone images of
the Aztecs.

That which interests us most in Gauguin however is his colour. In this
medium he arrived at a sumptuousness unsurpassed by preceding painters.
His art was a new application of the old principle of wall decoration.
Many had made use of broad planes of colour before his advent, but none
had heightened the significance of these planes sufficiently to express
nature. He was the first realist in decoration, and from him come, by
direct descent, Matisse and a horde of lesser men like Fritz Erler, Leo
Putz, R. M. Eichler, Adolf Münzer, Rodolphe Fornerod, Alcide Le Beau and
Gustave Jaulmes. The æsthetic import of a Puvis de Chavannes is almost
equal to that of Gauguin, but the former’s greys and grey-blues appear
washed-out and dead, while Gauguin’s pictures vibrate with the heat of
tropical sunlight and the richness of tropical colour. Gauguin, however,
could get no orders. His work was too sensuous. Interior decoration
would have had to be far more joyous than it was at that time for his
exotic creations to find a place on walls and ceilings.

Gauguin’s animating desire was to synthesise his picture—to make each
part of them relative to all the other parts, to order them as to
colour, line and tone in such a way that they would give forth the
impression of a simple vision, a perfect ensemble. This desire was in
the air of the day. The Impressionists had unconsciously approached
synthesis by using light and air as a solvent. Cézanne had gone much
deeper and ordered form by means of colour. In Seurat Gauguin saw almost
completely set forth an expression which by its simplicity satisfied
him. Some assert that he was also influenced by Degas. But whether this
is so or not, certain it is that there is more of Ingres in him than of
Giotto. With Seurat as a starting-point—that is, the linear Seurat of La
Baignade and Un Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte—Gauguin quickly abolished the
tiny and labourious spotting which Impressionism and Pointillism had
taught him, and branched out into simpler design and greater chromatic
brilliancy. By these departures he achieved his synthesis. But this
triumph must not be overestimated. There are degrees of synthesis.
Rubens, Giotto, Degas, Ingres, Böcklin, Botticelli—all are synthetic,
but all are by no means of equal importance. While synthesis is
necessary to art, it is not the ear-mark of great art alone. The order
which is obtained by three harmonious lines is not so extended an order
as that found in the multilinear drawings of Pollaiuolo: and this
complication of æsthetic ordonnance is what makes a Donatello more
significant than a piece of negro sculpture, a Scarsellino greater than
a Matisse, and an El Greco more puissant than a Mazzola-Bedoli.
Furthermore, when this complete surface order extends itself into three
dimensions it becomes an infinitely greater moving power. When from
simple straight lines on a flat surface the artist carries his creation
into opposition, development and finality, he is pushing the frontiers
of his painting to art’s extreme limits.

Gauguin’s temperament was simple in the extreme. He had fallen under the
sway of Manet: he had gone to a rugged country of primitive instincts
where singular costumes were a part of the landscape: he had studied the
stone and wooden figures in the old churches and cross-roads of
Brittany, and had found the elemental to his liking. Consequently in
synthesising his art he used simple forms, straight lines and large
planes of shadow and light, all of which were presented on a flat
surface, so that all the parallelisms and elementary curves of the
picture would deliver themselves to the average spectator at first
glance. His method of filling or balancing a canvas was little more than
primitive, and the curved lines of light and shadow, which are intended
to entice the eye, are so isolated that when we at length arrive at
their end we discover they are without rhythmic intention. Nor is there
a generating line out of which the others grow.

Gauguin’s linear harmony is no greater, if a trifle more diverse, than
in the Byzantine mosaic decorations in S. Vitale. Indeed the emotion we
experience before each of them is to all purposes the same. The richness
of medium in the mosaics is amply compensated for by Gauguin’s richness
of foliage forms and floral designs. The decorative colours in both are
equally effective. As moderns we might get more enjoyment out of
Gauguin’s heat and brilliance and the diversity of his silhouette, but
at the same time there is a greater archæological attraction and a more
spiritual interest for us in the ancient work. Intrinsically one is as
great as the other. Those seeking for calm will find it in equal degree
in both, for in each it is produced by the same method: by the static
representation of form rather than by a sequence of movement. Gauguin’s
sculpture has the same qualities as his paintings, and resembles the
religious effigies of some barbaric tribe. The figures are upright and
rigid, their backs against a straight support, as in Egyptian
architectural art.

[Illustration: DEUX TAHÏTIENS by GAUGUIN]

Gauguin said many times that when a painter was before his easel he must
not be the slave either of nature or the past. This is true, but as a
principle it is too limited. Although he himself lived up to it, he did
not go far enough beyond it to do truly significant work. He arrived at
the brilliancy of nature by a method distinctly different from nature’s;
and while refusing to be dominated by the past, his temperament was such
that he fabricated an art much closer to antiquity than that of the Zaks
and the Rousseaus who servilely imitated it. He accomplished what he set
out to accomplish. His failure to give birth to great art was due to the
intellectual limitations of his ambitions. His place in modern painting,
however, is secure.

That great cycle of æsthetic endeavour which was set in motion by the
discovery of oil painting found its termination in Rubens. The cycle
which Delacroix and Turner ushered in was less extended. Being more
concrete in its aims, it took only five decades to reach completion in
the works of Renoir. The first cycle, born with fixed materials, was
based on an absolute and physiological law of composition which can
never radically change, and therefore permitted of an extensive
development and variation. Decadence naturally set in after its means
had lost their ability to inspire artists. The second cycle was one of
research, and during it artists were so narrowly focused on nature that
they lost sight of the foundation laid down during the first cycle. Had
their concentration not been rudely disturbed their data hunting would
have carried them hopelessly afield. Gauguin exposed the futility of the
meticulous imitation of nature’s effects, and by so doing took a step
forward toward liberty of method. For this reason he is of importance.
Painters were rapidly becoming scientists. By turning men’s minds away
from nature to broadly natural pictures Gauguin invited them once more
to become artists. He was the link which joined experimental research to
pure creation. The first cycle gave us an absolute composition: the
second furnished a scientific hypothesis for art: the third, of which
Cézanne was the primitive, combined the first two and thus opened the
door on an infinity of achievement. Gauguin prevented the second from
running into decadence by showing its uselessness as an isolated
procedure.



IX

DEGAS AND HIS CIRCLE


The development of art itself is no more mechanical than the artistic
development of the individual: in both there are irregularities,
retrogressions, forward spurts, divagations. Renoir first appeared with
a rhythmic line-balance which first grew luminous, then voluminous,
until it blossomed forth into his full form and line and colour.
Sometimes he leapt ahead in one quality and deteriorated in another,
abandoned one for the glory of the other, and sacrificed continually
until by experience he knew his limitations. Then consciously, with all
the reins in hand, he progressed steadily to his highest point of
efficiency. Art in general also advances sporadically. Delacroix gave a
new freedom to subject and drawing, resuscitated composition and found a
new use for colour. He was the embryonic statement of the ends of modern
art. Courbet, ignoring colour, totally divorced subject-matter from
antiquity and liberated drawing from the accepted style. He carried art
forward, but not in a direct line. Daumier gave us a new conception of
form, but contented himself with Spanish colour: his art, though
fragmentary, was another step toward a unique vision. Then came Manet
who, forgetting composition, exalted the documentary freedom of Courbet
and began the study of light. He, also, was a continuation of the
modern art impulse, but in his struggle for the new he forgot the
foundations. The Impressionists accepted passively all that had come
before. They raised colour to an important place in painting and brought
it to the consideration of all artists by showing its potency in the
production of intense emotion. Renoir used their inspiration; reverted
to the past through Delacroix, Courbet and Daumier; combined all that
had preceded him; and in an incomparable flourish closed up the
possibilities of his experimental forerunners. In him was a
consummation. But there had to be a transition also, unless art was to
stand still. Gauguin, though he went so far back that he passed to a
time when composition did not exist, interpreted, but did not imitate,
nature. The Neo-Impressionists continued the impetus of Pissarro.
Cézanne unearthed secrets from nature which linked him to Impressionism,
and by applying them arbitrarily to classic organisations, became an
interpreter of the past as well as of the future.

At each step of this broad and prolific advance there were those
painters who, profiting by the teachings of the great, set themselves to
imitate and ornament the exteriors of their faintly-understood masters
and to emphasise the qualities of texture, _matière_ and prettiness. So
rapid was the evolution of modern endeavour that nearly every painter
overlapped his seemingly remote predecessor. Edgar Degas was born more
than twenty years before the death of Delacroix. He was one of those
painters who, content to remain stagnant, employ the qualities which
have been handed down to them and breathe into old inspirations the
flame of individual idiosyncrasy. He was a man who impressed everyone by
the strength of his personality and by the power of his caustic wit. In
his youth he travelled in Italy and America and went to school, not for
artistic training, but merely as a concession to the conventions of the
day. He copied Holbein and Lawrence. In his earlier portraits there are
undeniable traces of the German master: the Lawrence influence exhibited
itself in his femininity more than in actual technical innovations. He
was an enthusiastic visitor to the Café Guerbois on the Avenue de Clichy
where, from 1865 until the war, Manet was the dominating figure, and
where the Impressionists and such men as Lhermitte, Cazin, Legros,
Whistler and Stevens came to discuss æsthetics.

Although never radically opposed to scholasticism, as were these other
men, Degas was nevertheless persuaded to share in a joint exhibition in
1867 with his revolutionary companions. But the ridicule of the public
disgusted him so thoroughly that he never exposed again. He shut himself
up in his studio, and there, isolated from his fellow painters and the
vulgar populace, worked out his own salvation. He instinctively hated
the brummagem show of popularity and put into his every subject this
disgust with life’s hypocrisies. Even in his prancing ballet figures,
though they are in full light and amid joyous settings, one senses the
satire which led to the depiction of their apparent _sans-souci_. One
reads in them the sordid misery of their home life, the long trying
hours of muscular strain, and the deceit of their simulated smiles. His
synthetic figures—synthetic in that they were without details and
accidents of contour which would detract from the vision of the
whole—came to him direct and with little variation from Ingres—not the
Ingres of Stratonice but the Ingres of the drawings in the _Musée
Ingres_ at Montauban. His study of this master gave him a greater
insight into the academic construction of the human figure than any
school could have done. It permitted him to set forth a firmly drawn
body in any pose with equal ease. This facile mastery of action is one
of his greatest claims to popularity.

Gauguin held that nothing should be moving in a canvas, that all the
figures should be static, arrested in their pose, and calm. Degas
represented Gauguin’s antithesis. He strove to catch his model in
flight. He immobilised their _élan_, and registered those
characteristics of a model which express action at its intensest dynamic
instant. In all his racecourse pictures the very horses have that
delicate balance of mincing tread that we first feel when we look at
their prototypes in life—that dainty and slight resiliency as of weight
on springs. Monet, on the one hand, caught the ephemeral effect of light
on nature: Degas, on the other, recorded the fleeting movement of
objects, that is, the _physical_ poise of a granted image, not the
_æsthetic_ poise which transmits itself to our subjectivities. He
surprised the actional segment which epitomises the entire cycle of
movement. Everything he touches becomes as charming and interesting as a
wellstaged scene. His sympathies with the Impressionist colour methods
and his manner of handling his material add to this charm and make
pleasurable, fresh and adventuresome what would otherwise be banal and
sometimes even ugly and devoid of interest. He paints the racehorse,
which Géricault first introduced into French art, and, by surrounding it
with a vernal spring atmosphere, violet hills and green and ochre
stubble, and by catching its instantaneous action, makes of it a picture
with a rich and colourful surface—a surface beside which a Géricault,
judged from the same illustrative standpoint, appears stiff and black.

Degas, in short, paints the kind of pictures which the general public
calls “artistic”—a word which, though loosely used, has come to have a
distinct connotation when applied to arts and crafts. Vases, plaques,
panels, screens, decorations, posters and book-plates are all “artistic”
provided they fulfil certain simple requirements. The bizarre exteriors
of German art have given great impetus to this qualitative adjective.
The word is used indeterminately, and its popular meaning has not been
defined. But in Degas we find it exemplified; and by studying him we may
discover its exact limitations. “Artistic” commonly refers to paintings
in which the exactitude of drawing is lost in a nonchalant
_sensibilité_, and in which the _matière_ takes on a seductive interest
merely as a stuff or a substance, the love of which lies deep in the
most intellectual of men. The tactile sense will be found at the roots
of the average person’s idea of an “artistic” work. This desire for
superficial and material beauty, as of a rare porcelain or of
scintillating old silk, is a part of the same physical sensuality which
makes some men choose rough-grained canvas, others the stone of the
lithographer, others the fluid brushing of a Whistler or a Velazquez.
The desire for texture is what led Degas to pastels. His pictures have
something more than an illustrative value; they are highly attractive as
_objets d’art_ as well. But while this attractiveness heightened the
popular value of his work, it indicated the inherent decadence of his
aims.

Nor was it the only sign of his retrogression. There is not even
pictorial finality in his work. He never painted subjects as such, but
used them only as bases for arabesques. Surface-covering was his forte,
and it is not remarkable that one so sensitive to objective action
should have been such a master of balance. He could never have achieved
such perfect balance had he not realised that a work of art must be done
coldly and consciously and without passion for the model, and that all
enthusiasm should come only from the progressing work itself. His
arrangements are wholly natural ones, and we feel that no studio posing
has gone into their making. In this naturalistic attitude he was
continuing the modern spirit of arbitrary subject selection found in
Courbet, Manet and Pissarro. But where these men painted with colour,
Degas only tinted his drawings. Consequently his colour, as well as
composition, was a reversion to a sterile past. Although we may admire
his Après le Bain, La Toilette, the Trois Danseuses, Femme au Tub, La
Sortie du Bain, Torse de Femme S’Essuyant, Musiciens a l’Orchestre
for their verisimilitude and lightness of treatment, their _imprévu_ of
arrangement and balance and their charm of colour, we can never credit
their creator with even a slight genius, for all his pictures lack the
rich volumes of a Daumier and the order of a Renoir.

[Illustration: DANSEUSES À LEUR TOILETTE by DEGAS]

Degas was neither academic nor revolutionary. He struck a middle course
in which the scholastic and the heretical blent, and in blending
neutralised each other’s characteristics. In his canvases he tells
inherently commonplace stories, but he does it with the force and the
graceful ease of one on whom all the visions of the world have made a
powerful impression. Life meant to him a pageant, neither moral nor
immoral, but real, and as such interesting. If in what he tells us there
seems a bit of the cynical indifference of a mind too fully
disillusioned, it never obtrudes itself. He himself might have been
surfeited and bitter, but his work contains only the barest hint of his
temperamental retrospection. His comprehension of life’s tragedies did
not spoil his enjoyment in depicting them. Louis Legrand reveals the
metropolitan lust of mankind; Forain, its bestiality; Toulouse-Lautrec,
its viciousness. Each was prejudiced in some direction. Degas merely
goes behind the scenes and by stripping his characters of their
pretences shows them to us as they are, intimately and unsentimentally.

The other men in this circle of illustrators of which Degas was the
dominant figure had distinctly individual traits. In no sense were they
followers of one leader. Their preoccupation with illustration alone
held them together. Degas has given us well-balanced patterns with
fragilely lovely surfaces. He was little interested in the traits of his
models: he cared more for the picture than for individual character.
With Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec this mental attitude was reversed. In his
work are specific members of the _demi-monde_, marionettes who have all
the accentuated vices, vulgarities, fatigues and pretensions of their
trade. In their faces, moulded by unrestrained indulgences, joys and
sorrows, we can read their innermost hopes and aspirations. We can
reconstruct their entire day’s activities. In order to study his
characters Lautrec went to the _milieu_ where gaiety was unchecked,
where the denizens of the under-world—those unreal beings who live like
fantastic flowers nourished by artificial light and colour—come to work
and play. He saw and set down the principals in the Bohemian music
halls, the _cafés-concerts_ and the _cirques_, and those daylight
moralists who come to relax viciously at night with all the
_laisser-aller_ of violent reaction. His search was for character; and
in these establishments character did not masquerade in the hypocritical
garb of pride and dignity. Passions were aired frankly, even proudly.

Lautrec had personal as well as artistic reasons for choosing this
sphere. He had an ardent, almost febrile, desire to live fully and
furiously. He was deformed; he had a man’s head and body on a child’s
legs—the result of incompetent bone-setting in his youth. His family was
a very old and noble one: his father was a sportsman, a lover of horses,
a sculptor in his leisure moments. All the pride of race and dignity of
class tumbled from its pedestal in this young artist. He had worked in
the schools of Bonnat and Cormon, had met and admired Forain, and had
finally been revealed to himself by Degas who led him to the theatre. He
drank much, one suspects, to forget his deformity, just as Van Gogh
drank to forget disease. He sought solace in the ephemeral, visionary
life of the cafés; and no action, no type, no expression escaped his
probing notice. He had many friends to whom he confided. “I am only half
a bottle,” he would say. He adored women impersonally and romantically,
but in his own station of life they looked upon him askance.
Consequently he lived where money would always buy attention and where
good-fellowship was repaid with good-fellowship.

Lautrec was an indefatigable worker, but his pictures possess little of
the surface beauty of a Degas. Rather do they attest to a love of
exaggerated and uncommon form, as do Chinese paintings. But in him is
more order than in Degas. Compare Une Table au Moulin-Rouge with Degas’s
Café-Concert. In the first the character in the physiques of the
principals harmonises with the character of the faces; and the female
figure’s hair, hat and fur-trimmed coat indicate the artist’s love for
grotesque and beautiful abstract form. There is more than balance here:
there is the rudiment of an instinctive composition which Degas never
had. Beside this picture the Café-Concert seems flat silhouette,
sprightly and entertaining, but far from profound. The nucleus of
composition can be found in all of Lautrec’s best canvases, especially
those he painted after his return from Spain. Toward the end of his
life he worked, for the most part, with a full brush and rich colours.
Before this, however, pencil, chalk, lithographs and water-colours had
claimed him. His greatest fluency was in the use of separated hachures
of rich greyish colour on neutral backgrounds. This method of
application permitted him line as well as colour; and with his lines,
summary and economical though they were, he caught the animality of his
subjects with as sure a hand as Monet caught the light and Degas the
action.

Lautrec, with Chéret, revolutionised the poster art. There are few men
today in this field who do not owe much to him. His love of the
eccentricities of his model was an ideal gift for the poster-maker, and
he had himself sufficiently in hand not to be led into the grotesque. He
was a caricaturist in that he exaggerated characteristic traits, just as
Matisse did in his sculpture. He always noted fully the uncommon, and
his love of every manifestation of life gave him a wide range of
inspiration. Life was his great adventure; his art was merely his diary.
He is a historian of the theatre of his time and has left salient
portraits of Loie Fuller, Polaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Mounet-Sully, Yahne
and Anna Held. His types of the raptorial woman of the past—the kind
that today is found in the hidden corners of Les Halles, at the
fortifications and about the “Rue de la Joie”—are as real as the female
characters of Balzac, Daudet, Augier and Prévost. They live in his
pictures because one feels that they once were realities: his
caricaturisations of them, as of his clowns and dancers, only intensify
their intimate humanity. To some it may seem strange that Lautrec
should have liked Massys and Memling. But in the first he found
trenchant characterisation, especially in such things as Head of an Old
Man, The Courtesan and Portrait of a Canon. And he was temperamentally
akin to Memling in such arrangements as the latter’s The Casting of the
Lots (a detail of Calvary) and Our Lord’s Passion, at the Museum in
Turin.

That the illustrators of this group were decadent is borne out in their
subject-matter as well as in their methods. Since the earliest recorded
antiquity artists have been attracted to the moving, the glittering, the
brilliant; and the human occupation which embodies these three qualities
most obviously is dancing. The men who are in love with life and not art
and who paint and draw pictures merely to record their impressions, have
always been hypnotised by the colour, the grace, the fluent movement and
the rhythmic shiftings of dancers. These men, unable to analyse their
emotions, have dreamed only of depicting objectively their photographic
impressions of the dance. The artists who penetrated to the fundamental
causes of rhythm used the dance only arbitrarily, whereas the
superficial painters of the past saw in it merely the mosaic, the
pattern, the arabesque. They thought that in portraying the dance
literally they would arrive at its motive significance. But in this they
failed. Had they done their figures in clay or stone they would have
approached nearer their desire. But even this more masculine medium has,
with few exceptions, resulted in failure. The dancing girls in the
Grottoes of Mahavelipore were used only by those puissant masters of
form as friezes or shapes to fill in and ornament a vacant space. The
Tanagra figurines are a purely decorative endeavour. In Greece it was
not the men of Praxiteles’s calibre, but the smaller talents like the
potters who used the dance in their designs. Even a man as slight as
Hokusai leaves it to a Toba Sojo to make his models caper. But the
feminine talent of Degas finds in the dance absolute and unordered
expression; and Lautrec and Legrand, both more robust than Degas, though
minor and ornamentally illustrative artists, are seduced into portraying
it often.

Louis Legrand was more of the “maker” of pictures than were his two
contemporaries. His nature leaned toward the heavy and boisterous Sodoma
rather than toward the Latin ideal of Tiepolo. This almost Teutonic
racial penchant in him explains why the bestiality of his subject-matter
is so often done in the manner of Goya, with broad black and white
masses, not with the suggested line and the attractive _matière_ of his
master, Degas. There is much Teutonic blood in Spain, and Goya, while
being far the greater artist even in his slightest etchings, is the
nearest approach to Legrand in the treatment of themes. Goya paints
moral decay with disgust and genius, whereas Legrand, with his slight
gropings after order of a surface variety, glories in it as in a
pursuit, and paints it with a leer. The Spaniard uses it as a
temperamental means. The Frenchman, whose whole talent lies in a formula
of draughtsmanship, works toward its creation as an end. His shallowness
is at once apparent when we compare his Maîtresse or his illustrations
for Edgar Allan Poe’s tales with etchings like Donde Vá Mamá or Buen
Viaje. Psychologically he is intimately related to the _fin de siècle_
movement in England; and, although a better and more healthy workman, he
has a temperament singularly akin to that ineffectual Victorian
academician, Walter Sickert.

In J.-L. Forain we have a man of different stamp, one who, knowing his
ability for certain things, clings to them and does not attempt to
thrust himself into the rank of artist. By developing his small
potentialities to their highest actuality he has achieved as much as his
confrères have by extraneous tricks and appearances. And there is no
doubt that he comprehends art much better than they. His iconoclastic
and acidulous cynicism, his ability to wrench from behind the veil of
mundane hypocrisy the real motivation of an action, and his probing
analysis which cannot be imposed upon by pretence, have touched on many
sides of contemporary life—politics, extortion, courts, merchants, the
_beau monde_, prostitution, religion, the theatre and the tawdry
Bohemianism of Montparnasse. With a few straight and fluent strokes of
the pencil he builds up a type of the blustering _parvenu_ Jew, the
mercenary picture dealer, the childish and vain actor who is avid for
praise and obsessed with his vocation. Forain calls the actor a
“_M’as-tu-vu?_” and depicts him as with that phrase ever on his lips.
Baudelaire Chez les Mufles is one of the world’s greatest monuments to
human hypocrisy. A chlorotic bourgeoise is standing in the centre of a
small gathering reciting Baudelaire’s verses. Around her are grouped
types of self-satisfied and vicious masculinity, all pretending, like
the speaker herself, to be feeling deeply the hidden spirituality of the
poem. Some of the men have their heads raised high, others bowed low,
for purposes of concentration. The whole picture is rough-hewn as though
done with an axe in a square of clay. With the simplest means the artist
gives us the impression of rugged stone and, at the same time,
completion. The titles to his drawings are in the exact spirit of the
pictures themselves, succinct, brutal and penetrating. Forain is the
second greatest caricaturist the world has produced. He was not the
artist that Daumier was, but as a serious creator of types and as a
highly intelligent critic of contemporary shams, he is a master, even as
Daumier was a master of a realm far above him.

Forain perfected what he set out to do, and for this praise is due him.
That his ambition ran along a subpassage of æsthetic endeavour, as did
that of his three confrères, he would be the first to admit. As artists
these men cannot be judged either by the surface quality of their works
or by their penetration into life and character. Such considerations
have nothing to do with æsthetic emotion. No matter how much we may
eulogise such painters—for they must be judged by their own standard
rather than by a criterion set by a Rubens—our praise will never place
them in the rank of plastic creators. They will ever remain in the realm
of nearly perfect workmen with literary apperceptions. Toulouse-Lautrec,
because of his love of formal distortion for its own sake, probably
comes nearer the higher level: there is in his work a slight æsthetic
element. Degas will ever remain the piece of old velvet in a frame;
Louis Legrand, the illustrator of the bachelor clubs; Forain, the
expositor of life’s pretensions.

It is these men who have given the greatest impetus to realistic
illustration in all countries. Viewed from this standpoint they were a
salutary, as well as a diverting, manifestation. By burrowing down into
the depths of material existence they made unimportant such poetic men
as Beardsley, Rossetti and Moreau. All good illustration after them took
on a deeper meaning. It ignored the mendacious surfaces of things and
strove to reproduce the undercurrents which lie at the bottom of human
actions and reactions. Its mere prettiness was supplanted by
subcutaneous characteristics. It sought for motives rather than
emotions, for causes rather than effects. It became critical where once
it had been only photographic. From Degas, Lautrec, Legrand and Forain
comes directly the best illustrative talent in both Europe and America.
Without these four men we would not possess the best work of Max
Beerbohm, Hermann Paul, Bellows, Maxime Dethomas, Roubille, Carlopez,
Carl Larson, Albert Engström, C. D. Gibson, E. M. Ashe, Boardman
Robinson, Cesare, Blumenschein and Wallace Morgan, the last of whom is
unquestionably the most artistic illustrator in either America or
England.



X

HENRI-MATISSE


While the bitter struggle against the narrow dictates of a retrospective
and so-called classic academy was in progress, and before the older
scholastic forces had finally been put to rout, the Impressionists
calmly arrogated to themselves the authority of their dumbfounded
predecessors. Their pictures, because more restricted and not based on
the fundamentals of art, soon became as familiar and commonplace as the
paintings of Gérôme, Cabanel and Bouguereau, and in becoming familiar
settled into the groove of a new academism as immobile and
self-satisfied as the old. The Neo-Impressionists were the first to
react against them, and later Gauguin and his fellow synthesists openly
declared war. Cézanne at that time was little known and less understood.
Living apart and alone, he was counted out of the main struggle. The
decadents of the movement, Degas and his circle, continued their
popularising process: their eyes were so fixedly turned inward that they
saw little of what was going on about them. Gauguin, putting aside
imitation of nature for interpretation, began the great movement which
was to culminate in the most extreme reaction against
Impressionism—Cubism. And Matisse who, arousing public interest in the
new, is responsible for the popular Cézanne discussions of today, was
the next man to carry on Gauguin’s work of pigeon-holing Monet and his
followers. But whereas the Impressionists had completely forgotten the
classics, Gauguin wished to recommence the entire cycle by reverting to
the forefathers of those very classics. He also had his decadent
followers, but there was no one to continue his methods and inspiration.
If it is difficult to perceive an analogy between him and a painter like
Jacopo dei Barbari, compare the works of these men with a later drawing
by Matisse. The similarity of the first two, by being contrasted with
the latter, will at once become apparent. Gauguin clung close to the
drawing of the primitive Christians; and the classic seed within him,
though it never flowered, was never dead.

While the form in Matisse at times has all the suavity of contour of a
Liombruno or a Romanelli, there is a more purely sensitive reason for it
than in the well-taught decadents of the later Renaissance. In the
classes of Bouguereau and Carrière at the Beaux-Arts he had seen to what
an impasse a too great love of antiquity would lead. Furthermore, with
his many copies in the Louvre, by command of the state, he began
gradually to realise that the classics had become a fetich, and that the
only salvation for a painter was to seek a different and less-known
inspiration. This course was not so difficult as it had once been, for
the younger men had already liberated themselves from popular mandates.
The freedom of the artist was now an assured thing, and while the
public still scoffed and offered suggestions, it no longer felt that a
man’s expression was its personal concern. To be sure, popular rage
against things which appeared incomprehensible was still evident, but it
was the impotent rage which sneers because it can no longer strike. The
_Salon des Artistes Indépendants_ was in full swing, and the new artists
who had ideas rather than tricks and who were intent on discovering new
fields through devious experimentation, found therein a refuge where
they could expose as conspicuously as could the academicians. In this
healthful _Salon_ Matisse has exhibited regularly up to a few years ago,
and it was here and in the _Salon d’Automne_—another exhibition which at
first was animated by high ideals but which has lately fallen into the
hands of cliques and picture merchants—that his fame took birth.

With Matisse’s advent we behold the paradox of an artist who is in full
reaction against the Impressionistic and classic doctrines and who at
the same time reveals a certain composition and makes colour of
paramount interest. The Matisse of exotic inspiration came from the
studio of Gustave Moreau who, by his intelligent toleration of the
virile enthusiasms of his pupils, facilitated the way toward complete
self-expression. There are Matisse drawings extant which are impeccable
from the academic standpoint—drawings in which is found all the cold
“right drawing” of the school. There are paintings in the
Neo-Impressionistic manner, except that they display a sensitive use of
harmonious colours, which should have shown Signac and Cross the error
of their rigid science. Also there are still-ives which recall Chardin,
one of Matisse’s great admirations; and at least one study of a head,
done in Colorossi’s old academy on the Rue de la Grande Chaumière, in
which a love of Cézanne’s form and colour mingles with a respect for
Manet’s method of applying paint.

Gauguin too served as a provenance for the later colour vision of
Matisse. Indeed it is as much from Gauguin as from Cézanne that he
stems. The broad planes of rich tones and the decorative employment of
form in the former had as great an influence in Matisse’s art as did the
perfect displacement of spaces in the canvases of the Provençal master.
Gauguin, while still leaning to the classic, desired a fresher impetus.
He therefore sought distortion in exotic inspiration; but the man who
was led to distortion through a pure love of unfamiliar form and to whom
Matisse owes the deciding influence toward a new body, was the Spaniard
Goya. The deformed, the grotesque and the monstrous were with Goya a
passion. In his Caprichos it is easily seen that he, too, was tired of
the established formulas regarding the human body, and strove to vary
and enrich it. By emphasising a characteristic trait, by shifting a
certain form, by exaggerating a certain proportion, he sought to obtain,
as did Matisse, the complete expression of what he felt to be essential
in his model. The deformations in Gauguin came as a result of an outline
which after the first drawing was left unchanged for the sake of its
naïf effect. But in Goya and Matisse the deformations are the result of
a highly developed plastic sense which glories in new and unusual forms.
With them the human body is treated as the means through which an idea
is expressed—an idea of form, not of literature. Compare, for instance,
the drawing called Deux Tahïtiens, one of Gauguin’s best works, with
Matisse’s Baigneuses, a canvas of three nudes one of which is playing
with a turtle. In the former the proportions are distorted as much as in
the latter, but these proportions are flat and are an end in themselves.
They have no intellectual destiny. In the Matisse picture the
exaggerations grow out of a desire to express more fully the form which
the artist has felt to be important and characteristic. In the seated
woman the torso and neck constitute a personal and original vision, and
the crouching woman’s back has as much solidity as the Vénus Accroupie
of the Louvre.

Matisse’s simplified vision of form came, as did all synthetic modern
art, from Ingres and Daumier through Seurat, Degas and Gauguin. That
Ingres, the master of so classic a school, should have unconsciously
felt the need for modifying and simplifying an object is a significant
indication of the fatigue which is always produced by an adherence to a
set form. In his drawings the details are omitted merely because they do
not further the achievement of his own particular kind of beauty. In
Daumier they are absent because they detract from the spontaneous
emotion of the whole; in Degas and Manet, because they hinder the
fluency of action and obscure the complete and direct image; in Seurat,
because they interfere with the suavity of line itself; and in Gauguin,
because they preclude that naïveté of appearance he wished to obtain. In
Matisse began the conscious process of making form arbitrary, of
bending it to the personal requirement of expression. In Cubism form
became even more abstract. In Ingres’s drawings there is an entire lack
of suppleness: his figures appear like a first sketch in wood for a
German carving. In Gauguin this wooden look becomes a trifle more
fluent; the proportions are artistically improved. And in Matisse there
is no trace of the awkward or the stiff. While his form is more
simplified than that of the two other painters, the simplifications come
as a result of that artistic rightness of proportion which is an
outgrowth of the ultimate refinement of knowledge and taste.

[Illustration: BAIGNEUSES by HENRI-MATISSE]

The trick of drawing of a Louis Legrand has no parallel in Matisse. In
the work of the latter each figure or object, no matter how many times
he has already drawn it, has a distinctively novel construction and
presents a new vision. All familiar joints and hackneyed interpretations
are absent. We have seen, for instance, the deltoids drawn in every
conceivable pose of stress or calm. When one speaks of a nude we
immediately visualise it with the angular shoulders, with the accustomed
bulges over the upper arm which have been painted there in the same
manner since the early Renaissance. In the delineation of deltoids the
painter had become stagnant, accepting their conventional appearance as
an external truth and recording them without thought. Matisse revolted
against this fixed standard. Glance through his later nudes—and there
are many of them—and every shoulder will present a different appearance;
every arm will take on a novel form. We speak here of these particular
muscles because they seem to obtrude themselves upon the sensitive sight
more than any others. Matisse, seeking to overcome this structural
monotony, made each shoulder he drew a new form, a new adventure, by
expressing, not the actual bone and muscle of the clinic, but the
salient meaning of that shoulder in a given _milieu_. It is this same
desire to do away with the hackneyed forms of art that has driven the
modern poets away from classic metres and caused them to seek a more
plastic and adaptable medium in _vers libre_. Rondeaux, ballades,
quatrains, octaves and the like are today as intrinsically perfect forms
as they ever were, but the significance of their beauty has been lost
through overuse, through too great familiarity. Our minds pass over them
as over well-learned lessons committed to memory.

It is thus Matisse felt about the classic forms of his predecessors.
These forms had once been beautiful; intrinsically they were still
beautiful; but they had been habitualised by constant repetition; and
new ones were needed. In order to find them Matisse says that, when
before a model, he tried to forget that he had even seen a nude before
and to look upon it with the eyes of one who had never seen a picture.
By this he does not mean that his vision was naïve, but that it was
innocent of set rules and preconceived ideas of how form should be
obtained. As a theory this attitude proved fruitful because, while he
did not succeed in setting aside memory, he was nevertheless led to a
conscious thrusting aside of his first impulses to depict form as he saw
it. All painters, even the greater artists of the past, had copied form
as it presents itself to the eye, but Matisse forced himself, through
painstaking analysis, to express form in a totally novel manner; and to
a certain extent he succeeded. One might well ask why, in modifying the
human body, he did not, for instance, omit a leg or a head, thus making
his expression at once purer and more abstract. The answer is that he
realised that the spectator, after the first shock at seeing the
unexpected form and the consequent mental readjustment to the new
vision, would nevertheless recognise the picture as a depiction of the
human figure. Therefore a complete recognisability must be maintained.
If the artist omitted an eye or a mouth, for example, the spectator
would experience physically the incompleteness of the vision. He would
feel, through personal association, the blindness or the suffocation as
suggested in the picture; and these shocks, being secondary
physiological sensations, would detract from the _æsthetic_ pleasure
provoked by the work. The point is an important one, for it demonstrates
the impossibility of appreciating art purely as abstract form so long as
recognisable objects are presented. As modern painting progressed the
illustrative gradually became relegated.

Much impetus for his abbreviations and accentuations of form came to him
with his personal discovery of the wood carvings of the African negroes,
the sculpture of natives of Polynesia and Java and of the Peruvian and
Mexican Indians. During the last five years we have heard much of these
unknown artists and of their superlative ability for organisation and
rhythm. But they have been a little too quickly and enthusiastically
accepted as criteria at the expense of those greater artists, the
Greeks, the Egyptians, the East Indians and the Chinese. Matisse found
in them an inspiration toward synthesis and also a substantiation for
his own desire to emphasise salient characteristics. They influenced his
motives in depicting only what was personally important and in doing
away with unnecessary details. After him there came a horde of imitators
who saw in negro sculpture the quintessence of artistic expression, who
looked upon it as a finality of organisation and rhythmic composing.
Such judgment, however, contains more of enthusiasm than of critical
acumen. Negro sculpture has an interest for us only in so far as it is
novel and untutored. Its organisation is of the most primitive kind,
symmetrical rather than rhythmic, architectonic rather than plastic. It
is the work of slightly synthetic artists who were without models and
whose visions encompassed only certain traits of form which, when
expressed, became not composed but balanced, not imitative but abstract.
The abstractness of negro sculpture, its bending of all human forms to
an ornament, its archaic rigidity which is the antithesis of fluent
movement—these are the qualities which have so gripped the imaginations
of minor modern artists. In reality the negro sculptors did not seek
these qualities consciously. Their lack of realistic observation was due
to their partial isolation from exterior influences such as the Greeks
and Egyptians, and to their desire to make an ornament of all images.

It was the Persians, however, who influenced Matisse more than did
negro sculpture. He found in these artists a practical lesson in the
application of his beliefs—a lesson which substantiated the tonic
division and formal improvisation of Goya and the decorative colour
application of Gauguin. Besides he learned from them a more direct
method of image making, a method which was at once more delicate and
more femininely sensitive. After seeing the pictures done by Matisse in
Algiers, and such paintings as La Glace sans Tain, and after looking at
the vistas through the open doors and windows in some of his large
interiors, one realises at once the great influence these exquisitely
delicate painters of ancient Persia had on him. The decorative
illustrations of the Mille et Une Nuits, published in Paris by
Fasquelle, are so similar to some of his pictures that one is inclined
to believe he studied this book before painting them. His superiority
lies in his liner comprehension of the human form and in the great
diversity he exhibited in the repetition of its component parts. Persia,
like other nations, had an academy, and while its yield was more
charming and less given to complex reproductions, it had no more
æsthetic importance than have the art schools of our own day. But unlike
ours it had not forgotten the necessity of formal distribution in the
making of artistic arrangements. This distribution in its flat sense
Matisse appropriated to his own ends, and by applying to it freer modern
means, made his art more æsthetically significant than that of the
Persians.

His modern means were the outgrowth of his understanding of colour in
its capacity to incite emotion. His first essays in this field were
greyish. Later, through divisionistic methods, they grew brighter; and
finally his colour became pure and was applied in large planes. His
works of this period shine as a source of light, and with his
development of exaggerated forms his colour interpretations also become
exaggerated. Where he saw a green in a shadow he painted it a pure
green; where he saw a yellow in light he made it a pure yellow; and so
on with the other colours. But in these interpretations there is more
than a mere desire to record hastily an optical vision. Each colour is
pondered at length in its relation to the others. It is changed a score
of times, modified and adjusted; and when it is finally posed it is
artistically “right.” In other words, it fills harmoniously an important
part in a picture where understanding and taste are the creators. In the
work of Matisse _sensibilité_ plays the all-important rôle, and while
his results are satisfying as far as they go, there are times when we
could wish for a greater rhythmic sense, a more conscious knowledge of
the profundities of composition, and a less dominating desire to free
each form and line from classic dictates.

With his colour we can find no such fault. Though here his knowledge,
like that of all other artists before him, is limited, the perfect
harmony between tints, which in him reaches a more advanced stage than
in any preceding artist, is the result of a highly sensitive eye and an
impeccable taste. The beauty of his colour alone makes him of paramount
importance. Every one of his canvases is a complete colour gamut created
by taste and authenticated by science not only as to pure colour but
also as to greys and tone. In his still-lives he chooses objects alone
for their colour and form, and his sense of proportion is so developed
and his reduction of line is carried to so final an economy that, as
flat as these objects are, they seem to have a rich consistency and to
extend themselves into visual depth. As in the case of all men who
deviate from the narrow and well-worn path of monotonous tonality,
Matisse is accused of dealing in raucous and blatant colours which set
the head aching and the eyes smarting. But the accusation is true only
of his followers who display little sensitivity and even less artistry,
and who, in imitating the superficial aspects of his work, see only
grotesque distortions and pure colour. Matisse once had a school where
he endeavoured to develop the native talents of the Americans, Poles,
Russians and Germans; but when a Bohemian woman, in reply to his
question as to what she wished to do, answered, “_Je veux faire le
’neuf’_,” he abandoned the enterprise and retired to Clamart. She
unwittingly summed up the desire of those meagre painters who, on seeing
something novel, immediately throw themselves into imitating it.
Matisse’s followers approach his colour gamut, but they never bridge
that lacuna which separates a precise art from one which is _à peu
près_. It is the last delicate refinement of perfect harmony which
Matisse possesses and which his imitators can not attain to, which
places him in the rank of greatness.

Matisse is called the _Chef des Fauves_, and his art has been catalogued
and labeled, turned into a “school” and has come to be known in many
quarters as Post-Impressionism, although that title, as well as the one
of Fauvism, was originally intended to designate all the art movements
after Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism and included such widely
dissimilar men as Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse and
Friesz. It stood for the new vitality in art, for the contemporary
animating spirit, and implied an epoch rather than a movement. It was
not sufficiently specific, however; and while modern art in the main is
a homogeneous development of new means, its forces are too diverse and
its evolution too complex to permit of its being described by a blanket
term. It was therefore natural that in an endeavour to understand the
underlying forces of modern painting a process of critical
differentiation should have been instituted. But labels are offensive
and impertinent when attached to serious æsthetic endeavours, and are
apt to lead to misunderstanding and errors of judgment. The canvases
themselves must be the final test of a movement’s enduring vitality.
Matisse is himself the whole impetus of the movement he represents. With
the one exception of Cézanne, he is more remote from his followers than
any other modern leader. He repeats himself so little that his disciples
cannot make a fetich of his canons. Indeed, he does not work by rote or
law, except in so far as there is a law governing his personal
impressions and predilections.

[Illustration: PORTRAIT DE FAMILLE by HENRI-MATISSE]

Although Matisse’s greatest impetus to modern art, after his carrying
form nearer to an abstract conception, is the harmonising of colour, his
finest canvases are those in which the form predominates, as for
instance the Jeu de Balles, La Musique—Esquisse, La Musique (_panneau
décoratif_) and Baigneuses. In these pictures, however, there is an
entire absence of rhythm in the Renoir sense, but they possess a perfect
disposition of forms to fill a given space, a harmony of subject with
its frame, a dazzling succession of uncommon and beautifully
proportioned spaces and an amazing feeling for two-dimensioned form.
Where with Matisse the distinct _parti pris_ of reverting to a primitive
inspiration was excusable, such an attitude was worse than folly for
those who came after him. With him it was a manifestation of the disgust
of an impatient and experimental mind for stereotyped expression: with
his followers it was only an imitation of his motives, and hence it was
decadent. If Matisse partially understood Giotto and Michelangelo, the
understanding contributed little to his art. His greatest claim to
consideration is that he gave painting its final impulse toward
abstraction. But his canvases, while being æsthetically just, are not
æsthetically satisfying, because in composition he never penetrated
further than the surface. And even on the surface he did not attain to a
greater fluency than that permitted by parallelisms and simple
oppositions, although there has never been an artist who more perfectly
adapted his expression to the shape and size of his canvas.

That all great artists worked like him from the standpoint of creating
recognisable form by abstract thought, does not detract from his fine
destiny. Where other artists failed to drag art from the quicksands of
literary instantaneity, Matisse succeeded. His evolution was direct and
logical, as a close study of his work will show; and those who see in
him an _arriviste_ may with equal justice bring the same charge against
Michelangelo. His æsthetic sources and admirations, of which so much has
been written, are important in understanding the genealogical
foundations of art, but they are of little moment in the actual
enjoyment of his pictures. Looking impartially at his classic influences
on the one hand and his Persian and negro influences on the other, it is
difficult to see just where the benefits of the latter lie. Matisse
merely shifted his inspiration from the greatest masters of form to the
slighter masters—from a well-known and great antiquity to a little-known
and less significant one. However, if negro sculpture can help produce a
man like Picasso, and the Persian stuffs and enamels one like Matisse,
they serve after all a high purpose.



XI

PICASSO AND CUBISM


Cubism first and foremost is an attempt to make art more arbitrary in
its selection of compositional forms. In all ancient painting only the
human figure was used as a basis for organisation. Later landscape
widened the scope of the painter’s material possibilities; but even the
introduction of this new element merely extended the boundary of
subject-matter. The essence of art remained the same. Landscape
permitted new forms to be interwoven with the old ones, without making
the old more plastic. The elasticising process was what the painter had
always desiderated, but his literalness was such that he never went
beyond primary distortions of the human body—distortions so small that
they were almost unnoticeable. With the Greeks and Chinese these
deformations were practised in order to beautify the body’s relative
proportions; with the East Indians and Michelangelo, to accentuate the
emotion of forceful movement; with Renoir, to express form fully in its
relation to the generating line of each picture; and with Matisse the
distortions were the result, first, of a reaction against a
hackneyed classic system, and later, of a desire to divorce æsthetic
pleasure from mental association, in other words, to make form abstract
rather than personal. In him there is no rhythmic composition, and
while, as in the case of Renoir, his pictures are great as ensembles,
each part of them is a separate item which does not depend, for
appreciation, on its rapport to the whole. His is an art of colour, of
sensitive and inspiring form in two dimensions—a decorative art of a
high order. As such it is at once a derivation of Impressionism and a
development of Impressionistic colour through the channels of taste.

Cubism is a far more arbitrary art than Matisse’s. In its extreme
expression it depends, not so much on the artist’s adroitness at
interpreting nature, as on his ability to express pure æsthetic emotion
in its relation to form—form being used here in its extended sense to
connote the solidity of the entire picture and the block relation of
each part to the other parts. Composition prior to the Cubists had been
the rhythmic organisation of a picture’s integral parts by line, volume,
chiaroscuro and colour. A totally unrelated set of objective figures or
forms was drawn together into an ensemble by these abstract æsthetic
means. Cubism retained the older methods of form and conception, and
added to them the illustrative device of disorganising and rearranging
objectivity so that the separated parts would intersect, overlap and
partly obscure the image. Thus was presented a picture replete with all
aspects of the model, that is, a picture in which the expression
presented not only the vision of reality as it discloses itself to our
eyes, but the vision which delivers itself to our intelligences, with
its actions and reactions, its many and changing miens, its linear and
voluminous struggles, its solidity and its transparency. In Cubism the
details of this ubiquitous and omnifarious vision are subjugated to
arbitrary order and expressed in tones of warm and cold.

At the outset Cubism was a Dionysian reaction against the flowing and
soft decoration of the schools of Bouguereau and the Impressionists. The
precise and masculine minds of a new cycle could not rest satisfied with
the single melody of their immediate predecessors. Courbet, the Cubists’
prototype on the side of painting which dealt entirely with objectivity,
reacted against corresponding feminine tendencies in the schools of
David and Ingres; and the decisive blow he struck in 1850 with his
L’Enterrement à Ornans had a psychological parallel in the Cubists’
exhibit in 1911. While Manet seemed to continue Courbet he in reality
retrogressed to a classic prettiness. His achievements may be compared
to those of the Orphists who, while seeming to carry on the principles
of Cubism, nullified the effect of that school by the misapplication of
colour. Cubism itself ignored colour and curved lines. It was a further
step toward a more intellectual type of painting. The modern artist’s
mind, in becoming more self-conscious, was consequently growing more
precise in its expression. And since the Cubists were the primitives of
a new era, it was natural that this precision should express itself in
straight lines and angular forms. The inconsistency of these artists lay
in the fact that, while their first desire was to make their art
arbitrary, they were so preoccupied with the dynamism of objectivity
that the main object of their work was deputised. In the canvases of
Picasso’s followers naturalism is the first consideration. As a result
the organisation of emotion-impelling form is obscured. It was from
Cézanne that the Cubists garnered the greater part of their theories,
and even the appearance of their work is not unlike his. Cézanne
realised that a mere imitation of reality, no matter how interesting,
could never set in motion the wheels of æsthetic ecstasy; and so he
translated nature into a subjective impression of reality by expressing
it in a complete order which was itself dynamic. The Cubists, profiting
by his discoveries of linear and tonal modification, essayed to found a
school on certain of his better-known and more easily grasped practices.
The spirit of precision, the need for a renovation, and the example of
Picasso who at one period copied the angularities of negro sculpture—all
gave momentum to the movement. Later were introduced the philosophical
reasonings and scientific explanations of which there has recently been
so much discussion.

The total absence of colour in the Cubists is ascribable to the same
revolt against prettiness and ambiguity that made them alter their line
and form. They felt the subjective solidity of Cézanne without
understanding that it was brought about by the use of colour whose
emotional possibilities he had profoundly penetrated. In fact his art
was composed entirely of minute chromatic planes which, by their
complete adaptability to a given position in space, produced the
intensest form. The Cubists’ planes are based, not on colour, but on
objective form itself, and are expressed by tone. In this respect Cubism
is diametrically opposed to the conception of Cézanne. With him form
was a result of the plastic employment of colour. With the Cubists even
tone is subjugated to formal planes. In them we do not experience the
subjectivity of emotion which can be produced alone by colour. Their
pictures represent a recognisable solidity which, by an image, expresses
subjective processes. Cézanne’s simultaneous vision of reality had to do
purely with the most mobile element of art; the Cubists attempted to
express psychological phenomena by the limited methods of the early
primitives. Their inability to sound (not in theory but actually) the
possibilities of colour in the creation of æsthetic form, has caused
them to diverge from the direct path in the development of means, and
has restricted permanently their initial desire for concentrated
composition. The Impressionists experimented in a highly dynamic
element; but the Cubists have only dabbled in mental processes which,
even should they become perfected, could give us only the sequential
vision of a human action. The Cubist doctrine embraces no more than a
side issue in an art which primarily has to do with the organisation of
form. In the effort of the Cubists to create a pure art they merely
disguise objectivity by abstract thought. This is by no means the same
as creating abstract form—that is, form which is not reminiscent of a
particular natural object; and by failing in this they let pass the
great opportunity of taking the final step from Matisse to purity. They
took only a half step, for in their exultation they forgot the preceding
advances in composition.

In such forgetfulness there was nothing unusual. Every new movement in
the progress of art has about it a certain isolation of ambition. The
first innovators push out the boundary on one side; their followers, on
another; and the final exponents of a method, having fully assimilated
what has preceded them, combine the endeavours and accomplishments of
their forerunners and go forward to new achievements. Cézanne had
recognised that he could never round out his own cycle. No stricture can
attach to his incompleteness: his life was too short for realisation.
That the Cubists did not altogether achieve their desire does not
detract from the importance of their departure from established
precedent. Their reaction was a salutary event in the evolution of
modern painting. The field of art was being overrun by the decadents of
Impressionism and Cézanne, by the imitators of Toulouse-Lautrec and
Degas, by those academicians who follow in the wake of every movement
long after its methods have been accepted as vital. These scholastic men
were incorporating spots and bright colours into their school-room
drawings when Cubism came forward. By its unequivocal expression of
opinions and by its neat delimitations of planes it has revealed the
futility and pettiness of academic alterations. Besides their purely
psychological innovations the Cubists have achieved all the ambitions of
the academies in a way so net, so sure, so precise, that they have
reduced the school, if not to silence, at least to ineffectualness. No
longer can the admirers of scholastic art stand before a canvas
exclaiming on the feeling, the atmosphere or the spirituality of the
work. One must now use concrete terms and speak of those qualities which
have to do with profound order; for although the theories of Cubism
state one thing, the application of them has taken another and definite
æsthetic form. In the Cubists’ work lies their greatest importance. We
may without loss lay aside their explanations, their manifestos and the
reports of their lectures.

The idea of synthesis in painting had been so thoroughly assimilated
through familiarity with successive movements that, with the advent of
Cubism, it was an accepted and unquestioned law of painting. Synthesis
had in fact become an almost unconscious knowledge. Ingres, Daumier,
Manet, Seurat and Matisse had, in quick succession, proclaimed its value
in eliminating the unimportant and unessential from models. With Cubism,
as with Matisse and Gauguin, synthesis was the supreme
ambition—synthesis which had for its goal the artistic consistency of
all the picture’s qualities. Subject-matter, colour and the method of
expression were all harmonised in Gauguin: with him the synthesis was
illustrative. In Matisse it manifested itself in the reduction of form
and colour to their simplest and most personal expression, and was
therefore a step toward a pure art. With Picasso synthesis went still
further. It became almost basic. We know that the curved line stands for
life, colour and movement; that the straight line represents the dead,
the sombre and the static. A solid dark is conducive to peace, while
quickly succeeding light and dark promote liveliness. Bearing these
fundamental postulates in mind we can easily analyse Picasso’s quality
of synthesis. The straight line which predominates in Cubism repudiates
colour:—the Cubists were not colourists. The curved line, when
profoundly comprehended, expresses movement and fluidity; when used
haphazardly mere prettiness results. There are seldom any curves in
Cubism, and then only for relieving the monotony, for the sake of
ornament. In the Cubists’ scintillating succession of darks and lights,
like a photographic negative of a Cézanne or an early Renoir, there is
an unescapable feminine prettiness in which the twinkling of tone serves
the same purpose as pretty colour. By their straight lines, subfuse
tones and rigid forms, on the one hand, they achieve immobility. By
their lights and darks, their curves and their dependence on nature, on
the other hand, they reveal their emotional kinship to the illustrative
schools of Whistler, Fragonard and Tiepolo. Now when we combine properly
these two widely separated aspects of art—the one almost Egyptian and
the other almost English—we obtain a combination of temperamental
characteristics capable of the greatest achievements, for we have
brought about the coalition of the purely masculine and the purely
feminine. In Cubism, however, these two aspects are mingled
disproportionately. The static predominates. The pretty is merely
superimposed because of temperamental dictation: instead of functioning,
it only attracts. But though in Cubism we do not find the perfect fusion
of these creative sex impulses, the simultaneous presence of the two
elements produces nevertheless a fundamental synthesis.

In order to bring about the greatest art, the form and order (which
constitute the masculine side) must be all-pervading. Objective ornament
and external beauty (which constitute the feminine side) must be only
the inspiration to creation. This is an important principle, for all
art, like all life, falls into either the masculine or the feminine
category. All personal preferences for certain forms of art are
imputable to the predomination of the male or the female in the
individual. Necessarily all creation is to a certain extent masculine—in
it there has to be order; and by the predomination of the male or female
is meant simply the accentuation of one of these qualities in their
relative combination in each of the sexes. For instance, should the
feminine “predominate” in a man, the fact would merely indicate that the
percentage of femininity in his bisexuality had over-balanced the normal
ratio. Decoration, which is an ornamental art, is feminine, and it will
appeal to men who have a subnormal amount of the creator in them. The
colossally ordered art of a Rubens will be understood and enjoyed only
by one highly capable of creation, for in the contemplation and
comprehension of a profound work of art the spectator reconstructs the
artist’s mind after his own formula, and thus recreates the work for
himself. That side of art which is the recording of some emotion the
artist has experienced so intensely that it demands concrete expression,
is feminine. It is merely an overflow of receptivity into objectivity.
To the contrary, when great art is produced it is not dependent on a
specific exterior impulse. It grows abstractly out of a collection of
assimilated impressions. When the will dominates the expression, these
impressions must take plastic form. The desire to create is in itself
feminine. The constructive ability is masculine. The first desire always
is to decorate and beautify, but the masculine will dictates and rules
the expression. In feminine art the will to co-ordinate is absent.
Consequently the expression is only the direct result of the reception.
The Cubists realise that the will must play a large part in painting,
but they exert their will on the analysis of thought rather than on
their actual productions. The result is that, while their expression is
highly restrained and reasoned, the will is exercised only on the
emotion of the received impression, and is not manifested on their
canvases’ surface. In all their work they are decorators first and
significant artists afterward. They belong distinctly to the lighter
side of artistic tradition. They are the lyric poets of the plastic.

This is markedly true of Picasso who instigated the movement. When he
first came to Paris he threw himself into a style of painting which
recalled Steinlen at his best. From Steinlen he went to Toulouse-Lautrec
and Impressionistic colour. Next he did carefully drawn portraits which
proclaimed him a greater Gauguin. Later he become infatuated with the
rhythm and skeleton-like creations of El Greco. It was at this period
that he began to do his significant work. His pictures for the most part
were painted in blue. They were sensitive to a high degree, and were, in
the sculptural sense, sometimes ordered into a solid block form. Then,
adopting a reddish colour gamut, he began to create full figures of
nudes, portraits and animal studies. At this time he commenced his
research in precise form. He organised copies of negro sculpture of
which he had heard much from Matisse, and it was a result of his
studying these rigid figures that angularities began to creep into
his art. Other artists set to work along the same lines, and from the
friction of ideas which followed the theory of Cubism was evolved.
Picasso’s still-lives then became more precise, more hard-cut, more
personal, more completely ordered. It is from this period we receive
some of his greatest work.

[Illustration: FEMME À LA MANDOLINE by PICASSO]

Shortly after came the Cubist theory of simultaneity. The authorship of
this theory is in doubt. There has been much controversy as to whether
it originated with Picasso or with one of his followers. But it was
straightway adopted by the entire group and made one of the dominating
principles of the movement. Simultaneity to these painters meant the
combined presentation of a number of aspects of the same object from
many different angles. In the visualisation of an object in nature
during the absence of that object, we conceive it, not only as a
silhouette or as a form with three dimensions, but as a congeries of
silhouettes which, when imagined simultaneously, constitute the
appearance of the object from every known angle. In short, our minds
envelop it and all its attributes at the same instant. Such a vision is
the result of collected and concentrated memory. In a desire to disarm
criticism the Cubists offered as a theory the picturisation of this
multilateral vision; but in reality it was little more than an excuse to
make the utilisation of natural forms more arbitrary than in the case of
Matisse, Cézanne and Gauguin and also to rid themselves entirely of the
illustrative obstacle. Their ingrained weakness lay in that they did not
possess sufficient genius to alienate themselves entirely from document
and to create new abstract compositions. Nor did their instinct permit
them to throw document aside when they sensed their inability to replace
it with something more vital. Their spirit of revolution worked on the
form which illustration would take, rather than on the discontinuance of
illustration. But even in this attitude they marked a decided progress,
for while in the paintings of their predecessors the disposition of line
and form had made a unity of many separated figures, these figures, even
to a mind unusually free from the taint of anecdote and objectivity in
art, presented themselves separately as integers of a whole. The
Cubists, by breaking up a model into parts which separately bore little
resemblance to nature, proved that they not only recognised the demands
of pure organisation but that they knew those demands could never be met
so long as there were recognisable objects in a painting.

The presentation of a nude or a landscape from many different viewpoints
was in itself no more important than the methods of the Impressionists.
Indeed the pleasure derived from so constructing a picture is similar to
the pleasure derived from copying light. It represents the nearest
approach of the enthusiastic painter of form to the enthusiastic painter
of light. They are both interested in recording a rather puzzling and
interesting phenomenon: the one is after that which creates the
impressions of form; the other, that which creates the impressions of
colour. Both, in the broad sense, derive the same enjoyment in
deciphering the work after it is finished. The one records only broad
waves of scintillating colours with no demarcation of silhouettes; and
these colours gradually resolve themselves into a sunny and ambiguous
landscape. The other makes a number of broad planes of brown and white
which, when diligently studied in their parts, become the angular
representation of water, ships, sky-lines which run into and through
houses, trees which obscure near-by objects, and houses which melt into
distant skies. Both schools of painting are impressionistic; each treats
of exactly what the other neglects. No artist as yet has seen the
distinct advantage of uniting the two methods. Cézanne might be
suggested as having approached this alliance, but his means were too
profound for him to be led into portraying by concrete symbols his
impressions of a model.

In painting the enveloping mental vision of a model, however, the
Cubists actually failed in the synchronism for which they strove. In
reality they extended the effect of their pictures into time more than
ever before. To grasp their illustrative import, long and arduous search
must be made. While their canvases present a simultaneous vision, each
picture as a whole is incapable of creating a unified impression. A
Cubist painting is, let us say, like the momentary blare of a hundred
musical instruments all of which play consecutive bars. By approaching
each performer in order and studying his particular notes, until every
musical detail is learned, we might intellectually construct from our
memory an impression of a related musical composition. But should the
blare be repeated, even after our research, the music’s meaning would be
no clearer than before. On the other hand, if, having first heard the
composition in its natural development, we had studied its parts and
motifs and then heard it repeated sequentially, a greater enjoyment and
comprehension would result. In breaking up nature, either for the sake
of extending the æsthetic appreciation into time like music, or for
simultaneity of presentation, all the parts must answer to an
organisation;—in the first case, so that, after the spectator’s first
fleeting vision of the whole, his eye will be carried from one part to
another by the rhythmic balance of volume, linear opposition and harmony
of colour; and in the second case, so that the canvas will be an
interdependent block-manifestation.

In constructing formal planes with definite tones whose values are
mechanical and absolute, the Cubists have missed that possible
subjectivity of movement which, in its highest degree, colour alone can
give. They have constructed only primitively ordered bas-reliefs each
plane and line of which has a distinct direction. And this direction, no
matter what is added to or subtracted from the work, will remain the
same. The planes are consequently static and absolute. In the great art
of Cézanne there is only a relative absolutism. By any alteration in one
of his pictures, the entirety is shattered: the direction of each plane
and line is changed to concur with the needs of a different order. This
is because Cézanne’s work possesses the poise which is demanded in the
highest art. And this poise is what Cubism, with its rigid lines and
planes, has entirely missed. Illustratively the Cubists’ conception was
new, compositionally it was old; and an art cannot be significantly
renovated save from the bottom upward. The foundation of all art is
composition, and the only means which can be accepted as vital are those
which increase the artist’s power to express that which is more inherent
in painting than in any of the other arts, namely: rhythmic form in
three dimensions. That the Cubists failed to develop such means may be
perceived by comparing the compositions of Picasso’s “red” period, which
were but slightly cubic and which contain a certain amount of arbitrary
form, with his late and wholly cubic black-and-white drawings and
paintings such as are seen at Kahnweiler’s back of the Madeleine. The
latter are almost wholly flat. His Femme à la Mandoline marks the
transition from the early period to the late one. In all his pictures
one finds a charming rhythm of lights and darks and a slight
comprehension of surface form. But he never goes very deep. Even in his
sculptured heads, while there is order, there is no form in the
compositional sense.

To ascribe Picasso’s Cubism to so childish an impulse as a desire to
square an academic drawing is both untrue and unjust. Some have pointed
to Dürer as his artistic forbear merely because Dürer once described a
number of curves which he said could be made into a human body and drew
a block-diagram of box-like forms which he said was the basis for the
body’s construction. But no relationship exists between these two
artists. Cubism’s first consideration was to cover the surfaces of its
canvases with form, thus doing away with the empty spaces so prevalent
in all art works, spaces which Cézanne left blank. To accomplish this
logically it was necessary either to introduce superfluous figures, or
to stretch the ones already present into impossible distortions. Since
the elimination of all unessentials was the keynote of the day, Picasso
decided to make multiplex his essentials. Herewith was born the Cubist
conception of breaking up the model for the attainment of a more
complete work and one in which there would be no dead planes. At first
an extensive linear direction, which started at the lower frame, was
carried up into the background by the demarcation of a shadow or an
object, for the purpose of holding tightly together two or more forms.
Later, in order to facilitate this procedure of multiplying their
models, the Cubists began to walk round them. This process unchained
them from the slavery to a single model and from the given contour of an
absolute subject. At the same time it permitted them a fantastically
arbitrary composition, and made their expression more dependent on the
personality of the artist, and less contingent on preconceived ideas,
than ever before.

Cubism expressed a laudable tendency toward an aristocratic vision as
opposed to the popular vision of reality. Its pictures therefore became
doubly complex, for in the contemplation of the picturisation of our
mental process, another process is started which is far more complicated
than the first. Herein we have an explanation for the fact that Cubism
is incomprehensible to the untutored person who regards art as an
imitation of nature. The very word “form” is æsthetically meaningless to
the average spectator. In order to experience its meaning, aside from
organisation, one’s attention has to be given over to the object’s
weight, its force, its circumferential volume. A form in a picture
cannot be considered merely as to its employment and its utilitarian
destiny, or from the standpoint of one’s experience with it. To the
great artist an object exists as a volume with which to fill a given
space. He completely forgets its _raison d’être_ in life, and views it
only as a means for tightening a picture’s order. To this extreme of
pure artistic conception the Cubists never attained. And while Cézanne
advanced from Courbet’s surface realism to the realism of causes, the
Cubists were unable to progress along similar lines. They simply
translated abstraction into terms of concrete expression. The profound
reasons for dynamism in art were left untouched by them. They
endeavoured to portray objectively an abstract process, expecting its
mere portrayal to be dynamic.

The dynamic, however, cannot be rendered by imitation. It is as
impossible of attainment by this method as in the dancing-girl canvases
of Degas. Behind the emotional power of nature there is a great abstract
force; and the effect of dynamism can be got only when this force is
expressed. Then the result is a natural outgrowth of a cause. Otherwise
we have only a detached effect which does not lead us back into the
undercurrents of causation. When a Cubist picture is interesting it will
at most make us puzzle over the application of its theories; it can
never move us æsthetically by the sheer power of its methods. The one
dynamic element which the Cubists have in common with Cézanne—namely:
the modification of lines and forms through contact with other lines
and forms—they have nullified by constructing with rigid tones the
planes which the lines delimit, thereby making their planes frozen and
immovable. Because ignorant of the functionality of colour the Cubists
were unable to present, at one and the same time, perfect mobility,
planar solidity and indefinite depth. As a result of too much study of
Cézanne’s and El Greco’s composition and too little study of
Michelangelo and Rubens, they failed to achieve, even with the great
arbitrariness and convenience of their means, a profound composition
which is a rhythmic order of volume, as distinguished from a simple
organisation of parts. Their accomplishments do not realise the promises
of their programme because their theories were too inflexible. Cubism
was too tightly bound by rigid systems and methods to produce
plastically significant results.

The Cubists’ greatest _apport_ to art (not in theory but in achievement)
is their almost total abolition of the painter’s slavery to nature. It
was but a step from Matisse to the complete elimination of recognisable
objects, and though Cubism did not cover the entire distance, it
nevertheless made an advance toward that pure expression which Cézanne
saw was inevitable. Even today the followers of this school are
beginning to realise their early mistakes and to throw off their
self-imposed restrictions. They are launching forth into colour and are
seeking expression in purely arbitrary form. But these new developments
have not yet been productive of a new artistic worth. Indeed, it is
doubtful if they will lead to important results so long as the
geometrical phase of Cubism is adhered to, and so long as the Cubists
ignore the dynamic possibilities of colour. In its present status Cubism
can only continue striving toward a style that goes deeper than tonal
prettiness and lyric immobility. Already Picasso has passed out of
painting altogether. An artist with his extraordinary gift to do
anything superficially well could not remain anchored to an idea after
the novelty of its method had worn off. He is not a man who is the slave
of thought, but rather an obstinate artist with a spark of genius who
has passed through many different stages with a rapidity born of
astounding dexterity and cleverness. Many of his early female heads
rival in sheer classic beauty the best of the Renaissance painters. Some
of his pen-and-ink drawings are the most sensitive of modern times.
There are caricatures done by him which closely approach the fantasy of
a Goya. Indeed it may be justly said that he is as great an illustrator
as Raphael. And in this analogy lie both his glory and his limitation.
Like Raphael he lacks that profound penetration of exteriors which would
permit him a comprehension of his greater influences—of El Greco, for
instance. But, with a glance, he can sound the depths of a
Toulouse-Lautrec, a Steinlen or a piece of negro sculpture.

Picasso’s inability to conceive two elements at once and to construct a
complicated development of composition, is exemplified in his earlier
work, first, by his adherence to certain single colours at different
stages of his career, secondly, by the extreme simplicity of his circus
folk, and thirdly, by his figure compositions which, though they are
never tedious or dull and possess an almost nervous _sensibilité_, are
limited to one or two human forms. Again Picasso’s limitation of
compositional conception is attested to by his stubborn use of brown and
white in his latest Cubist pictures, by his employment of line alone in
the drawings of his architectural-plan stage, and by his application of
objects at hand to the clay blocks which mark his latest metamorphosis.
But no matter what his medium or style, he remains essentially
unchanged. In all his work is felt the superficial lightness of one who
conceives order only as an ornament to decoration and who is interested
in three-dimensional form merely as an after-thought. His sculpture is
but his painting in a solider medium. It is broken up into planes and
organised as to each contour in exactly the same manner as is his work
in oils. The difference between Picasso, the sculptor, and Matisse, the
sculptor, is the difference between a man who has a slight genius for
rhythm and a block order, and one who has a slight genius for
characterisation and a perfect ensemble. The art of Picasso, having to
do with form as decoration, is admirably adapted to sculpture. The art
of Matisse, being flat and dealing with colour as decoration, is
inexpressible in clay.

[Illustration: FUMEUR ET PAYSAGE BY LÉGER]

Fernand Léger, with the exception of Picasso, is the most genuinely
talented artist of the Cubist movement. His work at first was much less
radical than that of his confrères and gave greater evidence of depth
because it had never completely shaken off perspective. His canvases,
Les Toits and Maisons et Fumées, represent little more than a highly
artistic angularisation of a subject which, being angular in itself,
lends itself admirably to Cubistic treatment. Léger’s method is to place
in the foreground large planes which serve as a frame for the actual
picture which is seen between them as through a tunnel. By this device
he creates a diversity of form and with it a recognisable depth. His
paint at first was light in tone, but is now taking on colour. Since his
first Cubist exhibits he has made a logical progress in rhythmic
conception, and if his past development can be assumed as a criterion of
the future it is safe to prophesy that eventually he will be the most
significant man of the original group. Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger,
Marcel Duchamp, Georges Braque and Francis Picabia are all prominent
figures in the Cubist movement. Gleizes manifested his first Cubist
tendencies by giving form a solid angularity, thereby making it precise.
His canvases are devoid of interest because so slightly creative. His
well-known L’Homme au Balcon appears to us today almost Futuristic in
conception. In fact, it was exposed at the _Salon d’Automne_ in 1912 one
year after the Futurist show; and when we compare it with his early and
less significant Les Baigneuses, with which it was hung, it gives the
impression of having been the result of a sudden and enthusiastic
inspiration from the newer men. Later his work grew broader and simpler,
but in it there is little or no composition. Even the order is that of
the straight line. Metzinger is a better artist. In him is a greater
order, although, as in Gleizes, it is produced by the straight line.
During his artistic beginnings he was under the sway of negro sculpture
and painted in small planes of light and dark. Later, turning from the
influence of negro antiquity, he directed his talent on nature and began
to interpret form into angularities. His La Femme au Cheval, done in
1912, was a distinct step, both as to form and composition, in advance
of the naturalistic vision; and his Le Port is one of the finest
examples of the Cubist theory of synchronous picturisation and
interpenetrating lines and masses. Duchamp, a slighter talent than
either Léger or Gleizes, is the Whistler of the movement. In his
pictures are less form, less composition and less comprehension of
volume than in any other Cubist work except that of Juan Gris whose
lethargic canvases have not even the interest of an Aimé Morot. Braque
has added nothing to Cubism. He followed Picasso closely, and his whole
creative impetus seems derived from the latter’s canvases.

Picabia, despite his popularity, is but a second-rate Cubist. He was
quick to grasp the fact that the Cubists were working away from
illustration, and attempted to step beyond them. Where they had
endeavoured to bring about the precise stylisation of form, he merely
dealt in ribbon-like patches of colour which were without contour,
shape, proportion or volume. His canvases wherein many of these strange
amorphous hachures are grouped, have a highly bizarre appearance but are
only remotely intelligible. He used almost monochromatic schemes, as did
his master Picasso, and continued this style of work until his fellow
Cubists, by diligent research and serious study, had approached the
abstract appearance of his surfaces. Picabia then found a new impetus
in the works of the Futurists—an impetus toward movement expressed, not
by bodies, but by line. This Futurist influence resulted in his making
flat pictures of many sharply defined silhouettes tinted red, green,
blue and grey. His lines serve only to accentuate the chaos of his
ensemble, for in his work there is no definite conception of the whole.

Cubism’s possibilities as a dynamic illustrative art have never been
adequately exhausted, and, since the angular mode is rapidly
disappearing as a result of newer and more vital visions, they probably
never will. Picasso was its high priest up to two years ago, at which
time colour, coming back on the wave of a counter-revolution, threw most
of the Cubists into its application. Robert Delaunay was responsible for
this reaction. Early in 1912 he came forward with a very large canvas
entitled Ville de Paris, whose surface was broken up into many angular
planes after the Cubist fashion. But instead of depicting forms and
formal relations, the picture was painted in greys and high colours
solely as a means of surface filling. Its contours recalled El Greco
despite their being disguised by triangular dislocations. The picture
represented three mammoth Graces standing before a distant Paris
landscape, and so transparent and ethereal was it that it seemed as
though a breath could have dispersed it into mist. It possessed the
delicate loveliness of a butterfly, and the eye, in running over its
glittering and pretty array of colours, was fascinated as in the
contemplation of a kaleidoscope. But the canvas, while provoking a
distinct visual pleasure, failed to arouse any æsthetic enjoyment.

Delaunay’s L’Équipe de Cardiff the following year was equally
unemotional. Fundamentally this picture was the same as his Ville de
Paris, though treated differently as to surface. The same up-shooting
type of _svelte_ beauty as formerly bodied forth in his three Graces was
here repeated in the bodies of the athletes, but there was in addition a
very slight surface rhythm; and the colour, because its application was
broader, had a greater fascination. In his Ville de Paris, not daring to
paint a naturally drawn nude with the colours his sense of prettiness
and ornament dictated, he fragmentised the surface by luxating the
lines. Thus, while the sensitive contour was retained, the picture
appeared as if viewed through a polygonal prism. In the second canvas
this artifice for the sake of charm was discarded. The players were
dressed in solid colours of bright pigment; the sky was blue-violet; the
Eiffel tower, eminently appreciable, stood to the right; down the centre
of the canvas was a large _affiche_ in yellow; and overhead soared an
aeroplane. The transition from a hackneyed theme to a modern one was the
result of the artist’s desire to pass beyond the methods of the day to
more vigorous ones.

Before Delaunay’s decisive work was done he had been influenced by the
Neo-Impressionists, Cézanne, the Cubists and, in his two mentioned early
works, by the Impressionists. Indeed these pictures are the expression
of Impressionist methods broadened and extended to suit the dimensions
of his canvases. His cityscapes with the Eiffel tower as the principal
object are interesting though not profound, and such canvases as the
Route de Laon and Les Tours are so dainty they seem breathed onto the
canvas. He is essentially a decorator in that he works always in two
dimensions. This surface quality enters into all art, but in itself it
is never significant. Only when it is a _result_ of ordered plasticity
does it have power to move us. In Delaunay, however, there exists no
fundamental order. Consequently his power is strictly limited. His
desire is to make decoration which will be profound, instead of profound
composition which will result in decoration. By thus reversing the
natural order, effects are considered before causes; and only by the
dynamism of causes can we be made to feel beauty. Beauty such as his is
merely prettiness: it is only the objective mask of beauty, and is of no
more æsthetic importance than a view of nature. The true beauty of a
work of art is subjective; it is the effect of one’s having sensed the
accumulated and sequential aspects of co-ordinated expression. Herein
lies the difference between æsthetic emotion and the pleasure aroused by
a sunset, a stage setting or a dramatic story. When one is able to
penetrate finally into art, neither dolour nor depression results, but
always a feeling of exultation and joy, for by one’s intellectual
comprehension one has been physically aroused by a dynamic force, not
merely moved by a scene or story which sets in motion the associative
processes.

To the inadequate comprehension of this psychological truth is
attributable the failure of the Cubists and of Delaunay. The latter
strove to preserve the individuality of his work under the name of
Orphism, and later under the designation of Simultaneism. But his
temperamental kinship to Picasso and the Cubists is too obvious to be
denied by nomenclature. Even his latest work, while more abstract and
more luminous, is at most secessionistic. His canvas hung in the _Salon
des Indépendants_ in 1914 was Cubism translated into light colours and
twisted into curves and circles. Delaunay’s wife, Madame Delaunay-Terk,
follows him closely in inspiration and application, but her pictures are
less ordered than his. The American, Bruce, once an imitator of Matisse
and later of Cézanne, has joined the Simultaneist ranks; and Frost,
another American, is an ardent disciple of Delaunay. The orthodox
Cubists had passed colour by, but its reappearance in the
Orphists-Simultaneists was a significant augury. Though it was not
understood by them as an element capable of organic functioning, its
mere presence was an inspiration and a call to all genuine artists to
penetrate its meaning in relation to the intensification of form.



XII

FUTURISM


The dramatic enhancement of painting by line so well understood by the
ancients, and the literary intensification of subject-matter by colour
foreshadowed by the primitives and made more conscious by Delacroix,
reached their highest development in the theories of Kandinsky and the
Futurists. With Delacroix’s comments concerning the harmonising of line
and colour with subject and Seurat’s and Signac’s subsequent addenda to
these comments, began scientific observation in painting. So long as
these theories remained secondary to the great truths of composition
they were admissible, because they had to do only with the unimportant
ornamentation of an æsthetic organisation. But when, as in Kandinsky and
the Futurists, they became the all in all of the artist’s ambitions,
they ceased to produce painting, and gave birth only to bad music, as in
the Russian, and to bad poetry, as in the Italians. But while the
Futurists’ work had little to commend it to the discriminating
spectator, their ideas were interesting and inspiring, and it is from
their manifestos that has come what little influence they have exerted.
Their pictures are neither pretty nor agreeable, while Kandinsky’s, to
the contrary, possess dainty and pleasing traits. In both cases the
pictures are puzzles to be deciphered at length: they are expressions of
moods brought about by half veiling reality and by making symbolically
concrete an abstract force or cause.

In music where the form is an abstract result of concrete causes and in
literature where the form is wholly abstract and represented by symbols,
moods can be easily expressed, for they are the natural outgrowth of the
media of these two arts. But in painting and sculpture, which are the
visual arts wherein the form itself is concrete, emotion can be provoked
only by a plastic poise of subjective weights. The balance and
opposition of such weights or volumes when rhythmically organised give
rise to complete æsthetic satisfaction and engender a feeling of
finality which encompasses both line and colour. The Futurists, as did
Delacroix and Seurat, count on “force-lines” to express an emotion,
thereby branding themselves two-dimensional artists. And their desire to
represent an emotion of objectivity on canvas places them at once in the
ranks of illustrators. The highest art has nothing to do with objective
reality whether as a spectacle or as a means to sensation. It is true
that painting, in becoming pure, will eventually incorporate the
associative emotions, but these emotions will be the psychological
results of abstract form, not memorial experiences produced by cognitive
objects. And the line, of which we have heard so much, will then become
a direction and equality of pure form; it will no longer be simply an
indication on a flat surface by means of a mark. The Futurists did not
strive for purity. Rather did they emphasise an irrelevant side of
painting. They declared themselves the renovators of subject-matter.
Their whole ambition worked toward that end; and it is from that
standpoint they must be judged.

In arriving at their conclusions many necessities of æsthetic emotion
were sensed. Their most important statement, and one which, because of
the dearth of significant art criticism, had not previously been set
down, is that the person who contemplates a picture should not feel
himself a mere observer of the events taking place in the painted work,
but one of the principal actors in the canvas. In illustration such
empathy is impossible unless the work is wholly and ultimately
synthesised as to volume, colour, line, direction, size and subject. No
such work has ever been produced because all the dramatic uses of these
elements have never been understood by one man. That there are hundreds
of canvases which entrain us into their ramifications is indisputable,
but the æsthetic emotion we feel in them has to do with formal line
alone, not with the perfect concord of line, form and subject. Marinetti
and his group have striven earnestly to accomplish this difficult feat,
but in every instance have failed. The explanation of their theories has
far more to do with the emotion their pictures arouse in us, than has
the actual application of these theories to canvas. They state that
perpendicular, undulating and worn-out lines attached to hollow bodies
express languor and discouragement; that confused, somersaulting lines,
straight or curved, confounded into suggested gestures of appeal or
haste, express the chaotic agitation of sentiments; that horizontal,
jerky lines which brutally cut into semi-obscured faces, and bits of
broken, irregular landscape give us the sensation of one departing on a
journey. But while all this may be true, it has nothing to do with the
æsthetic emotion which in painting grows entirely out of the dynamic use
of the elements inherent in that art.

The desire of many modern painters and theorists to introduce into their
own art emotions derived from the other arts results, first, from the
modern ambition to intensify each of the arts, and secondly, from
certain observations in æsthetic fundamentals, which have led artists
little by little toward a vague realisation that the basis of all the
arts is identical. But in this synthesis of the arts there is nothing
new. The Futurists, in attempting to fuse poetry and painting, are many
decades too late to lay claim to originality. Numerous attempts—all of
them failures—have been made along similar lines. Wagner’s was the most
conspicuous. Then there were Sadikichi Hartmann, Madame Mary Hallock,
René de Ghil, Arthur Rimbaud and recently Alexander Scriabine, all of
whom commingled the different arts in an attempt to produce intensity.
Commendable as these efforts for a hybrid expression may be, they are a
futile expenditure of energy until the arts have been more precisely
understood; and it is worth noting that those who have tried to coalesce
them have been, in nearly every instance, the ones who understand none
of them profoundly. The Futurists prove no exception. Their
misapprehension of painting is analogous to that of Degas who, in
picturing the dance, imagined that the spectator, by contemplating its
static representations, would experience its rhythm.

The emotion of movement which the Futurists wish to call up can never be
produced by disordered and tumbling lines. The effect is chaos. Movement
grows out of the placement and displacement of volumes. It is a result
of rhythmic organisation. We are conscious of movement in a human body
when a position or pose is shifted, and we are conscious of it _only
during the process of shifting_. Should we look at a body in one
position, close our eyes during its change of attitude, and then behold
it completely altered, we should not experience a sensation of action at
all. But if the static points of movement present themselves to us with
sufficient rapidity they produce the effect of continuous movement, as
in the simulacra of the kinematograph. Otherwise we record merely the
result of the change of position—not the act of changing itself. In a
Michelangelo statue we see at first glance only a solid rigid mass; but
the moment we begin mentally to reconstruct the form, we sense the
opposition of volume-direction and the delicate poise of weights which
overhang hollows and which are proportionally exaggerated in order to
give a greater emotion of struggling forces. Then, our will guiding our
eye, the mind translates to us physically the statue’s expansion and
contraction, the withheld completion of absolute balance, the
approximation to equilibrium: and it is only after we have passed
through discords and struggles and complicated developments—in other
words, after we have striven for physical completion—that the finality
comes as a satisfying consummation, like the knowledge of a tremendous
task, long laboured over, brought to perfect and final accomplishment.

Is not the desire for an emotion, so completely reflective of the very
undercurrents of life’s forces, worthier of an artist’s aim than the
desire for the momentary sensation that someone is going away or that
one is looking on at a dance? The emotional depictions of such episodes
are at best but remote reflexes of reality. Our participation in a
dance, for instance, is infinitely more intense than the Futurists’
kinematic representation of it. In the actual experience one not only
sees chaos but can touch the swirling forms, blink at the lights, smell
the perfumes and hear the noise and music. In other words, one is moved
to sensation or feeling by the physical forces themselves. To the true
artist these physical forces are only his weapons, never his ends. And
it is only through their intelligent use in the production of form that
æsthetic emotion results. The superficial portrayal of effects, whether
mental or physical, can never lead us inward to their causes. Any result
is simply the dead end of a force, like the sea-weed a submarine volcano
has thrown to the surface of the ocean. Art, being the causative force
itself, should bring about the upheaval whose final manifestation is
complete and satisfying. In great painting the spectator is led through
every step of kinetic energy from chaos to order. When he emerges he has
undergone a colossal dynamic experience. After all, energy is the
ultimate physical reality.

[Illustration: DYNAMISM D’UNE AUTO by RUSSOLO]

The Futurists, it is true, strove sedulously for dynamism. Several of
the titles of their later canvases contain the word. But their
consistent misinterpretation of Leibniz’s doctrine led them into the
most superficial statements of the laws of force. By confusing action
with movement and tempo with rhythm, and by constantly juggling causes
and effects, they never arrived at a basic exposition of energy. In
contemplating their pictures we experience only visual confusion. There
is no movement because there is no static foil, no consummation. There
is no dynamism because there is no suggestion of the inherent force
which all substance involves. Let us assume the hypothesis that it is
possible to photograph a kinematic force in movement. The Futurists’
pictures wherein the representation of dynamism is attempted, as in
Dynamisme d’une Auto, there is a series of these hypothetical
photographs each of which has caught a segment of immobility, as any
snap-shot catches some static pose of a moving object. By
super-imposing each of these images successively on the other the
Futurists imagine that a state of action is created. But even were this
the case the picture would be innocent of dynamism. Again, Futurism
claims not to paint maladies but their symptoms and results. Admittedly
therefore it works against its own gropings for dynamism, for symptoms
and results are the outgrowth of causes, and as such can have only an
objective interest. Would the Futurists maintain, for instance, that, by
portraying a head from many viewpoints on the same canvas, they can give
us the emotion of a head turning? Even were it possible thus to extend
the contemplation of pictures into time, the effect of a series of
dissimilar profiles would be no more convincing than that obtained by a
slowly moving cinematograph film. Should we grant that by such a device
the effect of movement resulted, it would depend entirely upon which end
of the movement the eye alighted first whether the head moved one way or
the other. And if the picture was a perfect organisation the change of
direction would throw every part of the canvas out of gear.

Considering Futurism purely from the standpoint of illustration we
still are unable to justify its aims. In painting a picture of a person
setting forth upon a journey from a railway station, the Futurist
represents the departure by means of horizontal, fleeting and jerky
lines, half-hidden profiles, the station’s interior, the engine, etc.
Then by introducing into the canvas bits of landscape and other
incidentals which depict the thoughts of the person about to depart, the
artist endeavours to call up the same mental state in the spectator of
the canvas. The associative process of the human mind, however, makes
such a proceeding unnecessary, because in beholding a simple, even an
academically pictured, scene of someone entering a train amid the
confusion and haste of passengers and guards, the spectator
involuntarily calls up the landscape running past, the telegraph poles
jerking by, the clanging of the bell, the shouts of attendants, the
shuffling of many feet and the hiss of steam. In setting these things
down the Futurists succeed only in limiting a highly imaginative
person’s thoughts by restricted visions of objectivity, just as in the
theatre a producer, by placing many _papier maché_ trees and rocks and
fibre grass about the stage, circumscribes the onlooker’s imagination.
The Greeks, whose theatrical presentations were sufficiently intense to
evoke an imaginative _milieu_, did not need factitious properties: but
the theatrical Belascos must necessarily make their settings absolute
and meticulously realistic. A Tintoretto needs no such tricks to
strengthen its emotive power; but the Futurists, unable to move us by
dynamic canvases, need recourse to dramatic tricks. At most their
pictures could be significant only as auxiliaries to literary texts.

The Futurists’ contention that all modern art should have as a point of
departure an entirely modern sensation is wholly tenable, but they
mistake the fact that a modern sensation is merely the sensation which
pertains specially to the contemporary man. It has nothing to do
innately with the delineation of an automobile or an aeroplane. The
modern æsthetic spirit goes deeper. It implies the expression of an
emotion by use of the latest refinements and researches in the medium of
an art. In painting it is not limited to the illustrative portrayal of a
novelty. Were this the case any painter who confined himself to the
picturisation of the latest dreadnaughts and the highest skyscrapers
would be the pioneer of a new expression. In order to express himself in
a modern manner, an artist needs only to have divested himself of all
predilections for antiquity, to have subdued all conscious desire to
will himself into the bodies of an ancient people, and to have seen the
error of the childish maxim that there is nothing new under the sun. Any
painter free from tradition, with a comprehension of æsthetic movement
and an ability to apply it, will produce canvases which, though they
have no radical theory behind them, will be as distinctly modern as
those of the Futurists. Modernity has to do with methods and mental
attitude. It is in no wise related to subject-matter.

Consider, for instance, the famous Futurist statement that “a running
horse has not four legs, but twenty.” Then contemplate Balla’s picture,
Dog and Person in Movement, to which this theory is applied. Neither the
dog nor the person seems to move at all. They are static figures with
blurred triangles resembling lace where their legs should be. Such a
juvenile artifice to give the effect of movement is certainly not modern
or even novel. Long prior to the Futurists, caricaturists and comic
journalistic draughtsmen sought to express action by placing circular
lines round the wagging tails of dogs or by drawing long sweeping lines
behind a swiftly moving figure to indicate from what direction it had
come and the rapidity of locomotion. Such inventions are outside the
field of æsthetics. They have to do only with slow optical action. But
the modification of objects in contact with others, of which Cézanne
wrote, is a profound postulate of organisation. It creates a poise of
volume which causes us to experience an emotion of movement. The
Futurists’ contrivance of endowing a horse with twenty legs precludes
any possibility of their calling up forcibly a running horse, for only
the legs seem to move, as of a horse in a treadmill. Save for the
pictorial side of a picture so presented there is nothing in it of
interest to us: and our memory of an actual horse clashes with the
vision of a multipedalian one.

The Futurists’ statement, however, that a picture’s lines should
subjectively drag the spectator into the centre of the canvas, where he
will personally experience the rhythmic interplay of forms, is not only
pertinent but expresses an absolute æsthetic necessity. Pictures which
do not so affect the beholder have failed as great art. But though the
Futurists were the first to give succinct utterance to this shibboleth,
the practice of constituting a work of art so that the spectator was
transposed into its stress and strain, had been going on ever since
great composition came into painting. One cannot study a Michelangelo or
a Rubens without feeling, even to the point of physical fatigue, the
struggle of their finally harmonised volumes. This does not hold true of
the Futurists’ work. In studying their pictures our eyes alone become
tired; and, though we succeed in unravelling the involutions of their
pictures, there is for us no recompense of emotional satisfaction.
Action in itself has little charm for us, and action is what the
paintings of Futurism, in their ultimate expression, are founded on. But
while action may attract us when expressed by an interesting and
sympathetic personality, as in the paintings of Henri and in the
sculpture of Rude, there is in Futurism no actional sensation or
explicit element of deep enjoyment that we cannot obtain in greater
intensity by gazing upon a busy thoroughfare, or by watching the
landscape from a swiftly moving train, or by attending a dance. Even the
chaos of a Futurist painting does not present the interest of the Flight
Turning a Corner from Keion’s panoramic roll of the Hogen Heiji war, or
the prints of Moronobu, or even The Heavenly Host by the primitive
Guariento. All these works, while they represent action, are also
ordered. And order, which the Futurists lack, is more than an arbitrary
ingredient in art. Just as the eternal desire in life is for something
positive and absolute, so the attempt at order in painting is an
outgrowth of the desire to make a picture complete and satisfying.

There is no doubt that the Futurists exerted much good in imbuing the
artists of the day with a greater consciosity and in showing them, by an
elaborate critical prospectus, the error of their ways. Futurism quieted
the animadversions the modernist painters were hurling at Monet and his
school, by pointing out that, to react against Impressionism by adopting
pictorial laws which antedated it, was futile, and that the only way to
combat it seriously was to surpass it. The Futurists, however, were
unable to fulfil their proposition. They were, in fact, the abstract
perpetuators of Impressionism through the Cubists who represented its
formal side. The man who surpassed Impressionism was Cézanne.
Furthermore, the Futurists chided the Cubists for painting from models,
whether in squares, cubes or circles; and thus turned the light of
analysis on the actual achievements, and away from the theories, of
Picasso and his followers. The consequence was that for a short time
the Cubists became somewhat Futuristic. Then, the strong impetus slowly
ebbing out, the two schools gradually approached each other. Futurism
has taken on a somewhat Cubistic mien; and the Cubists, having profited
by the Futurists’ teachings and having partially divorced themselves
from the model, have begun to seek expression in Orphism and
Synchromism. The work of Boccioni and Carrà has assumed a wholly
abstract appearance, and is much more interesting than formerly.

[Illustration: HIÉROGLYPHE DYNAMIQUE DU BAL TABARIN by SEVERINI]

The methods of Futurism have their provenience in many preceding art
movements. One finds in this school’s canvases cubes, spots,
divisionistic technique and wholly academic drawing; some of the
pictures are monotonously brown and grey, while others possess the acid
colouring of Neo-Impressionism. But aside from their work the Futurists
proved a salutary event in modern art. The painting of the day needed
just such a cataclysm to turn its eyes from the contemplation of partial
traits to a more encompassing vision. Their motto might be the saying of
Mallarmé: “To name is to destroy, but to suggest is to create.” Their
art is largely one of suggestion. Their initial mistake was in supposing
that the depiction of mental states would recall the causes of those
states. Life would indeed be monotonous if in it there was no struggle.
We could never appreciate its consummations were we ignorant of the
travail which brought them about. The Futurists present, as it were, the
conclusion of an oration in which has been developed a colossal thought,
and ask us to applaud. This we cannot do, for not having followed the
struggle of the new idea against opposing forces, we are unable to
appreciate the import of the results.

Notwithstanding their many failures the Futurists have greatly widened
the field of illustration; by a word they have given birth to a school,
Simultaneism; and they have forever turned Cubism from its narrow
formalism. But in themselves they were not significant. They were too
stringently literary, and in attempting to advance their own theories at
the expense of profounder doctrines, they have succeeded only in
assisting other painters toward a greater purity of expression, despite
the fact that they advocated a retrogressive objectivity. Marinetti, a
poet, is the spiritual (and monetary) father of Futurism; and the names
signed to the original manifesto were Umberto Boccioni, a sculptor as
well as a painter; Carlo D. Carrà, the most genuine artist of the group;
Luigi Russolo, its most orthodox exponent; Gino Severini, its
illustrator _par excellence_; and Giacomo Balla, its high priest of
prettiness. In an attempt to preclude all censure, they closed their
manifest with these words: “There will be those who will accuse our art
of being cerebrally distorted and decadent. But we will answer simply
that we are, to the contrary, the primitives of a new and centuple
sensitivity, and that our art is drunk with spontaneity and power.” With
the slight change of “theory” for “art” we would heartily agree with
them.



XIII

SYNCHROMISM


In order to understand the last step in the evolution of present-day art
methods, it is necessary to be thoroughly cognizant not only of what has
taken place before but of the chronological development of all the
qualities of modern painting, for Synchromism embraces every æsthetic
aspiration from Delacroix and Turner to Cézanne and the Cubists. At the
same time it reverts to the compositions of Rubens, complicating them
further to satisfy the needs of the modern mind. Delacroix took the
first decided step toward making colour an organic factor in art—a
factor which would help present a more homogeneous emotion of the
picture as a whole, and which would be intimately connected with the
picture’s vital expression. He was a decided advance on those painters
to whom colour was as arbitrary a means of adorning a good work as the
gilt frame they placed about it. Colour with them was dictated by the
demands of an age of voluptuousness and unrestrained living. The great
art nations of Spain, Italy and Flanders were then passing through a
sensuous epoch, and the painters reflected in their work the tone of the
national temperament. The primitives of these countries and of Germany
had used colour because the religious qualities in their pictures
became more realistic when nature’s general tints were employed. By
making their work more dramatic they were able to set forth more
forcibly the lesson they strove to teach. The art of the primitives was
primarily dogmatic. In it was none of those subtleties of composition
which come only with the conscious artist’s delight in bringing order
out of chaos: it contained only that simple and instinctive order which
is the avoidance of chaos. That which the primitives had to say was so
rudimentary and well-learned that it took a definite visional form in
their minds. When dogmatism began to lose its charm for the painter his
forms gradually became more suave, and his colour likewise grew gracious
and ornamental. The lessons were forgotten, and composition as an
element of first importance, dressed in a robe of rich and varied hue,
supplanted them.

Such was the employment of colour at the advent of Delacroix whose
probing mind sensed not only its importance as drama, but also its
potentialities for brilliance. With him, however, it remained an adjunct
to drawing—something to be applied when the rest of the picture had been
laid in, an element with which to intensify the importance of subject.
He gave a great and necessary impetus to its study, but he outlined no
directions for its significant application: indeed, by following out his
original concepts one is led into the impasse of Neo-Impressionism. But
at so early a stage the impetus is the important thing, and to Delacroix
belongs the credit for having set in motion the wheels of colour
inquisition. It was Daumier, however, who, apparently ignoring it,
brought its exclusive use appreciably nearer. By conceiving contour and
form as one, he disposed, as it were, of these two elements which, in
the scale of pictorial importance, had always been placed before colour.
Had each successive painter profited by all the _apports_ and qualities
of his direct predecessor’s art, the progress of painting might have
been more rapid, but it would never have been so perfect. Each painter
would have inherited both the shortcomings and the merits of his
forerunner. Thus one side of his art would have developed out of all
proportion to the other. Daumier, going back to tone, discovered a
wholly natural method for the achievement of intense form. His pictures
present themselves as great bulks of flesh and matter, crude but vital,
which have about them a force of actual weight. In nowise was he a
colourist. He lived in a time when prettiness was the keynote of the
day, and his whole life was a revolt against it. His reaction was so
extreme that he disregarded the capabilities of colour.

The Impressionists, on the other hand, over-emphasised its objective
uses. They held that the colour seen in nature is all-important for
picture making, and proceeded to copy it. As a result their work is
highly emotional, but only in the same way that a sunny landscape is
emotional. These artists were the slaves of nature, doing its bidding;
Gauguin bent everything into the mould of his own personality: and it is
only when these two types of creative impulse combine and modify each
other that great naturalistic art is possible. The Impressionists, being
receptive, believed all that nature openly proclaimed. They unearthed
none of its formal secrets; they probed none of its causes. Theirs was
only the joy of the discoverer. But their insistence upon the discovery
was important, because it helped give birth to Cézanne. He was a direct
outgrowth of Impressionism, but he was also an outgrowth of art’s entire
history. Superficially he may seem more closely akin to Pissarro’s
school than to the older painters, since it was from Pissarro he learned
his first colour lessons; but in reality he was more intimately related
to a Giotto or a Rembrandt, because his knowledge of colour was used
only to heighten the emotion of volume; and this volume, which Monet or
Sisley would not have understood, was the chief concern of the old
masters.

With the Impressionists colour was an end in itself. They looked upon it
not merely as expressive of light, but as synonymous with light, whereas
Cézanne, ignoring colour’s dramatic possibilities, used it to express
and intensify the fundamentals of organisation, just as Giotto,
disregarding the dramatic possibilities of line, employed line as a
means to ordinate volume. Cézanne is related to Daumier and Rembrandt in
that while these men created their art (which was primarily one of tone)
by building up volume simultaneously with contour, he created his art
(which was primarily one of colour) by presenting his visions as nature
presents itself to our eyes and intelligences, that is, as forms in
which tone, contour and colour are inseparable. That he has been little
understood is due to the fact that his profoundly logical methods took
birth in an age of “inspirational” painting. Matisse who came later
made of Cézanne’s still-lives a highly enjoyable decoration whose
destiny can rise no higher than that of tasteful and complete ornament.
Cézanne’s art is dynamic, while Matisse’s is exaltedly excitatory. The
former bears the same relation to the latter that a Beethoven symphonic
movement bears to a ballet by Delibes. One inspires thought: the other
incites to action, to spontaneous admiration and joy. Matisse loves and
knows colour in its harmonic relations. He and Gauguin, by the broad
beauty of their work, have given an impetus toward large planes of pure
pigment. In brief the evolution of colour is as follows: it was used
first for verity; secondly, for ornament; thirdly, for drama; fourthly,
for its inherent beauty as light; and last, for intensifying natural
form.

All this has to do only with the concrete side of art’s progress. There
is also a progress of the mental attitude which is inseparable from
art’s concrete development and without which its material evolution
could not have gone forward significantly. This mental progress resulted
in the emancipation of the artist from the intellectual limitations of
his public. Up to Géricault and Delacroix painting had idealised
contemporary life, had held itself to the interpretation of biblical
history, or had spoken in legend and allegory. It had expressed itself
in the Italian mode of drawing; it had followed set rules of balance and
chiaroscuro; and above all it had possessed a very definite finish.
Naturally the art historians expected this style of painting to continue
indefinitely. But with Delacroix it began to change. The hard contours
grew freer. The depiction of the human form halted at approximation.
Drawing became more arbitrary. Then came Courbet who insisted that there
was beauty in everything if one knew how to bring it forth. He turned to
the commonplace life about him for inspiration, repudiated the suavities
of David, the romance of Delacroix, the elegance of Velazquez and the
colour of Veronese; and began to order realistic nature. About his name
there grew up a tempest of adverse criticism; but no man so sure of his
own genius as was Courbet could be weakened by public condemnation; and
he made no compromise. Manet continued Courbet’s freedom of selection
and painted _n’importe quoi_. The Impressionists also carried forward
this modern attitude. They sought for that which generally was
considered ugly, and made it artistically enjoyable by drenching it with
light and colour. Then came Cézanne, Matisse, the Cubists and the
Futurists, with each of whom subject-matter became more and more
emancipated. Natural objects gradually lost their importance and grew
more abstract. Form was considered for its own sake, and models were not
copied merely because they filled certain utilitarian destinies in the
spectator’s mind. Objects were used by Cézanne to create abstract
ensembles. In Matisse the form itself became more purely æsthetic,
though with him there was a residue of objectivity for the sake of
illustrative consistency. With the Cubists natural form was an echo, a
memory of life, retained because they were not sure of how to turn their
minds away from it. Futurism attempted a rehabilitation of illustration,
but lately it has been converted into a purer vision by the Cubists.

To sum up: colour reached its highest development in Cézanne;
composition attained its highest intensity in Rubens; and the greatest
freedom in material form was represented by the Cubists. Thus the art of
painting stood in 1912. But at that time the development of modern means
had not reached its highest point. The purification of painting had not
been attained. The tendencies of the past century fell short of
realisation. As yet there had been no abstract coalition of colour, form
and composition. Colour had not been carried to its ultimate purity as a
functioning element. Form had become almost unrecognisable but had just
missed abstraction, its inevitable goal. And composition, the basis of
all great art, had been temporarily abjured in the feverish search for
new methods. The step from the condition of art in 1912 to its final
purity, in which would be embodied all the qualities necessary to the
greatest compositional painting, was not a long one, but until it was
taken the cycle must remain incomplete. The last advance in modern
methods was made by the Synchromists at _Der Neue Kunstsalon_ of Munich
in June, 1913. This movement was fathered by Morgan Russell and S.
Macdonald-Wright, both of whom, though native Americans, were partially
European in parentage and education. Russell is more than half French,
and Macdonald-Wright, whose family name is Van Vranken, is directly
descended from the Dutch.

Russell first studied in New York under Robert Henri, one of the most
sincere and intelligent products of American art. There he acquired a
sound and capable foundation for his later work both in clay and paint.
He then went to Paris, still feeling nature through the inspiration of
Manet, and like Manet fell under the sway of Monet. From the
Impressionists he was attracted to Matisse with whom he was personally
acquainted. He did many canvases attractive in colour and competent as
to form, as well as a number of synthetic and obviously disproportioned
statues which recall the modern “Fauve” to a marked degree. Later he
began to take an interest in Cézanne, and to his study of this master
and of Michelangelo is attributable his later development in colour and
composition. These men constituted his main influences; but in the
course of his development he had cast a glance at Picasso and even at
the Futurists; and it is a significant commentary on their methods that
they are more susceptible of understanding than either Renoir or
Matisse. Leo Stein, an astute and discerning connoisseur of the more
modern art movements and a man who can see with occasional flashes of
genius through the aspects of a canvas to its basic cause, no doubt had
much to do with Russell’s rapid intellectual progress through the
discipleship of the student to the creation of individual endeavours.

Macdonald-Wright, to the contrary, had little art training in the
accepted sense of the word. Primarily interested in the purely technical
side of painting, as were Renoir, Cézanne and Courbet, he had been
influenced first by Hals, Rembrandt and Velazquez and later by their
successors, Manet and the Barbizon school. Hoping to find help in the
schools he studied at many academies, but after a brief period retired
to the seclusion of his studio. About this time he began, with the aid
of Chevreul, Helmholtz and Rood, to make experiments in colour in its
relation to luminosity. Quite naturally the influence of Monet followed,
and it was not until a year later that his enthusiasm for the
Impressionists disappeared. He then began the construction of form by
large and crude planes, building his figures with light and dark
chromatic blocks. It was this broader application, coupled with his love
of pure colour, that led him to an eager admiration for Gauguin. At this
period of his development he met Russell, his senior by three years, to
whom he has always admitted his debt for his early appreciation of
Michelangelo as well as of the modern masters. From then on, through
many struggles with light, he made rapid progress. When Futurism blinded
the eyes of the younger men he went straight ahead in the path he had
chosen.

Shortly after their meeting, Russell and Macdonald-Wright reached the
end of their appreciative and formative period of imitation. They were
both too intensely desirous of self-expression in its broadest and most
precise sense to vary an already well-learned precept or theory. They
were colourists, and had been even when passing through their most
sombre stage. Now both turned to colour as to a longed-for goal. The art
world at that time was being flooded with the mournful browns and whites
of Cubism; and Matisse was too slight an inspiration to attract them,
for they had consistently conceived form in three dimensions. Their
desire was to create canvases of richly harmonious colour; but the
difficulty lay in finding a new method of application. Neither of them
was content merely to place suites of pure hues on the canvas, as an end
in themselves. This would be to sacrifice organised volume for an
ephemeral pleasure. Colour must have a formal and compositional
significance, otherwise it would be but shallow decoration. The fact
that, like all painters of the day, they were still bound to the
depiction of natural objects, added difficulty to the solution of their
problem. Their individual interpretation of Cézanne, however, little by
little showed them the method by which they might eventually open the
door on their desires. Russell approached form through light, combining
both qualities in a simultaneous vision. Macdonald-Wright approached
light through form, regarding them as an inseparable and inevitable
unity. Both painters expressed their vision in the purest gamut of
colour which painting up to that time had seen. Colour with them became
the totality of art, the one element by which every quality of a canvas
was to be expressed. Even their lines were obtained by the
differentiation of colours in the same way that tempo delimits sound.

Russell began his Synchromism by extending and completing the methods of
the Impressionists who had observed that one always has an illusion of
violet in shadows when the sunlight is yellow, and who in their painting
represented the full force of light as yellow, and its opposite extreme
of shadow as violet. Russell, in observing that the strong force of
light gives us a sensation of yellow and that shadow produces its
complementary of violet, went further and discovered that quarter and
half tones also possess colours by which they can be interpreted. He
thus arrived at a complete colour interpretation of the degrees of light
forces or tones. This method he aptly called the orchestration of tones
from black to white. For it he made no hard and set rules. From the
first it was a highly plastic and arbitrary manner of depicting
objectivity. By modulating from light to dark (from yellow to violet)
not only was light conceived forcibly, but form resulted naturally and
inevitably. This was the principle by which Cézanne, although he did not
completely grasp its import, achieved his eternal light which brought
form into being. But the principle with him was subjugated to the
influence of local colours, varying _milieu_, reflections, etc. Russell
stated the principle frankly and applied it purely. Since his form at
that period resulted from a sensitive depiction of light values
expressed by colour, his canvases had much the same beauty of strongly
lighted natural objects seen through the three-sided prism by which the
transition from tone to colour is automatically brought about.

Macdonald-Wright approached his conception of Synchromism from the
opposite direction. He had always been dissatisfied with the endless
alternation of small shadows and lights which the Impressionists had
introduced into painting, and with the tiny planes and spots which
artists used for verisimilitude. He desired a method whereby the
elements of shadow and light could be differentiated and drawn together
in simple masses. He had studied pure colour more from the standpoint of
form than from that of light, and during 1912 began to take note of the
fluctuations of colours, their mobility when juxtaposed with other
colours, their densities and transparencies. In fine, he recorded their
inherent tendency to express degrees of material consistency. Thus with
him a yellow, instead of meaning an intense light, represented an
advancing plane, and a blue, while having all the sensation of shadow
about it, receded to an infinity of subjective depth. The relative
spacial extension of all the other colours was then determined, and a
series of colour scales was drawn up which gave not only the sensation
of light and dark but also the sensation of perspective. Thus it was
possible to obtain any degree of depth by the use of colour alone, for
all the intermediate steps from extreme projection to extreme recession
were expressible by means of certain tones and pure hues.

The first Synchromist canvas was exposed by Russell in the _Salon des
Indépendants_ early in the spring of 1913. It was called Synchromie en
Vert and recorded a large interior in which all the light forces were
treated in their purely emotional phases. The canvas lacked the complete
visualisation and the solid space-construction which characterise his
later work, and furthermore it revealed many traces of the academic
composition. However, had there been critics possessed of artistic
prescience they straightway would have sensed in it a new force in
painting. But the picture’s defects obscured their recognition of its
potential vitality. This was due in part to the fact that the work lost
much of its effect by piece-painting, that is, by the minute treatment
of details each of which constituted an end in itself regardless of the
total. Russell counted on the line of the different bodies holding it
together; but he reckoned falsely, for if, in a work where colour is so
important a part of line, the colour and line are not in complete
harmony, the line alone is inadequate to effect the liaison of forms. In
this same _Salon_ Macdonald-Wright, not yet having arrived at a defined
conception, exposed two canvases in which his later developments were
but vaguely foreshadowed. Both pictures were formal compositions of nude
figures painted in three or four flat planes of pure colour, and
recalled Matisse and Cézanne more strongly than they presented a new
vision. From the standpoint of efficient visualisation all three
Synchromist works were failures, or at least they were indications of
incomplete progress. In Russell’s canvas the diminutive breaking up of
colour negatived what otherwise would have been the picture’s brilliant
effect; and Macdonald-Wright’s large application of colour served only
to place him under the banner of an established school. But both men
realised that this was only a start, and set diligently to work on the
canvases for their first exhibition which was booked in Munich for June
of that year.

Between their first pictures and those of a few months later there was
to be noted an advance both in conception and in application. Russell’s
small colour planes, applied wholly from the standpoint of light,
expanded and took on a new effectiveness. His form became more abstract,
and his colour more harmonious. Also his compositions were more compact,
though they were ordered rather than rhythmically organised.
Macdonald-Wright’s progress was similar. In an interpretation of one of
Michelangelo’s Slaves, used as the dominant form in an arrangement of
three figures, all the academism which had marked his earlier expression
had disappeared. His method had been liberated from the exactitudes of
static principles, and had become consistent, not with the new colour
knowledge, but within itself. The theory of defined colour gamuts, which
from the first had been applied by these two men, had now become a
scientific principle. Though the truth of it had always been vaguely
sensed by them, it had not become a definitely comprehended formula
until they had worked out the naturalistic laws governing colour. The
Synchromist pictures in which these laws were boldly applied were first
brought together at 13, Prannerstrasse, Munich, in June, 1913.

In November of the same year their work was again exposed, this time at
the Bernheim-Jeune galleries in Paris. The show in Munich, widely
advertised by coloured posters, had attracted considerable interest, but
in Paris the exhibition created a two-weeks’ sensation. Though the more
discriminating critics saw its importance, there was considerable
adverse comment due largely to the Synchromists’ spectacular and
over-enthusiastic methods of putting forward their views and
discoveries. In their two specifically worded prospectuses they devoted
much space to the shortcomings of Orphism, then in vogue; and although
their criticisms of that school, coupled with the statement of their own
tangible and logical aims, had much to do with Orphism’s demise, the
impropriety of the attack created a feeling antagonistic to the new men.
The appearance of their pictures was entirely different from any
paintings hitherto exposed; and their conception, while being a normal
and direct outgrowth of Cézanne, marked a revolution in formal
construction. The inspiration of both these new artists was classic in
that they recognised the absolute need of organisation which, if it was
not melodiously and sequentially composed, should at least be rhythmic.
Both were striving to create a pure art—one which would express itself
with the means alone inherent in that art, as music expresses itself by
means of circumscribed sound.

There was no precedent for purely abstract form—that is, form which has
no antitype in nature—any more than there was a precedent for the
construction of painting solely by means of colour and line. This was
not due to an absence of desire in the artist for an abstract language
of form, but to a natural diffidence on his part to break once and for
all with centuries of tradition, and with one imperious gesture to cast
aside the accepted _raison d’être_ of the visual arts. We have seen how
form from the first had been an imitation of natural objects, how it
de-developed into synthesis, then into pure composition, how it reached
a high degree of arbitrariness in Matisse, how it disintegrated in
Cubism, and how in Futurism and Orphism there was a valiant attempt to
convert it once more into pictorialism, to check its _élan_ toward
perfect freedom of creation. It is not therefore strange that the
Synchromist exhibition should have comprised, with the exception of one
canvas, figure pieces, studies of landscape and still-lives (some almost
archaic in their direct and simple statement), and not canvases which
abandoned all semblance to natural form. Russell and Macdonald-Wright
were still occupied tentatively in expressing the forms they knew best,
each by his own individual method. But despite this compromise with
tradition their exhibition presented a highly novel impression. There
were human figures distorted almost out of recognition for the
compositional needs of the canvas and painted in bars of pure colour;
still-lives which seemed to be afire with chromatic brilliance;
fantastic fruits; life-sized male figures in pure yellow-orange; and
mountains of intense reds and purples, warm greens and violets. All the
pictures, however, displayed decided organisational ability, and they
possessed a more complete harmony of colour and line than had been
achieved by any of the other younger painters.

But that quality of Synchromism which struck the discerning spectator
more than any other was the force of volume resulting from the
relationship of colours. For years painters had realised that certain
colours when applied to certain forms rebelled at the combination, that
they refused to remain passively on the planes assigned them. But this
phenomenon had never been given any penetrating study. The more
sensitive painters had merely changed their colours to more tractable
ones, and had thus avoided the inevitable conflict that followed the
fallacious commingling of two highly affirmative elements. Such
chromatic inconsistencies should have taught artists the necessity of
harmony for the sake of perfect order; but the matter was left to
personal instinct. The clash between colour and form, however, was not
due to any error or idiosyncrasy of taste, but to the absolute character
of each separate hue which demanded, for its formal affinity, a fixed
and unalterable spacial extension. At an early date artists had
recognised that blue and violet were cool and mournful colours, and that
yellow and orange were warm and joyful ones. They applied this primitive
discovery with the feeble results to be found in Neo-Impressionism. That
these colours had any further character they never suspected. Their
insight extended only to the emotional and associative characteristics
of the colours; the physical side was overlooked. Had the painters been
more scientifically minded they would have known that these
characteristics, which were the feminine traits, could not have existed
in isolation; and they would have searched for the colours’ dominating
and directing properties which represented the masculine traits. Such a
search would have led them to the meaning of colours in relation to
volumes, that is, to colours’ formal vibrations which alone are capable
of expressing plastic fullness.

This vibratory quality Macdonald-Wright found and applied. By it he
achieved light and shadow which resulted naturally by the juxtaposition
of warm and cold colours. Russell, working altogether from the
standpoint of light as revealed by form, attained practically the same
results so long as his light came from the direction of the spectator,
for in such a case the highest illumination was the most intense salient
and, as with Macdonald-Wright, had therefore to be painted with a warm
and highly opaque colour. But where the light came from a source at
right angles to the line of vision, the expression reverted to an
intensification of the Impressionistic method. Later this accident of
light disappeared from Russell’s work, and consequently his treatment
became less restricted. This setting aside of light as the motif was a
necessary departure, for when Russell carried his work into the higher
elements of pure form, a realistic source of illumination would have
made his suites of abstract volumes appear, not poised and relatively
solid, but as pateræ attached to an impenetrable substance. Under such
conditions painting would merely be another and perhaps more beautiful
way of making effective the ordonnances of surface form. But it would
have no more power to create in us an æsthetic emotion than an
exquisitely composed bas-relief.

The ambitions of the Synchromists went deeper. They desired to express,
by means of colour, form which would be as complete and as simple as a
Michelangelo drawing, and which would give subjectively the same emotion
of form that the Renaissance master gives objectively. They wished to
create images of such logical structure that the imagination would
experience their unrecognisable reality in the same way our eyes
experience the recognisable realities of life. They strove to bring
about a new and hitherto unperceived reality which would be as definite
and moving as the commonplace realities of every day, in short, to find
an abstract statement for life itself by the use of forms which had no
definable aspects. The Synchromists’ chief technical method of obtaining
this abstract equivalent for materiality was to make use of the inherent
and absolute movement of colours toward and away from the spectator,
by placing colours on forms in exact accord with the propensities of
those colours to approach or recede from the eye. The Futurists had
spoken of drawing the spectator into the centre of the picture, there to
struggle with the principals of the work. They failed in this ambition
because their canvases lacked the intense tactility of volume. The
Synchromists, by making the enjoyment of form purely subjective, and by
expressing form both by objectivity of line and the subjectivity of
colour, achieved the ambition of both the Futurists and Cézanne. The
latter’s desire was ever toward a pure and subjective art. Although his
colour viewed objectively is much like the Impressionists’, the pleasure
of the Impressionistic vision disappears when the eye is satisfied,
whereas our emotions begin to work on a Cézanne only after the visual
enjoyment has run its course.

[Illustration: SYNCHROMIE COSMIQUE by MORGAN RUSSELL]

Where Cézanne obtained a block solidity by the intelligent addition of
local colour to light and by the subtraction of light from local colour,
the Synchromists reject all local colour and paint only with hues which
express the desired form. The position of a given volume in space
dictates to them the colour with which it is to be painted. Consequently
a receding volume whose position is behind the other volumes is never
painted a pure yellow, for that colour advances toward the spectator’s
eye; and a solid volume which projects further than the others is never
painted violet, for violet expresses not solidity but a quality of
space, something intangible and translucent. All colours and tones and
admixtures are answerable to the law of natural placement. This law is
not absolute; it does not anchor each colour at a specific and
unchangeable distance from the eye, but it determines the relative
position of colours in space according to the influence of environmental
colours, thereby making their position both dependent and directing but
none the less inevitable. The perfecting of this principle by the
Synchromists introduced an added element of poise and a new emotion in
painting—poise, because, by changing a line or a colour, the formal
solid constructed by interdependent hues would shift and adopt another
position answering to the needs of the new order:—a new emotion, because
colour in all painting before Cézanne had been used for ornament or for
the dramatic reinforcement of the drawing or subject, and in Cézanne
colour had been employed to express subjectively the emotions of volumes
found in nature.

In Synchromism, which was first inspired by natural forms, all
considerations other than light forces (as with Russell) and form (as
with Macdonald-Wright) and composition (as used by both) were abolished.
Colour was made a functioning element out of which grew all the
qualities of the pictures. At first, adverse criticisms were aimed at
the Synchromists’ polychromatic nudes, still-lives and landscapes. The
press remarked that the nudes appeared as if adorned in Harlequin suits;
the landscapes, as if they were intended for theatre drops; and the
still-lives, as if painted through a prism. The Synchromists answered
that, in order to achieve a strong emotion of force and weight, they
would “willingly sacrifice the lovely tints of the flesh and the joy of
searching for coloured pots in the shops of the second-hand merchants.”
But, despite all they could say, there was justice in the public’s
criticism. So long as there was a natural form in a picture, the
spectator would unconsciously judge it from a naturalistic standpoint.
To be sure, there were canvases in the Munich exhibition which were
almost unrecognisable as nature; but, before the aims of this new
movement could be fully attained, a style of arbitrary and pure form was
necessary. In the Bernheim-Jeune show Russell exposed one wholly
abstract canvas. As an indication of a deflection toward pure
composition, it was important, but the picture itself was as manifestly
an artistic failure as had been his first large Synchromie en Vert hung
in the _Salon des Indépendants_ of that year. It was not the only
failure exposed, however. From the point of view of complete and
organised conception all the early Synchromist pictures were to a
certain extent fragmentary and tentative. The large canvas by
Macdonald-Wright, Synchromie en Bleu, was a flagrant example of a
totally new vision unsuccessfully struggling with the objectively
classic inspiration of a defunct antiquity. The group of three males in
its foreground, while competently and intelligently built, had the
appearance of allegorical figures struggling against a toppling world.
Although their position and organisation were dictated by the needs of
an almost El Greco-like composition, one was too conscious of natural
objects to accept, with a clear æsthetic conscience, the seeming chaos
of the elements.

In bringing together in a unified emotion all the impressions of form,
the Synchromists at first overlooked the fact that purity of expression,
in order to be highly potent, must embody a pure conception. Their early
canvases demonstrated many new formal possibilities, but, while they
were composed more compactly than those of the other moderns, the forms
themselves were obviously naturalistic. Herein the Synchromists at their
début failed to take the step from Cézanne to abstraction. Cézanne
conceived all nature’s qualities—form, colour and tone—simultaneously.
He was the first great realist, because nature dictated to him the
colour he was to use. The Synchromists, on the other hand, used natural
objects to create organisations of pure colour, thus making formal
expression a wholly subjective performance. This method contained
greater emotional potentialities than Cézanne’s, because where the
latter’s palette was necessarily much subdued in order to approximate to
the attenuated gamut found in nature, the Synchromists’ palette was
keyed to its highest pitch of saturation. Cézanne’s choice of colour was
never absolute in the harmonic sense, because he depended for accuracy
entirely on taste and sensitivity. With Macdonald-Wright and Russell the
palette was completely and scientifically rationalised so that one could
strike a chord upon it as surely and as swiftly as on the keyboard of a
piano: the element of hazard in harmony was eliminated. This knowledge
of colour gamuts was not employed for ornamental niceties, but was
converted into a method of creating an æsthetic finality other than that
of form and line. If, in a complete balance of line and volume, the
colour overweighs at any point into warm or cold, the poise of the whole
is jeopardised and the finality obscured. The perfect poise of all the
elements of a painting, expressed by the single element of colour, is
the final technical aim of Synchromism.

In the first arbitrary formal composition by Russell the desire was to
carry out the continuations of form from one chosen generating colour
and at the same time to create linear development as well. His
compositional theory was that, through the inevitable evolution of line
from an arbitrarily chosen centre, the artist would naturally and
consciously create form which would definitely approximate to the human
body. In his Synchromie en Bleu Violacé the composition was very similar
to that of the famous Michelangelo Slave whose left arm is raised above
the head and whose right hand rests on the breast. The picture contained
the same movement as the statue, and had a simpler ordonnance of linear
directions; but, save in a general way, it bore no resemblance to the
human form. The sketch for this canvas was a greater success than the
final presentation, for its realisation was more complete, its order
more contracted and intense. In both there was but one very simple
rhythm with two movements; and the size of the large picture, which was
twelve feet high, was incommensurate with the slightness of the
expression.

His second large Synchromie, exposed in the _Salon des Indépendants_ in
March 1914, was more complicated and more sensitively organised, both as
to movement and to colour, than his first. By his colour rhythms he
strove to incorporate into his painting the quality of duration: that
is, he sought to have his picture develop into time like music. The
ambition was commendable although he wrongly asserted that older
painting extends itself strictly into space. A Rubens, while presenting
itself to the spectator at one glance, is nevertheless more than a
block-manifestation of forms, for it never reveals itself fully until
after many periods of study. In the old painters there is a definite
formal foundation on which the canvas is rhythmically built, and as a
rule this formal figure is repeated in miniature many times throughout
the canvas. These form-echoes are defined and complete linear orders,
and into them rhythm is introduced. In Russell the process is reversed:
with him the rhythm brings about the order. In Rubens there is a
distinct and conscious development of line, but no development of form.
Russell, in his later canvases, sets down a central form which dictates
both the continuity of the picture and its formal complications. His
generating centre is not like a motif whose character imprints itself on
all its developments, but rather like a seed out of which the different
forms grow—a directing centre which inspires and orders its environment.
In fine, the surrounding forms are not a development of the central one,
but a result of it. This type of composition corresponds to the melodic
composition in music.

In the later works of Macdonald-Wright the motif form of composition is
achieved. In Cézanne there are forms whose parallels are repeated in
varied development throughout the work and are rhythmically ordered
into blocks. But while these forms resemble motif repetition, they are
not generated by rhythm but united by it. In Macdonald-Wright’s canvases
the rhythmic continuation of a central form constitute the movement of
the picture as well as the final character of it. In his Arm
Organisation in Blue-Green one can discern near the centre a small and
arbitrary interpretation of the constructional form of the human arm.
The movement of these forms throws off other lines and forms which,
through many variations and counter-statements, reconstruct the arm in a
larger way. Again these lines of the larger arm, in conjunction with the
lines of the smaller one, evoke a further set of forms which break into
parts each of which is a continuation or a restatement of the original
arm motif, varied and developed.

Macdonald-Wright holds that the forms which we have experienced in our
contact with nature are more expressive and diverse than those which are
born of the inventive intelligence. But, while it is true that every
realisation of _æsthetic movement_ or of the _rhythm_ of form is based
on the movement of the human body, it is not true that the human body is
a necessary foundation for form alone. However, Macdonald-Wright, in
interpreting the human form, makes use merely of the direction and
counterpoise of volume; he does not indulge in the depiction of limbs
and torso: the body is only his inspiration to abstraction. He changes
and shifts its forms out of any superficial resemblance to nature. In
his desire to cling to a solid and immutable foundation we recognise an
artist who realises how meagre is the incentive to create abstract
compositions. With centuries of tradition urging him to a realistic
rendering of the life about him, he finds it difficult to break entirely
with realism and to create without referring to materiality. Perhaps
some day he will even forgo the inspiration found in the combined forms
in nature. His work is tending toward that ultimate freedom, as also is
Russell’s.

Such a development, however, cannot be definitely predicted, but one can
say, without dogmatism, that in the future their work will become surer,
their compositions of a higher and more complete order. With their
knowledge of the fundamentals of rhythmic organisation, which is well in
advance of that of the other painters of today, their progress seems
assured. Their postulates are too definite to permit of the introduction
of literary or musical transcendentalism; and their _apports_ are too
significant to permit of any retrogression toward metaphysics or drama.
Their palette has become co-ordinated and rationalised. Their
composition is founded on the human body in movement. And their colour,
in its plastic sense, takes into consideration space, light and form.
These factors represent their technical assets. With these painters
comes into being an art divorced from all the entanglements of
photography, of piecemeal creation, of inharmonic gropings, of
literature and of data hunting.

But they must not be regarded merely as inventors of new pictorial
methods, for their discoveries have already taken significant æsthetic
form. As Renoir completed the first cycle of modern art which was
ushered in by Turner and Delacroix, so have the Synchromists completed
the cycle of which Cézanne is the archaic father. They have discovered
the concrete means wherewith to bring about his desires. It remains now
for the painters of today and of the future to realise more fully the
dreams of a higher art history. With the Synchromists there is no system
or method other than a purely personal one. The word Synchromism,
adopted by them to avoid obnoxious classification under a foreign
banner, means simply “with colour.” It does not explain a mannerism or
indicate a special trait, as do Cubism, Futurism and Neo-Impressionism.
It is as open as the term musician. As a school it can never exist.
Indeed it is the first graphic art the application of whose principles
cannot be learned by a course of instruction. Artists employing its
means must depend entirely on their own ability to create. In
Synchromist pictures the good or bad results cannot be obscured by the
introduction of foreign elements, as in the case of pictures wherein
nature is copied. Russell and Macdonald-Wright have already repudiated
the appellation of Synchromist and call themselves merely “painters,”
for, since Cézanne, painting means, not the art of tinting drawing or of
correctly imitating natural objects, but the art which expresses itself
only with the medium inherent in it—colour.

All significant painting to come must necessarily make use of
Synchromist means, although form and composition—that is, the creative
expression—may be as arbitrary or personal as the artist desires. In the
Synchromists’ latest prospectus are to be found the following comments:
“In our painting colour becomes the generating function. Painting being
the art of colour, any quality of a picture not expressed by colour is
not painting. An art whose ambition it is to be pure should express
itself only with means inherent in that art. The relation of spacial
emotions and of the emotions of density and transparency which we wish
to express, dictates to us the colours most capable of transmitting
these sensations to the spectator. In thus creating the subjective
emotion of depth and rhythm we achieve the dreams of painters who talk
of drawing the spectator into the centre of the picture; but instead of
his being drawn there merely by intellectual processes he is enveloped
in the picture by tactile sensation. We limit ourselves to the
expression of plastic emotions. We can no longer conceive of the stupid
juxtapositions of colours devoid of any rhythmic interlinking as art
organisations.” The Synchromists do not pretend to have invented new
qualities for art but to have brought to painting a new vision which
permits them to express the old qualities with a greater potency than
formerly.



XIV

THE LESSER MODERNS


Decadence is simply the inability to create new tissue. In painting it
manifests itself in two ways: either in the endeavour of an artist to
turn the attention from new and precise procedures to antiquated and
irrelevant ones; or in the artist’s desire to base his inspiration on
the great work of an immediate forerunner rather than on the foundation
of all vitality, nature. In neither case is new material being added to
the sum of art. Decadence usually takes the form of a facile imitation
of the surface aspect of a master, not infrequently making that master’s
_results_ prettier, more fluent and more attractive. This is a natural
and inevitable consequence of copying the objective side of a great work
which originally was the outgrowth of a profound æsthetic philosophy.
Decadents, as a general rule, are sufficiently analytic to sense their
own paucity of constructive genius. In recognising that nature can never
inspire them to significant co-ordinations, they are content to accept,
with slight modifications, the artistic standards of their predecessors.
They vary the art that has gone before to meet the needs of their own
temperaments. In many cases highly meritorious work results.

The word decadent is not wholly deprecatory. Often the decadent is a
competent composer in the abstract. By presenting in an attractive way
his own personal tastes, he sometimes makes his art both interesting and
beautiful. His decadence lies in his retrogression from the point to
which the art of his day has arrived and in his inability to introduce a
new element to compensate for this retrogression. No amount of
individuality can bridge this gap. Many painters, like Gauguin, have
reacted against achievement but have possessed a tangential vitality
which in itself has been a new contribution to æsthetic endeavour. Other
painters, like Renoir, while introducing no innovations, have, by
talented and comprehensive efforts, duplicated and improved upon the art
of the latest creative masters and thereby pushed forward the highest
standards. They are not decadents, for their work exhibits no
deterioration. Even decadents may be excellent artists. Gaspar de Crayer
was undoubtedly a great artist though an offshoot of Rubens; and
Giampietrino and Cesare da Sesto were both solid and intelligent
painters, though they did not rival their master, Leonardo da Vinci.
There has undoubtedly been great sculpture since the Renaissance; but
Michelangelo closed up for all time the plastic possibilities of clay
and marble, and consequently, there being no new functioning element to
be introduced into it, all sculpture since his day has been in the broad
sense decadent.

Modern painting has had its decadents also—men who have attempted to
revert to a sterile past or who have followed in the paths blazed by
others without approaching the achievements of the painters imitated.
This latter class has its usages, for it tends to lend impetus to the
movement it follows. The men composing it are popularly called
exponents, and the appellation is just. There are painters in all
countries today who adhere to Impressionist methods, and thereby keep
ever before us one of the great steps in the development of modern
painting. Cézanne has undoubtedly been given greater consideration
because of the many artists who follow his precepts. And the numerous
imitators of Cubism have done much to focus on that movement the
consideration it deserves. In a general way all the lesser modern
painters, by their feverish activities, expositions and pamphleteering,
have, despite their inherent lack of genuine importance, kept the world
conscious of the fact that it is in the midst of a great æsthetic
upheaval, that new forces are at work, that the older order is being
supplanted.

Today nearly every country has a group of men striving toward the new
vision. They cannot all be innovators of new methods. They cannot all
carry forward the evolution of modern painting. But they can at least
give momentum to the current ideals and turn out work which bears so
much personal merit that it becomes deserving of more or less serious
consideration. Degas and his circle are of this class, as are the
Futurists who, though at bottom decadent, inasmuch as they turn their
art back to illustration, are a force which cannot be ignored. In
Dresden, Munich and Berlin are groups of modern men who have repudiated
the academies and struck out into new fields. Russia has contributed
many young artists to the present ideal. England has not been altogether
impervious to the modern doctrines. America is represented by fully a
score of artists animated by the new vitality. And in France there are a
hundred painters at work tearing down the older idols. While few of
these men can lay claim to introducing any intrinsically new and
significant methods or forms into modern painting, their work in many
instances, while being decadent in the strict sense, is nevertheless
commendable. They are not great artists even in the sense that Monet,
Manet, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso are great; but many of them are at
least genuine artists.

One of the most conspicuous figures among the decadents is Wassily
Kandinsky. In an age when all art was being arraigned before the
tribunal of biology, physiology, and psychology, he came forward and
attempted to drag it back into the murky medium of metaphysics. The
generating forces of modern painting, however, rest on no metaphysical
hypothesis. To attempt to define form by transcendental terms, or even
to credit form with esoteric significance, reveals an ignorance of the
principles of æsthetic emotion. Form in the art sense is a demonstrable
proposition; it is answerable to physical laws. Michelangelo, El Greco,
Giotto, Rubens, Cézanne and Renoir based composition on natural causes,
and as each successive artist has approached intensity in organisation,
he has come nearer and nearer to the rhythm which animates and controls
corporeal existence. Æsthetic form, in order to become
emotion-producing, must reflect the form which is most intimately
associated with our sensitivities. It must primarily be physical. There
is nothing mysterious about æsthetic rhythm, and any attempt to
“spiritualise” the harmonies of art carries art so much further from the
truth. The modern tendency to make objects abstract and to divest
subject-matter of all its mimetic qualities, has led some critics and
painters to the false conclusion that form itself is unrelated to
recognisable phenomena. But even in the most abstract of the great
painters, the form is concrete. In a broad sense it is susceptible of
geometrical demonstration; and its intensity is in direct ratio to its
proximation to human organisms. In fact, there are no moving forms in an
æsthetic organisation which do not have their prototypes in the human
body in action. Were this not true empathy would be impossible, and
without empathy an artistic emotion is purely intellectual and
associative. The greatest painters, past and present, have recognised
this principle; and art which does not adhere to it is decadent both in
the æsthetic and the intellectual sense.

Kandinsky exemplifies this kind of decadence. While the innovators up to
Matisse had tried to discover in nature secrets which would aid them in
plastic expression, Kandinsky has tried, by numerous articles and at
least one complete book, to turn back the minds of painters to the
supposedly mystical elements of form and colour. But although this
artist is to be commended on his effort to make colour significant in a
day when angular forms of brown and black were the keynote, his study
of colour should have begun where Cézanne left off and not with the
writings of Maeterlinck and the symbolist poets. Kandinsky recognises
that colour has possibilities, but he ignores the fact that colour is
one of the physical sciences, as definite as those of the quadrivium,
that its inductive qualities have become classified and that its
functioning is precise and answerable to natural laws. Consequently he
cannot co-ordinate its governing principles, and, in an attempt to
rationalise it he has sought refuge in music, an art which presents to
him the same mystical difficulties. So long as he was under the healthy
influence of Matisse his symbology was less evident; but when he adopted
a metaphysical programme it all came to the surface.

Kandinsky’s early “impressions” are heavy and insensitive “Fauve”
pictures. His “compositions” for the most part are general statements of
some rural scene in Matisse’s manner; and his “improvisations” represent
semi-abstract lines delimiting scientifically meaningless colours. In
his book, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, he presents an elaborate
explanation of the metaphysical basis for colour, but he fails to
contribute any ideas not to be found in Delacroix and Seurat. And the
pictures with which he complements the text have been surpassed, in
their own manner, by the Chinese. There are isolated comments on colour
theories which are separately sound, and there are explanatory
generalisations; but a diligent search fails to reveal any statement
which is precise and at the same time new. The book refers constantly
to music, and there are undeniable evidences of literary thought; but
nowhere is there an explanation of the plastic significance of colour.
Kandinsky is a painter of moods, and as such encroaches upon the domain
of music. He is a painter of the vision of an action without its
objective integument, and as such he enters the realm of poetry. He is
essentially pretty, and despite his idealistic nomenclature, he is at
bottom illustrative and decorative. What he designates the “soul” is
only associative memory, and his conception of composition is the
breaking up of a flat surface into irregular compartments by lines and
more or less pure colour. Like Scriabine he has overlooked the formal
possibilities of colour and consequently has failed in any æsthetically
emotional expression.

[Illustration: COMPOSITION NO. 2 by KANDINSKY]

Kandinsky’s attempts to create moods are largely failures because of the
inherent limitations of his art medium. The arts may be synthesised when
a profounder understanding of them has come about, but their
functionality can never be interchanged. The art of literature will
always be able to tell a story better than the greatest sculpture; and
even a primitive song is more capable of producing a mood than the most
highly organised painting. Kandinsky, for instance, fails to achieve
what the Marseillaise achieves in music, namely: the dramatic
presentation of an exhortation to action. Separate, for instance, the
phrases of the original version. The first verse opens with a rousing
appeal which culminates on “_patrie_,” a word always welcome to the ear
and heart of a Frenchman. Then the song acclaims the glory of the
occasion and repeats dramatically the cause of the struggle—“_Contre
nous de la tyrannie l’étendard sanglant est levé_.” Then it recounts the
tragedies which are befalling relatives and friends at the hands of the
growling soldiers of the enemy; and suddenly, in an unexpected voice it
calls, “_Aux armes, citoyens!_” ending in a patriotic and decisive
flourish. The music throughout is subtly harmonised with the words:
lively during the opening call; abated during the first statement of the
cause; animated with its repetition; minor when the tragic words occur;
vibrant and imitative of bugles during the call to arms; and highest in
pitch at the end. This is the expression of the mood intensified.

Could painting extend itself into time and present singly and in
sequence the visions of objective nature, dramatically synthesised with
colour and line, it could perhaps influence people to emotion in the way
music does. But the musical quality of time-extension is impossible in
painting. And since a picture presents a simultaneous vision, which
cannot be otherwise except through a subjective process, it is incapable
of working from a prelude to a finale like music. Music is abstract,
though firmly based on the rhythmic movement of all nature, yet it can
produce moods by far more distant and far less tangible associations
than can painting. But mood in music is no higher a quality than
illustration in painting, and the highly creative artists ignore them
both. The great composer is the one who, seeing beyond the associative
theory in music, feels the deeper plasticity of movement and form: and
his plasticity is this only preoccupation, just as the plastic element
of colour is the great modern painter’s chief concern. Kandinsky has
only tried to introduce an unimportant element of one art into another
art. While the procedure has a superficial taste of novelty it is no
more creditable than if he had declared himself frankly for illustration
and joined the ranks of Degas and his school. He has not probed into the
pregnant recesses of painting and attempted to discover the meaning of
form. He has contented himself with obscuring the delineations of
natural objects in such a manner that the beholder feels led to decipher
his cryptic realities. The suggestion of actuality is there, but there
being no other strong attraction in the picture, æsthetic or otherwise,
the spectator sets to work to penetrate its objective meaning. In the
majority of cases he succeeds, and gains thereby a satisfaction similar
to that of having solved a simple problem in fractions.

In painting moods, which he refers to as “spiritual impressions,”
“internal harmonies,” “psychic effects” and “soul vibrations,” Kandinsky
does not attempt to depict the dynamic forces which produce moods, but
strives to interpret his own emotional impressions by means of
semi-symbolic and semi-naturalistic visions and by inspirational
methods. Unable to ally the elements of colour and line to a given
theme, he contents himself with giving us a chaotic impression by such
means as he personally associates with his mood: and since this kind of
association is largely individual, his depiction of the mood is
incomprehensible to anyone not temperamentally and mentally at one with
him. Did he understand the inherent psychological dramatic significance
of colours and lines he could represent a universally moving vision, and
thereby attain in a small degree the end for which he aims. But his
feeling for colour especially is so vague and unscientific that it is,
after all, a personal thing, and his graphic representation of a mood is
little more than an individual and purely otiose expression. Even Carrà,
in his colourless Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, approaches nearer the
creation of a mood than does Kandinsky in his best canvases, for in
Carrà there is exhibited a certain knowledge of the dramatic use of line
which, when combined with recognisable subject-matter, augments the
thematic drama.

Despite his complete preoccupation with colour Kandinsky is decadent
more than Van Gogh to whom artistically he is closely related, because
the progress of modern painting is toward purity, toward creation by
means of a unique element, toward an art which expresses only the
qualities of which that art is the most highly capable. When other
considerations enter into it, it is at once drawn back toward
illustration, and its final defecation is postponed. Happily Kandinsky,
an explorer of the limitless realms of metaphysics, has given us no more
specific a postulate than that colour has meaning. Though he formulates
many vaguely associative theories (such as “keen yellow looks sour
because it recalls the taste of a lemon,” “a shade of red will cause
pain or disgust through association with running blood,” and “in the
hierarchy of colours green is the _bourgeoisie_—self-satisfied,
immovable, narrow”); he nevertheless relies largely on instinct for
their application. While attempting to turn painters’ minds from the
precise discoveries of colourists to a pseudo-philosophical
consideration of colour, he is too general and ambiguous to inspire
extensive imitation. Already painters since him have gone forward in the
great work of research begun by the Impressionists.

If Kandinsky, as a theorist, is cabalistic and illusory, he achieves a
certain decorative prettiness in his work. Though his ideas are old, the
appearance of his canvases is new: and it is merely this novelty of
conception, coupled with his tendency toward abstraction, which makes
him of interest, and then only as a theoretical deviation from the work
of Gauguin, Matisse and the Orientals. His colour is not without visual
charm, and his composition often has the fascination of the delicate
patterns found in the Chinese. In fact, Kandinsky’s compositional debt
to the Chinese is large. His Improvisation No. 29 is almost identical
with a painting by Rin Teikei, and many of his pictures appear like
curved-line generalisations of Chinese groupings, or the forms in
Chinese backgrounds. Like the Cubists Kandinsky is a step toward
arbitrariness in formal composition, but his advance is less significant
than theirs. In his desire to illustrate a mood and produce a
corresponding psychic emotion in the spectator he is a
transcendentalised Futurist. His ontological terminology has given an
impetus to his popularity, but it has tended unfortunately to obscure
his worth as a maker of arabesques.

Of a different decadent type are Bonnard, Vuillard and K.-X. Roussel who
call themselves the Intimists. These artists descend in large measure
from Matisse, and though other and sometimes stronger influences enter
their work, they are in a general way more closely akin to him than any
other modern painter. Their appearance is more academic and, in the
decorative sense, prettier than that of Matisse. Also, there is in their
pictures a greater perpendicularity than in the work of their master.
The angular and the perpendicular always represent the second
compositional step from symmetricality to order: they are indicative of
the earliest stage of æsthetic consciousness. They are found in the
Egyptians, Phœnicians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and in all the primitive
Christians, and in Gauguin and Puvis de Chavannes. The artists who use
them have awakened to the fact that chaos is not conducive to emotional
satisfaction. In perpendicular lines there is a primitive sense of
fitness, for one feels they are both well-planted and immovable. Not
infrequently they are employed by the decadents of a movement or an
epoch because they harmonise so neatly and unostentatiously with pretty
colours and delicate themes. The Futurists found in them a ready means
to a decorative order.

Bonnard, the most genuine artist of the group, uses perpendicularity of
arrangement more consciously than does either of the others. He studied
in the same class with Maurice Denis at the _Académie Julien_, and his
association with this painter no doubt explains his compositional
predilection. He is strongly influenced by Renoir, although he has never
penetrated beyond Renoir’s surface. His greys are always rich and
sombre, and even his simplest works are as artistically opulent and
lovely as the finest tapestry. Indeed his large paintings are more
appropriately wall coverings than panels, ornaments rather than
decorations. In them are hot sunlight and cold shadow in scintillating
succession; and every object is put to genuine ornamental use. They seem
to exhibit an unconscious fluency in the employment of bafflingly
diverse greys which are saturated with colour and applied so as to
reveal highly their attentuated purity. There are also in his work
harmoniously horizontal lines and pleasing sequences of curves. In Le
Jardin a line starts with the head of a man on the left, continues along
his arm and leg and the sofa back, and reaches an apex in the child’s
head to the right of the centre, sinks by way of the head of the woman
on the right to the man’s arm, is then caught up again by the contour of
his legs, is paralleled by the outline of the nearest standing child’s
dress and face and the face of the kneeling girl, is continued in the
bottom of the skirt of the child seated on the sofa, and then becomes
horizontal in a perfect continuation of the table’s surface. The line is
beautiful and studiously made, and is pointed out here for the purpose
of showing the simple ordonnance often found in the lesser artists. Nor
is it the only line in the canvas. There are others as harmonious and as
beautiful; but what keeps the picture from being a great composition,
although its forms are solid and well adapted to their spaces, is its
lack of opposition or solution of warring elements. If we do not try to
class Bonnard with the greatest artists, we are forced to praise him. He
is unpretentious, highly gifted, has a well-developed sense of the
beautiful, and is possessed of a most sensitive eye. He is neither an
illustrator of nature nor of moods, but an artist who paints to obtain
æsthetic expression, without the _arrière pensée_ of a theoretical
method. He is one of the most purely pleasing painters of modern times.

Vuillard, a painter of interiors, owes his inspiration as much to
Toulouse-Lautrec as to Gauguin. Like Bonnard he uses greys of dry and
mat colour, but his harmonies are slighter and of lighter tonality than
those of Bonnard. Profiting by the Impressionists’ light discoveries he
has done some very admirable interiors; some of his works are more
modern and artistic Whistlers. His art is one in which the spotting of
masses for the sake of balance supplants any attempt to produce
generating lines. As with Bonnard and Roussel there is in him a striving
after beautiful surfaces, _matières_ which in themselves will tempt the
amateur. In this common pursuit the Intimists show themselves to be the
successors of Degas; but they are successors who, having taken to heart
the teachings of more significant forerunners, represent a sturdier
decadence than that of Degas. K.-X. Roussel is a feminised Poussin. He
searches solely for effect, and his canvases have the singular charm of
enamel. Were they smaller they would make admirable brooches and vases.
He too has made tapestries, but in spirit they are less modern than the
corresponding efforts of his contemporaries. His compositions embody
reddish satyrs and nymphs, intense blue sky, yellow-green foliage and
yellow ground. His drawing never has more than the rudimentary charm of
school-room talent, while that of Vuillard is subjugated to his colour
application, and that of Bonnard is instinctively deformed to the
needs of line and decorative necessity.

[Illustration: LE JARDIN by BONNARD]

Maurice Denis is more directly an outcome of the school of Pont-Aven
than are the three preceding men. His synthetic figures were first seen
in Courbet, then in Puvis de Chavannes, then in Besnard and Gauguin. In
Denis they have lost much of their significance and have once more
become primarily academic. There was a time about 1890 when Denis’s
colour was not aggressively disagreeable. It was subjugated to a certain
greyness which was applied in little spots resembling the
black-and-white stippling of some of Seurat’s drawings. Now his colour
has grown acid and unpleasant. His line is stiff and vitiated and lacks
even the quality of a pleasing silhouette. He has written a book of
theories, but it has helped him little in his artistic achievements. He
is the antithesis of Bonnard, and his colours possess almost no
harmonious interrelation. In him there are a few perpendicular lines,
but one may seek in vain for evidences of co-ordination. Many of his
figures are appropriated from the works of the old masters, but because
he fails to adapt them sensitively to his needs, they lose, rather than
gain, in beauty by the transfer. He is at times symbolic and allegoric,
and while one might overlook this literary phase of his art, provided
there were other qualities to compensate for it, he fails to exhibit a
complete appreciation of the æsthetic possibilities of his models, and
consequently becomes merely an exponent of adopted mannerisms. His
popularity has entirely to do with qualities unrelated to painting.
Judged by a purely æsthetic standard he is inferior to an Augustus
John, a Desvallières, a Bourdelle or a Wyndham Lewis.

The highly talented André Derain is another synthetic painter. He is
sincerely moved by multiramose tree forms and the sunlight effects of
Provence, and his admiration for Cézanne led him into certain mannerisms
which have for their object a facilitation of the Aix master’s methods.
In his use of soft yellows, hot earth tones, deep warm greens and light
blues, he reveals his debt to the modern tendency toward colour. By
outlining his objects with heavy contours, he has acquired erroneously
a reputation for virility, and though he aspires to composition, he only
achieves pattern. He is much like the Scandinavian, Othon Friesz, who,
having absorbed the exteriors of Matisse and Cézanne, and having read
Cézanne’s letter recommending Poussin remade on nature, has turned his
attention to this old Titian offshoot and endeavours to give us a
reversion to style. At one time he used colour freely, but he now paints
with ochres, blues, blacks, greens and an occasional red—a gamut like
Derain’s, only yellower. He too has a heavy technique and a reputation
for virility. Maurice de Vlaminck is another painter of similar
inspiration and palette. He is much prettier and has a finer sense of
soft harmonies than either of the other two. He reveals a genuine
feeling for his subjects, and always tries to introduce into his works a
simple oppositional line. He comes direct from Cézanne, and it is from
paintings such as his that Cézanne has acquired a reputation as a maker
of arabesques. De Vlaminck has a rich and impelling _matière_ and an art
sense which is almost coquettish.

Kees van Dongen has studied the sensual drawings of Toulouse-Lautrec and
the broad exteriors of Matisse, and in combining his two admirations has
made eminently effective posters of nearly harmonious colours in very
broad planes. De Segonzac also uses attenuated colours in a broad manner
after Matisse. Manguin, another Matisse imitator, is too academic to
appeal strongly to those who have acquired the modern vision, despite
the primitive order his canvases at times possess. Flandrin is more
decorative. His works reveal a classic perpendicularity of composition,
and though they are without a sense of form, we feel in them a certain
charm of space and air. He brushes in his landscapes broadly by planes
of light and dark, somewhat in the very early manner of Matisse. Pierre
Laprade has arrived at a style of surface which may best be
characterised as bad tapestry. Jean Puy applies his pictures in a broad,
somewhat bold, manner, and his light tonality and angularities point to
his having lingered over the work of Cézanne. Lebasque is the feminine
prototype of Puy. His colour is faded and unemotional, and his exteriors
are as flat as the simplest decorations. Madame Marval differs from
Lebasque only in theme.

Modern decadence in Zak, Rousseau, Vallotton, Prendergast and Simon
Bussy manifests itself in a retrogression to primitive ideals. Though
using the modern methods of simplification, these men revert to a static
and dead past. Their aim is to revive the most ancient manner of
painting. Of all the modern decadents they are perhaps the most
devitalising for they tacitly repudiate the discoveries of the new men,
and strive to turn the minds of the public and of painters alike to the
sterilities of antiquity. They even ignore the æsthetic principles of
the Renaissance, and by pushing creative expression to its furthest
limits of artlessness, turn to naught the entire achievements of the
great plastic composers. At best these men are dealers in decorative
material. Simple arrangement is absent from their works, and colour,
which for nearly a century has fought for its true place in painting, is
once more used as an instinctive means for filling in drawings.

Vallotton, though a modern primitive, is not allied to any recent
school. In appearance his work is unlike that of the other moderns. He
disdains all save the simplest means and the most restricted colours. In
him there are no delicate plays of light, but broad and heavy shadings
which are not without subtlety. He is a Teutonic Ingres—a Flandrin made
serious as to precision and reduced colour. At a distance his nude
studies are interesting, for there one loses the dryness and hardness of
their technical manner—a heritage of Vallotton’s days of wood
engravings. Other modern painters who elude classification, but who are
intimately related in a general way to the new movements are Charles
Guérin, Piot, Spiro, Alcide Le Beau, Gustave Jaulmes and d’Espagnat.
Though they differ markedly from Vallotton they are all preoccupied with
self-expression by means of colour. By making it a dominant element in
their work, they have admitted their susceptibility to the modern ideal
and thereby have given an impetus to the spirit which tends toward
purification. Guérin is a professor of the _Académie Moderne_; and
though clinging close to conventional drawing, he attains a slightly
novel aspect in all his tapestry-like canvases. He is eminently of the
Beaux-Arts tradition, is artificial and monotonous, and paints very
large pictures with both idealistic and realistic themes.

Of the modern men who have found in Cubism their strongest æsthetic
fascination de la Fresnay is a noteworthy example. So well does he
understand the demands of the Picasso tradition that he has come to be
looked upon as one of the members of the Cubist group. His arrangements
are soft and pretty and his colour is harmonious. He has in fact
surpassed in merit several of the original Cubists. Frederick Etchells
and W. Roberts are English exponents of Cubism, and the latter has done
some work which rivals that of Picabia. Wyndham Lewis, another
Englishman, strives for an individual expression, but his angularities
reveal his debt to Picasso, although the general impression of his
pictures is Futuristic. The hand of the Cubists can be found in many of
the canvases of the modern Americans. Arthur B. Davies, the most popular
of the new men in the United States, is at bottom a superficial
academician, but he superimposes shallow Cubist traits on his
two-dimensional drawings, giving them a spuriously modern appearance.
Maurice Stern treats Gauguin themes with a pale reflection of the early
geometrical Picasso; and similar means are employed by C. R. Sheeler,
Jr., though both Matisse and Delaunay have contributed to his art.

To name all the modern painters who are conscientiously battling
against formalism and the dry-rot of the academies would be impossible.
The field is too broad: the activities are too numerous. Few civilised
countries have escaped the insistence of the new impetus. By some
painters the new methods are adopted tentatively and by degrees. Others
fly to the latest phases of art and move forward with the epoch. Today
there are numerous representatives of all the movements from
Impressionism to Synchromism. Kroll and Childe Hassam, both Americans,
are emulators of Monet, though Hassam, who appears less modern than
Kroll, is by far the more sensitive painter. Marquet has done more than
imitate Impressionism. He has synthesised Monet into a more masculine
expression. His planes are broad and luminous, and he achieves a
distinct feeling for air and distance by simpler and more direct means
than did the Impressionists. W. S. Glackens combines a Renoir technique
with a modern purity of colour. J. D. Ferguson, the Scotchman, also
reverts to the Impressionists but has learned much from Matisse. Duncan
Grant, an Englishman, is much more modern than Ferguson and more
competently expressive of the new. Roger Fry has contributed much to the
modern impetus. His writings reveal a wide comprehension of present-day
paintings and his insight into æsthetics is at times profound. Every
year adds to the ranks. Besides the modern artists already named may be
mentioned Bechteiev, Bolz, Lhote, Chagall, Chamaillard, Zawadowsky,
Hayden, Ottmann, Lotiron, Utrillo, Hartley, Peckstein, Valensi,
Jawlensky, Knauerhase, Münter, Tobeen, Bloch, Dove, de Chirico,
Walkowitz, Boussingault, Kanoldt and Granzow.

One of the healthiest movements of the day, though without novelty, is
Vorticism whose headquarters are London. The Vorticists are unrestricted
as to theories, and have for their aim the final purification of
painting as well as of the other arts. Their creed is an intelligent
one, and is in direct line with the current tendencies. As yet they have
produced no pictures which might be called reflective of their
principles, but they have kept before English artists the necessity of
eliminating the unessentials. Their main doctrines, so far as painting
is concerned, were set forth by the Synchromists long before the
Vorticists came into public being; but by their insistence on the basic
needs of purification, they have done valuable service. The Synchromists
in their manifesto wrote: “An art whose ambition it is to be pure should
express itself only in the means inherent in that art.... Painting being
the art of colour, any quality of a picture not expressed by colour is
not painting.” A year later in _Blast_, the Vorticists’ publication, we
read: “The Vorticist relies on this alone; on the primary pigment of his
art, and nothing else.... Every concept, every emotion presents itself
to the vivid consciousness in some primary form. It belongs to the art
of this form. If sound, to music, if formed words, to literature; colour
in position, to painting....”

All these painters are the leaders of the secondary inspirations in
modern art, and out of them grow other painters in Europe and America.
They do not as a rule go by the name of any school, but they can be
classed together because in them all is the same desire to create the
novel, to present a strikingly different aspect from the academies, and
to differentiate themselves individually from their fellows. They all
feel their incompetency to create new forms, the necessity to follow,
the timidity which only permits them to modify the surfaces of other
greater men. They are the creative exponents and the decadents of vital
movements, and they in turn have their own imitators and decadents. They
have felt the need for change, but lack the genius for new
organisations. That many of them are sound artists it would be folly to
deny. But they are in no sense of the word innovators. Some of them in
fact are failures, but theirs is the consolation of having failed in
attempting something vital and representative of the age in which they
live.



XV

CONCLUSION


In conclusion there are several points which require accentuation if the
significance of modern painting is to be fully grasped. There have been
three epochs in the visual arts. The first was the longest, and extended
through more than two centuries. The last two epochs have required less
than a hundred years for their fulfilment. Each epoch dealt with a
specific phase of painting and developed that phase until its
possibilities were exhausted. The ultimate aim of all great painting was
purification, but before that could come about many theories had to be
tested; many consummations had to take place; many problems had to be
solved. The laws of formal organisation were first discovered and
applied with the limited means at hand. Then came experimentation and
research in the mechanics of expression—the search for new and vital
methods wherewith these principles of composition might be bodied forth
more intensely. Later the functioning properties of colour were
unearthed and employed. In the course of this evolution many irrelevant
factors found their way into painting. The men of the first epoch used
primitive and obvious materials to express their forms. When the new
means—means inherent in painting—were ascertained, it was necessary to
eliminate the former media. The subject-matter of painting—that is, the
recognisable object, the human obstacle—had to be forced out to permit
of the introduction of colour which had become an inseparable adjunct of
form. To effect the coalition of pure composition and the newer methods
was a difficult feat, for so long had the world been accustomed to the
pictorial aspect of painting, that it had come to look upon
subject-matter as a cardinal requisite to plastic creation.

The first epoch began with the advent of oil painting about 1400, and
went forward, building and developing, until it reached realisation
early in the seventeenth century. Knowing that organised form is the
basis of all æsthetic emotion, the old masters strove to find the
psychological principles for co-ordinating volume. Their means were
naturally superficial, for their initial concern was to determine what
they should do, not how they should do it. In expressing the form they
deemed necessary to great art they used the material already at their
disposal, namely: objective nature. They organised and made rhythmic the
objects about them, more especially the human body which permitted of
many variations and groupings and which was in itself a complete
ensemble. And furthermore they had discovered that movement—an
indispensable attribute of the most highly emotional composition—was
best expressed by the poise of the human figure. Colour to these early
men was only an addendum to drawing. They conceived form in black and
white, and sought to reinforce their work by the realistic use of
pigments. That colour was an infixed element of organisation they never
suspected. Their preoccupation was along different lines. The greatest
exponents of intense composition during this first epoch were
Tintoretto, Giorgione, Masaccio, Giotto, Veronese, El Greco and Rubens.
These men were primarily interested in discovering absolute laws for
formal rhythm. The mimetic quality of their work was a secondary
consideration. In Rubens were consummated the aims of the older
painters; that is, he attained to the highest degree of compositional
plasticity which was possible with the fixed means of his period. In him
the first cycle terminated. There was no longer any advance to be made
in the art of painting until a new method of expression should be
unearthed. However, the principles of form laid down by these old
masters were fundamental and unalterable. Upon them all great painting
must ever be based. They are intimately connected with the very
organisms of human existence, and can never be changed until the nature
of mankind shall change.

After Rubens a short period of decadence and deterioration set in. The
older methods no longer afforded inspiration. About the beginning of the
nineteenth century the second cycle of painting was ushered in by
Turner, Constable and Delacroix. These men, realising that until new
means were discovered art could be only a variation of what had come
before, turned their attention to finding a procedure by which the
ambition of the artist could be more profoundly realised. This second
cycle was one of research and analysis, of scientific experimentation
and data gathering. To surpass Rubens in his own medium was impossible:
he had reached the ultimate outpost of æsthetic possibilities with what
materials he possessed. The new men first made inquiry into colour from
the standpoint of its dramatic potentialities. Naturalism was born.
While Delacroix was busy applying the rudiments of colour science to
thematic romanticism, Courbet was busy tearing down the tenets of
conventionalism in subject-matter, and Daumier was experimenting in the
simultaneity of form and drawing. Manet liberated the painter from set
themes, and thereby broadened the material field of composition. The
Impressionists followed, and by labourious investigations into nature’s
methods, probed the secrets of colour in relation to light. The
Neo-Impressionists went further afield with scientific observations; and
finally Renoir, assimilating all the new discoveries, rejected the
fallacies and co-ordinated the valuable conclusions. In him was brought
to a close the naturalistic conception of painting. He was the
consummation of the second cycle. During this period the older laws of
composition were for the most part forgotten. The painters were too
absorbed in their search for new means. They forgot the foundations of
art in their enthusiasm for a fuller and less restricted expression. The
essential character of colour and light and the new freedom in subject
selection so intoxicated them that they lost sight of all that had
preceded them. But their gifts to painting cannot be overestimated. By
finding new weapons with which future artists might achieve the highest
formal intensity, they opened up illimitable fields of æsthetic
endeavour: they made possible the third and last cycle which resulted
in the final purification of painting.

Of this cycle Cézanne was the primitive. Profiting by the Impressionist
teachings, he turned his attention once more to the needs of
composition. He realised the limitations of the naturalistic conception,
and created light which, though it was as logical as nature’s, was not
restricted to the realistic vision. Colour with him became for the first
time a functional element capable of producing form. The absolute
freedom of subject selection—a heritage from the second cycle—permitted
him extreme distortions, and with these distortions was opened up the
road to abstraction. Matisse made form even more arbitrary, and Picasso
approached still nearer to the final elimination of natural objectivity,
though both men ignored colour as a generator of form. They carried
forward the work of Cézanne only on its material side. Then Synchromism,
combining the progress of both Cézanne and the Cubists, took the final
step in the elimination of the illustrative object, and at the same time
put aside the local hues on which the art of Cézanne was dependent.
Since the art of painting is the art of colour, the Synchromists
depended entirely on primary pigment for the complete expression of
formal composition. Thus was brought about the final purification of
painting. Form was entirely divorced from any realistic consideration:
and colour became an organic function. The methods of painting, being
rationalised, reached their highest degree of purity and creative
capability.

The evolution of painting from tinted illustration to an abstract art
expressed wholly by the one element inherent in it—colour, was a
natural and inevitable progress. Music passed through the same
development from the imitation of natural sounds to harmonic
abstraction. We no longer consider such compositions as The Battle of
Prague or Monastery Bells æsthetically comparable to Korngold’s
Symphonietta or Schönberg’s _Opus II_. And yet in painting the great
majority confines its judgment to that phase of a picture which is
irrelevant to its æsthetic importance. So long have form and composition
expressed themselves through recognisable phenomena that the cognitive
object has come to be looked upon as an end, whereas it is only a means
to a subjective emotion. The world still demands that a painting shall
represent a natural form, that is, that the basis of painting shall be
illustration. The illustrative object was employed by the older painters
only because their means were limited, because they had no profounder
method wherewith to express themselves. And even with them the human
body was deliberately disproportioned and altered to meet the needs of
composition. When the properties of colour began to be understood, the
older methods were no longer required. Colour itself became form. But so
deeply rooted was the illustrative precedent that no one painter had the
courage to eliminate objectivity at one stroke. Cézanne took the first
great step; Matisse, the second; Cubism the next; and Synchromism the
final one.

So long as painting deals with objective nature it is an impure art, for
recognisability precludes the highest æsthetic emotion. All painting,
ancient and modern, moves us æsthetically only in so far as it
possesses a force over and beyond its mimetic aspect. The average
spectator is unable to differentiate his literary and associative
emotions from his æsthetic ecstasy. Form and rhythm alone are the bases
of æsthetic enjoyment: all else in a picture is superfluity. Therefore a
picture in order to represent its intensest emotive power must be an
abstract presentation expressed entirely in the medium of painting: and
that medium is colour. There are no longer any experiments to be made in
methods. Form and colour—the two permanent and inalienable qualities of
painting—have become synonymous. Ancient painting sounded the depths of
composition. Modern painting has sounded the depths of colour. Research
is at an end. It now remains only for artists to create. The means have
been perfected: the laws of organisation have been laid down. No more
innovatory “movements” are possible. Any school of the future must
necessarily be compositional. It can be only a variation or a
modification of the past. The methods of painting may be complicated.
New forms may be found. But it is no longer possible to add anything to
the means at hand. The era of pure creation begins with the present day.

Those who go to painting for anecdote, drama, archæology, illustration
or any other quality which is not strictly æsthetic, would do well to
confine their attention and their comments to the academicians of whom
there is and always has been an abundant supply. Let them keep their
hands off those artists who strive for higher and more eternal
manifestations. The greatest artists of every age have never sought to
appeal to the lovers of reality and sentiment. Nor have they wished to
be judged by standards which considered only verisimilitude and
technical proficiency. It is the misfortune of painting that literary
impurities should have accompanied its development, and it is the irony
of serious endeavour that on account of these impurities there has been
an indefinite deferment of any genuine appreciation of painting. It is
difficult to convince a man who has not experienced the great æsthetic
emotions which art is capable of producing, that there is an
intoxication to be derived from the contemplation of art keener than
that of association, sentiment or drama. Not knowing that greater
delights await him once he has penetrated beneath the surface, he has
doggedly combated every effort to eliminate the irrelevant accretions.
But if painting was to reach its highest point of artistic creation, its
realistic aspect had to go. When colour became profoundly understood, no
longer could the artist apply it according to the dictates of nature. It
lost its properties as decoration and as an enhancement of the
naturalistic vision. Its demands freed the artist from the tyranny of
nature. In becoming pure, painting drew further and further away from
mimicry; and the superficial lover of painting, enslaved by the ignorant
and rigid standards of the past, protested with greater and greater
vehemence.

The misunderstanding which has attached to modern painting has been
colossal. The newer men, because they have dared search for means of
expression superior to those of the past, have met with ridicule and
abuse. From Delacroix to Synchromism the critics and public have fought
every advance. Immured in tradition, their minds have been unable to
grasp the meaning of the new activities or to sense the artist’s need
for pure creation. No school has escaped the obloquy of the professional
critic who, judging art from its superficial and unimportant side, has
failed to penetrate to its fundamentals. Delacroix was declared crazy by
the leading critics. The _Journal des Artistes_ said of him, “We do not
say this man is a charlatan, but we do say this man is the equivalent of
a charlatan.” The _Observateur des Beaux-Arts_, commenting on this
artist’s failure to procure an award, remarked, “Delacroix, the leader
of the new school, received no honours, but in order to recompense him,
he was accorded a two hours’ _séance_ each day in the morgue.” Gros,
Delécluze and Alfred Nettement are conspicuous among the academicians
and critics who bitterly opposed Delacroix’s innovations. Courbet met
with a similar reception. Gautier, after studying one of his pictures,
wrote, “One does not know whether to weep or laugh. There are heads
which recall the ensigns of tobacconists and of the menagerie.” Clément
de Ris said of Courbet’s work, “It is the glorification of vulgar
ugliness;” and de Chennevières called one of his finest pictures “an
ignoble and impious caricature.” Even Manet, whose radicalism was
slight, brought down upon himself the abuse of the critics for daring to
paint modern themes. Claretie drew the following conclusion from the
Olympia: “One cannot reproach Manet for idealising _vierges folles_, for
he makes of them _vierges sales_.” The remark was characteristic. Manet
revolted against classic subjects, and for his modernity was excoriated
by the moral traditionalists.

The early Impressionists, as pretty as they were, did not escape
critical abuse. Benjamin Constant called them “the school of snobs, the
conscious or unconscious enemies of art,” and added, “Their days are
numbered.” Albert Wolff was more venomous. “These _soi-disant_ artists,”
he wrote, “call themselves the intransigents. They take canvases,
colours and brushes, fling at hazard several tones, and then sign the
work. It is thus that the wandering spirits at Ville-Évrard pick up
pebbles on the highway and think they have found diamonds. Hideous
spectacle of human vanity straying toward dementia!” Paul Mantz’s
remarks were similar. His criticism in part read: “Before the works of
certain members of the group one is tempted to ascribe to them a defect
of the eyes, singularities of vision which would be the joy of
ophthalmologists, and the terror of families.” (How like the recent
criticisms of the very modern men does all this sound—these accusations
of insanity, these hints of defective vision! Such comments would seem
to have been lifted almost bodily by the detractors of Cubism, Futurism
and Synchromism.) Renoir shared a similar fate. One leading critic said
it was futile to “try to explain to Renoir that the female torso is not
a mass of decomposing flesh with spots of green and violet which denote
the state of complete putrefaction in a cadaver.” Roger Ballu explained
the appearance of Renoir’s work thus: “At first view it seemed that his
canvases, during their trip from the studio to the exhibition, had
undergone an accident.” With the exception of Manet two years prior to
his death and Renoir at the age of sixty-eight, not one of the
Impressionists was decorated by the French government. They were
banished from official _Salons_, and compelled to expose in private
galleries.

To quote from the critics who denounced Cézanne would be an endless
task. When he exposed at the Impressionist exhibition in the Rue
Peletier in 1877 he was universally regarded with disgust and horror and
considered a barbarian. The venom of the critics was appalling. They
attacked him from every standpoint, though on one point they seemed in
agreement, namely: that he was a _communard_. Nor did the abuse cease
with his early works. His greatness has consistently evaded critics and
painters alike. Recently the American painter, William M. Chase, offered
the suggestion that Cézanne did not know how to paint. Chase’s opinion
is not an isolated one: it is typical of the minor academic painters and
the critics who view art through the eyes of the past. Henri-Matisse is
another painter who has received short shrift from the reviewers. One
need not have a long memory to recall the adverse criticisms he
provoked. His distortions have served as a basis for a display of
ignorance which has few parallels in art history. Matisse himself has
fed fuel to the fire. In his interview with newspaper men he indulged in
much high jesting, and the remarks attributed to him were in many
instances _blague_. Others, judging him by his words, have pinned on him
the labels of charlatan and degenerate.

The Cubists, misunderstood from the first, have been a source of
ridicule rather than of contumely. Systematisers have sought to trace
them to Dürer, forgetting that Cézanne once wrote: “Treat nature by the
cylinder, the sphere and the cone; the whole put in perspective, so that
each side of an object and of a plane directs itself toward a central
point.” Even today, after the vital contributions of the Cubists have
altered the whole trend of modern art, there are few who see in them
aught but the material for laughter. The critics who have accepted the
Impressionists and Cézanne deny the merits of Cubism, venting their
derision in a manner which recalls the detractors of the very schools
which these critics now uphold. Synchromism has perhaps called forth the
bitterest protests. It was the last step in the evolution of modern
means. It had no affinities with the academies. There was no foothold in
this new school for the conservatives and reactionaries. The Munich
critics were first to attack it. Later in Paris André Salmon wrote, “The
public will believe that Synchromism is the final movement of which it
has learned. Synchromism is the worst of backward movements, a vulgar
art, without nobility, unlikely to live, as it carries the principles of
death in itself.” _Les Arts et Les Artistes_ summed up Synchromists
with: “The house painter at the corner can, when he wishes, claim that
he belongs to this school.” _La Plume_ discovered the fact that
“Macdonald-Wright copies with a dirty broom the Slave of Michelangelo.”
Charles H. Caffin declared, “The whole tenor of their foreword and
introduction is one of egregious self-exploitation and
self-advertisement. This ... raises the very obvious question: ’Are
these men megalomaniacs or charlatans?’ Possibly they are neither the
one nor the other. I am not in a position to decide.”

These quotations and comments are set down to reveal the opposition
which the genuine modern painters have had to contend with. The
criticisms of each movement repeat themselves with the following one,
even to a point of verbal similarity. The attacks on Synchromism are
strangely like those which companioned Impressionism. The same
facetiousness, the same irrelevant denunciation, the same opposition to
the new, the same antipathy for progress are manifest in all the critics
of the new painting from Delacroix to date. All arise out of ignorance,
out of that immobility of mind which cannot judge clearly until a thing
is swathed in the perspective of the years. Art has grown faster than
the critic’s ability to comprehend. Its problems are a closed book to
him, for, not being a painter himself, he requires a longer period in
which to assimilate the new ideals. Gradually as the new methods
establish themselves, and become accepted (as in the case of
Impressionism), the critic at last comes abreast of a movement; but by
that time art has gone forward and left him in the rear. Again he
attacks the new. All innovations are as poison to his system, until he
again becomes adjusted. Thus can we account for the animosity and
ridicule with which each modern movement has been met.

Nor are the animadversions of academic critics the only obstacles in the
path of æsthetic development. Those who sympathise with the new without
understanding it do more harm than good. There are those who always
accept the latest men irrespective of their individual merit. But
modernity in itself is not a merit, and the modern enthusiasts, in
defending the newest painters, very often expend their energies on the
undeserving. Thus the mediocrities are given prominence over the truly
great; and the lesser artists are looked upon as representative of the
epoch. Again, those who admire without comprehending are given to
emphasising the less important points of departure in the new men, and
of ignoring the deeper qualities which represent the primary importance
of modern art. The true meaning of the late movements is thereby
obscured. Of this class of critic Arthur Jerome Eddy may be mentioned as
representative. By crediting the distinctly second-rate moderns with
qualities they have only absorbed from greater men, and by
misunderstanding the animating ideals of today’s painting, he presents
so disproportionate and biased a history that the entire significance of
modern art is lost. England, France and Germany possess critics who feel
the grandeur but miss the meaning of the new ideals, and their books and
articles, while crediting the modern painters with vitality, go little
beneath the surface.

However, there are a few men to whom the modernist owes much for
intelligent assistance. One may name Meier-Graefe as one of these,
despite his being in reality a pioneer. He has shown an eager attitude
to do justice, and has succeeded in bringing the modern men to the
attention of the world. Guillaume Apollinaire, editor of _Les Soirées de
Paris_, has done more intelligent service for the younger heretics in
France than any other man. Clive Bell and Roger Fry represent the ablest
and most discerning defenders of the modern spirit in England; although
Mr. A. R. Orage, by opening up the columns of the _New Age_, has
permitted a healthy discussion and exposition of the radical art
theories. In America much credit is due Mr. Alfred Stieglitz for his
insistent demands that the later men be given a respectful hearing. By
his sympathetic attitude and his ceaseless labours he has brought before
the American public the work of many prominent modern artists; and his
sincerity and understanding have done much toward ameliorating the
conventional scoffs of American critics.

But were there no far-seeing defenders of modern painting, the signs of
the awakening are too numerous and too conspicuous to be ignored. On
every hand we are conscious of the struggle for new methods and forms.
Not all the inertia of the critics and the public has succeeded in
suppressing the vital spirit. Nor will it succeed. The modern tendency
in painting cannot be dismissed as charlatanism or extremism. The
ignorant and reactionary may laugh and hurl philippics. Such opposition,
if it has any effect, will only prove a stimulus to those who have
experienced the ecstasy of the new work. The old dies hard. Even when
the corpse is buried (as it has been) the ghost lingers. But the light
will soon grow too strong. The ghost in time will be dissolved. For
centuries painting has been reared on a false foundation, and the
criteria of æsthetic appreciation have been irrelevant. Painting has
been a bastard art—an agglomeration of literature, religion, photography
and decoration. The efforts of painters for the last century have been
devoted to the elimination of all extraneous considerations, to making
painting as pure an art as music. But so widespread is the general
ignorance regarding art’s fundamentals that the modern men have been
opposed at every step. Public and critical illiteracy in the arts,
however, matters little. The painter’s joy lies in the rapture of
creation, in the knowledge that he is carrying forward the banner of a
high ideal.



INDEX


   _Adoration of the Wise Men_, 40.

   Alexander, John W., 98.

   Altichiero, 191.

   _Ambassadors, The_, 24.

   Andreiev, 52.

   _Angelina_, 68.

   _Angelus, The_, 57.

   _Anges au Tombeau, Les_, 79.

   _Annunciation_, 81.

   Anquetin, 197.

   Antwerp Museum, 40.

   Apollinaire, Guillaume, 341.

   _Après le Bain_, 212.

   Archipenko, 163.

   _Arm Organisation in Blue-Green_, 301.

   _Art of Spiritual Harmony, The_, 310.

   _Arts et Les Artistes, Les_, 338.

   Ashe, E. M., 221.

   _Assommoir, L’_, 73.

   Assyrian art, 78.

   Augier, 216.

   Augrand, 175.

   _Au Piano_, 123.

   Aurier, 193.

   Avignon painters, 108.


   _Baignade, La_, 203.

   _Baigneuse_, 1884, (Renoir), 120.

   _Baigneuse_, 1888, (Renoir), 122, 123.

   _Baigneuse au Griffon, La_, 112.

   _Baigneuse Brune, La_, 123.

   _Baigneuses_, 1885, (Renoir), 121, 125.

   _Baigneuses_, 1902, (Renoir), 125-126, 157.

   _Baigneuses_, (Matisse), 226, 235.

   _Baigneuses, Les_, (Courbet), 56.

   _Baigneuses, Les_, (Gleizes), 257.

   _Bain, Le_, (Daumier), 60.

   _Bain, Le_, (Manet), see _Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, Le_.

   _Bain Turc, Le_, 69.

   _Balançoire, La_, 115.

   Balla, Giacomo, 276;
     _Dog and Person in Movement_, 272.

   Ballu, Roger, 336.

   Balzac, 25, 216;
     _Le Chef-d’Œuvre Inconnu_, 162.

   Barbizon school, 69, 70, 87, 284.

   _Bar des Folies-Begère, Le_, 80.

   _Bataille de Taillebourg_, 40.

   _Battle of Prague, The_, 332.

   Baudelaire, 43, 53.

   _Baudelaire Chez les Mufles_, 219-220.

   Bazille, 89, 103.

   Beardsley, Aubrey, 181, 221.

   Beaux-Arts, 153, 165, 223, 323.

   Beerbohm, Max, 62, 221.

   Beethoven, 25, 42, 82, 155, 281;
     _Ninth Symphony_, 8.

   Bechteiev, 324.

   Bell, Clive, 341.

   Bellini, Gentile, 188.

   Bellows, 221.

   Bernard, Émile, 130, 143, 152, 156, 175, 182, 195, 197.

   Bernhardt, portrait of Sarah, 216.

   Bernheim-Jeune galleries, 290, 297.

   Besnard, 319.

   Blanc, 165.

   _Blast_, 325.

   Bloch, 324.

   Blumenschein, 221.

   Boccioni, Umberto, 275, 276.

   Böcklin, 21, 203.

   Bolz, 324.

   Bonington, 37, 49.

   Bonnard, 315, 316-318, 318, 319;
     _Le Jardin_, 317.

   Bonnat, 215.

   Bononi, 23.

   Borassa school, 191.

   Botticelli, 21, 22, 28, 93, 203.

   Boucher, 34, 97, 121.

   Bouguereau, 161, 222, 223, 239.

   Bourdelle, 320.

   Bourgeois, 31.

   Boussingault, 325.

   Bracquemond, 165.

   Brangwyn, 21.

   Braque, Georges, 257, 258.

   Bronzino, 187.

   Bruce, 262.

   Bruyas, 53.

   _Buen Viaje_, 219.

   _Bulles de Savon, Les_, 80.

   Bussy, Simon, 321-322.

   _Buveur d’Absinthe, Le_, 66, 68.

   Byron, 43.

   Byzantine art, 9, 35, 40, 51, 93, 204.


   Cabanel, 222.

   _Cabaret de la Mère Anthony, Le_, 109.

   _Café-Concert_, 215.

   Caffin, Charles H., 338.

   Caillebotte Collection, 98-99, 104.

   _Calvary_ (Memlinc), 217.

   Canaletto, 188.

   _Caprichos_, 225.

   _Captivité de Babylone, La_, 42.

   Caravaggio, 44, 56.

   Carlopez, 221.

   Carrà, Carlo D., 275, 276;
     _Funeral of the Anarchist Galli_, 314.

   Carreño, 67.

   Carrière, 60, 73, 194, 198, 223.

   Cassatt, 165.

   _Casseurs de Pierres, Les_, 57.

   Castagnary, 79.

   Castello, Valerio, 21.

   _Cathédral, La_, 102.

   Cazin, 209.

   Celesti, 23.

   Cellini, 52.

   Cesare, 221.

   Cézanne, 21, 26, 27, 31, 32, 36, 45, 56, 61, 75, 96, 97, 104, 115,
     126, 128, 129-163, 175, 176, 180, 189, 197, 200, 203, 206, 208,
     222, 223, 225, 234, 240, 241, 242, 244, 247, 249, 250, 251, 253,
     254, 260, 262, 272, 274, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 286, 287,
     289, 291, 295, 296, 298, 300, 303, 307, 308, 310, 320, 321, 331,
     332, 337, 338.

   Chagall, 324.

   _Chahut, Le_, 180.

   Chamaillard, 197, 324.

   Champfleury, 56.

   _Chanteuse des Rues, La_, 79.

   Chardin, 34, 225.

   _Charivari_, 48.

   Chase, William M., 337.

   Chavannes, Puvis de, 74, 202, 316, 319.

   _Chef-d’Œuvre Inconnu, Le_, 162.

   _Chemin de Fer, Le_, 80.

   Chéret, 216.

   Chesneau, Ernest, 44.

   _Chevelure, La_, 114.

   Chevreul, 31, 84, 165, 166, 168, 180, 285;
     _De la Loi du Contraste Simultané des Couleurs_, 164.

   _Chien et Lièvres_, 51.

   Chinese art, 64, 125, 128, 190, 215, 315.

   Christophe, Jules, 177.

   Chromo-luminarists, _see_ Neo-Impressionism.

   Cimabue, 29.

   _Cirque, Le_, 180.

   _Claire de Lune, Le_, 80.

   Claretie, 335.

   Claude, 50.

   _Coco_, heads of, 126.

   _Coco et les Deux Servantes_, 126.

   _Coins de Rivière_, 100.

   _Combat de Cerfs, Le_, 51.

   _Combat du Kerseage et de l’Alabama_, 80.

   _Concert Champêtre_, see _Rural Concert_.

   Conegliano, 79.

   Conrad, Joseph, 52, 161.

   Constable, 17, 37, 43, 46, 49, 50, 97, 175, 329.

   Constant, Benjamin, 336.

   Cormon, 215.

   Corot, 21, 48, 68, 87, 89, 91, 108, 189.

   Correggio; _La Vierge à l’Écuelle_, 62.

   Courbet, 17, 45, 48, 50-58, 59, 63, 66, 67, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74,
     75, 76, 77, 81, 83, 87, 89, 97, 106, 107, 108, 109, 111, 112, 113,
     115, 127, 128, 131, 134, 158, 207, 208, 212, 239, 253, 282, 284,
     319, 330, 335;
     _Les Baigneuses_, 56;
     _Les Casseurs de Pierres_, 57;
     _Chien et Lièvres_, 51;
     _Le Combat de Cerfs_, 51;
     _Femme de Munich_, 53;
     _Les Grands Châtaigniers_, 57;
     _La Grotte_, 56;
     _Le Hamac_, 76;
     _L’Enterrement à Ornans_, 51, 54, 55, 63, 77, 239;
     _Les Lutteurs_, 59-60;
     _Le Retour de la Conférence_, 51;
     _La Vague_, 101.

   _Course de Taureaux_, 80.

   _Courtesan, The_, 217.

   Courtois, 108.

   Couture, Thomas, 66, 161;
     _Méthodes et Entretiens d’Atelier_, 44.

   Crayer, Gaspar de, 306.

   _Creation of the Sun and Moon_, 24.

   _Cromwell au Château de Windsor_, 40.

   _Croquet, Le_, 123.

   Cross, 174, 224.

   Cubism (Cubists), 97, 187, 222, 227, 237-262, 274, 275, 277, 282, 283,
     285, 291, 303, 307, 315, 323, 331, 332, 336, 338.


   da Bologna, Giovanni, 41.

   da Bosozzo, Michelino, 191.

   _Danseuse, La_, 114.

   _Dante et Virgile aux Enfers_, 36, 55.

   da Sesto, Cesare, 306.

   Daubigny, 67.

   Daudet, 216.

   Daumier, 17, 25, 58-63, 66, 68, 72, 97, 106, 126, 137, 144, 182, 200,
     207, 208, 213, 220, 226, 243, 278, 279, 280, 330;
     _Le Bain_, 60,
     _Don Quichotte_, 62;
     _Le Drame_, 63;
     _Les Émigrants_, 62;
     _Les Lutteurs_, 59-60;
     _Ratapoil_, 62;
     _Le Repos des Saltimbanques_, 60;
     _La République_, 61;
     _Silène_, 63.

   David, 17, 34, 35, 43, 56, 239, 282.

   Davies, Arthur B., 323.

   da Vinci, Leonardo, 44, 60, 306;
     _Trattato della Pittura_, 148.

   _Dead Christ, The_, 24.

   Debucourt, 34.

   Debussy, 52.

   Decamps; _Sonneurs de Cloches_, 62.

   de Chennevières, 335.

   de Chirico, 325.

   Defoe, 191.

   Degas, 19, 62, 63, 165, 191, 203, 207-221, 222, 226, 242, 253, 266,
     307, 313, 318;
     _Après le Bain_, 212;
     _Café-Concert_, 215;
     _Femme au Tub_, 212;
     _Musiciens à l’Orchestre_, 213;
     _La Sortie du Bain_, 212;
     _La Toilette_, 212;
     _Torse de Femme S’Essuyant_, 212;
     _Trois Danseuses_, 212.

   De Hahn, 197.

   dei Barbari, Jacopo, 223.

   _Déjeuner, Le_, 79.

   _Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, Le_, 69-70, 77-78, 79.

   Delacroix, 17, 25, 27, 30, 34, 35-46, 48, 50, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 62,
     63, 66, 67, 72, 75, 80, 81, 87, 88, 106, 107, 108, 111, 112, 113,
     114, 128, 133, 135, 137, 165, 175, 176, 177, 180, 181, 182, 201,
     205, 207, 264, 277, 278, 281, 282, 303, 310, 329, 330, 334, 335,
     339;
     _Bataille de Taillebourg_, 40;
     _La Captivité de Babylone_, 42;
     _Cromwell au Château de Windsor_, 40;
     _Dante et Virgile aux Enfers_, 36, 45;
     _Enlèvement de Rébecca_, 40;
     _Entrée des Croisés à Jérusalem_, 40;
     _Les Femmes d’ Alger dans Leur Appartement_, 39, 111, 112;
     _La Grèce Expirant sur les Ruines de Missolonghi_, 41;
     _Janissaires à l’Attaque_, 40;
     _La Justice de Trajan_, 40, 42;
     _Justinien Composant les Institutes_, 43;
     _La Liberté Guidant le Peuple sur les Barricades_, 38, 40;
     _Lion Déchirant un Cadavre_, 41;
     _La Lutte de Jacob avec l’Ange_, 40, 45;
     _Massacre de Scio_, 36, 39;
     _Piéta_, 41;
     _Rénaude et Angélique_, 62;
     _Repos_, 42.

   de la Fresnay, 323.

   _De la Loi du Contraste Simultané des Couleurs_, 164.

   Delaunay, 259-162, 323;
     _L’Équipe de Cardiff_, 260;
     _Route de Laon_, 261;
     _Les Tours_, 261;
     _Ville de Paris_, 259-260, 260.

   Delaunay-Terk, Madame, 262.

   Delécluze, 335.

   Delibes, 281.

   Denis, Maurice, 197, 216, 319-320.

   Derain, André, 163, 320.

   de Ris, Clément, 335.

   _Descent from the Cross_, 24.

   De Segonzac, 321.

   d’Espagnat, 322.

   Desvallières, 320.

   Dethomas, Maxime, 221.

   _D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme_, 169.

   _Deux Sœurs, Les_, 123.

   _Deux Tahïtiens_, 226.

   _Devil’s Bridge, The_, 50.

   _Diane Chasseresse_, 109.

   Diaz, 68, 89, 108, 182.

   _Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte, Un_, 180, 203.

   di Nicolo, Pietro, 41.

   Divisionists, _see_ Neo-Impressionism.

   _Dog and Person in Movement_, 272.

   Donatello, 203.

   _Donde Vá Mamá_, 219.

   _Don Quichotte_, 62.

   Dostoievsky, 52.

   Dove, 84, 324.

   _Drame, Le_, 63.

   Dreiser, Theodore, 52.

   Dubois-Pillet, 175.

   Duchamp, Marcel, 257, 258.

   Dumas, 43.

   Dürer, 187, 251, 338;
     _Four Naked Women_, 24.

   Duret, 102.

   Dutch landscapists, 96.

   _Dynamisme d’une Auto_, 269.


   _Earl and Countess of Arundel, The_, 24.

   East Indian art, 237.

   Eddy, Arthur Jerome, 340.

   _Église à Varengeville, L’_, 99.

   Egyptian art, 64, 78, 205.

   Eichler, R. M., 202.

   El Greco, 20, 21, 22, 51, 95, 125, 135, 158, 163, 203, 246, 254, 255,
     259, 297, 308, 329;
     _Annunciation_, 81;
     _Obsequies of the Count of Orgaz_, 55;
     _The Resurrection of Christ_, 24.

   _Émigrants, Les_, 62.

   _Émile Zola_, 79.

   _Emperor Charles V_, 24.

   _En Bateau_, 79.

   _Enfant à l’Epée, L’_, 67.

   _Enfants en Rose et Bleu, Les_, 120.

   English painters, 99, 116.

   Engström, Albert, 221.

   _Enlèvement de Rébecca_, 40.

   _Enterrement à Ornans, L’_, 51, 54, 55, 63, 77, 239.

   _Entrée des Croisés à Jérusalem_, 40.

   _Équipe de Cardiff, L’_, 260.

   Erler, Fritz, 202.

   Etchells, Frederick, 323.

   _Eva Gonzalès_, 79.

   _Exécution de Maximilien_, 80.


   _Falaise à Étretat_, 100, 101.

   Fantin-Latour, 53, 175.

   Fauché, 197.

   _Faust_, 8.

   _Fauves, Chef des_, 233.

   Fauvism, 234.

   _Fécondité_, 73.

   _Femme à la Mandoline_, 251.

   _Femme à la Perruche, La_, 112.

   _Femme au Cheval, La_, 258.

   _Femme au Miroir, La_, 127.

   _Femme au Perroquet, La_, 79.

   _Femme au Tub_, 212.

   _Femme aux Mangos, La_, 75.

   _Femme de Munich_, 53.

   _Femmes Assises à l’Ombre des Palmiers_, 196.

   _Femmes d’Alger dans Leur Appartement, Les_, 39, 111, 112.

   Ferguson, J. D., 324.

   Fielding, 37.

   _Fighting Téméraire, The_, 47.

   Filiger, 197.

   _Filles de Catulle Mendès, Les_, 123.

   _Fillette à la Gerbe, La_, 123.

   _Fillette à l’Orange, La_, 26.

   _Fillette Attentive, La_, 114.

   _fin de siècle_ movement, 219.

   Flandrin, 321, 322.

   Flemish masters, 137.

   _Flight Turning a Corner_, 274.

   _Folle, La_, 55.

   Forain, J.-L., 62, 165, 213, 219-221, 221;
     _Baudelaire Chez les Mufles_, 219-220.

   Fornerod, Rodolphe, 202.

   _Forum, The_, 9.

   Fouquet, 34.

   _Four Naked Women_, 24.

   Fragonard, 34, 121, 244.

   French art, 211.

   Friesz, Othon, 22, 234, 320.

   Frost, 262.

   Fry, Roger, 324, 341.

   Fuller, portrait of Loie, 216.

   _Funeral of the Anarchist Galli_, 314.

   Futurism (Futurists), 257, 259, 264-276, 282, 284, 285, 291, 295, 303,
     316, 323, 336.


   Gainsborough, 111, 181;
     _Mrs. Siddons_, 115.

   _Gare St. Lazare, La_, 50.

   Gauguin, 22, 39, 93, 104, 150, 165, 183, 184, 186, 187-206, 208, 210,
     222, 223, 225, 226, 227, 231, 243, 246, 247, 279, 281, 285, 306,
     308, 315, 316, 318, 319, 323;
     _Deux Tahïtiens_, 226;
     _Femmes Assises à l’Ombre des Palmiers_, 196;
     _La Femme aux Mangos_, 75;
     _Jeunes Bretonnes_, 195;
     _Noa Noa_, 190;
     _Paysage de la Martinique_, 194;
     _Ruperupe_, 195;
     _Tahïtiennes_, 195;
     _Vaïraoumati Téi Oa_, 196.

   Gautier, 43, 335.

   Gérard, 17, 34, 35, 56.

   Géricault, 34, 35, 51, 113, 211, 281;
     _La Folle_, 55;
     _Radeau de la Méduse_, 35, 55.

   German art, 211.

   Gérôme, 222.

   Ghil, René de, 266.

   Giampietrino, 306.

   Gibson, C. D., 221.

   Giorgione, 21, 30, 95, 126, 329;
     _Rural Concert_ (_Concert Champêtre_), 69.

   Giotto, 22, 29, 44, 56, 75, 125, 195, 203, 235, 280, 329;
     _Death of Saint Francis_, 81;
     _Descent from the Cross_, 24.

   Girardon, 121, 121-122.

   Girodet, 34.

   _Glace sans Tain, La_, 231.

   Glackens, W. S., 324.

   Gleizes, Albert, 257, 258;
     _Les Baigneuses_, 257;
     _L’Homme au Balcon_, 257.

   Goethe; _Faust_, 8.

   Goya, 19, 25, 44, 67, 74, 75, 76, 110 187, 218, 225, 231, 255;
     _Buen Viaje_, 219;
     _Caprichos_, 225;
     _Donde Vá Mamá_, 219;
     _La Maya Desnuda_, 42.

   _Grand Canal—Venice, The_, 24.

   _Grands Châtaigniers, Les_, 57.

   Grant, Duncan, 324.

   Granville, 62.

   Granzow, 325.

   Gravelot, 34.

   _Grèce Expirant sur les Ruines de Missolonghi, La_, 41.

   Greek artists, 35, 125, 128, 163.

   Greuze, 21, 34.

   Gris, Jean, 258.

   Gros, 17, 34, 35, 335.

   _Grotte, La_, 56.

   Guardi, 188;
     _The Grand Canal—Venice_, 24.

   Guariento; _The Heavenly Host_, 274.

   Guercino, 56.

   Guérin, Charles, 35, 36, 322, 322-323.

   Guillaumin, 89, 96, 103, 104, 165, 166, 194.

   _Guitarrero, Le_, 67.

   Guizot, caricature of, 62.


   Hallock, Madame Mary, 266.

   Hals, Franz, 70, 80, 89, 187, 284.

   _Hamac, Le_, 76.

   Hankwan, 127.

   Hartley, 324.

   Hartmann, Sadikichi, 266.

   Hassam, Childe, 324.

   Hauptmann, Gerhart, 52.

   Hayden, 324.

   Haydn, 155.

   _Head of a Chinese Lady_, 127.

   _Head of an Old Man_, 217.

   _Heavenly Host, The_, 274.

   Held, portrait of Anna, 216

   Helmholtz, 31, 165, 168, 285.

   Henri, Robert, 273, 283.

   Henri-Matisse. _See_ Matisse.

   Hiroshige, 73, 99;
     _Series of the Tokaido_, 100.

   Hogarth, 19, 116.

   Hokusai, 73, 99, 218;
     _Views of Fuji_, 100.

   Holbein, 209;
     _The Ambassadors_, 24.

   _Homme an Balcon, L’_, 257.

   Horace, 134.

   _House of Parliament—London, The_, 100.

   Humbert, 165.


   Impressionism (Impressionists), 31, 36, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 70, 74,
     80, 82, 83-106, 107, 108, 111, 112, 114, 119, 120, 129, 135, 136,
     137, 139, 141, 144, 156, 158, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 173, 174,
     175, 176, 177, 188, 189, 194, 195, 196, 198, 199, 202, 203, 208,
     209, 211, 222, 223, 224, 238, 239, 241, 246, 248, 274, 279, 280,
     282, 284, 285, 286, 287, 294, 295, 315, 318, 324, 330, 331, 336,
     337, 338, 339.

   _Improvisation No. 29_, 315.

   _Ingénue_, 115.

   Ingres, 17, 35, 56, 62, 108, 111, 112, 126, 203, 210, 226, 227, 239,
     243, 322;
     _Le Bain Turc_, 69;
     _La Source_, 69;
     _Stratonice_, 210;
     _Thétis et Jupiter_, 79.

   Intimists, 315-319.

   _Intruse, L’_, 193.

   Italian art, 56, 82, 97.


   _Janissaires à l’Attaque_, 40.

   Japanese art, 64, 93, 99, 100, 188.

   _Japonaise, La_, 98.

   _Jardin, Le_, 317.

   _Jardin de Bellevue, Le_, 80.

   _Jardin d’Essoyes, Le_, 126.

   _Jarretière, La_, 75.

   Jaulmes, Gustave, 202, 322.

   Jawlensky, 324.

   _Jeu de Balles_, 235.

   _Jeunes Bretonnes_, 195.

   John, Augustus, 320.

   Jongkind, 43, 69, 91, 96, 175.

   Journal, Delacroix’s, 37, 39, 45, 164, 156, 177.

   _Journal des Artistes_, 335.

   Juanes, Juan de, 51.

   _Justice de Trajan, La_, 40, 42.

   _Justinien Composant les Institutes_, 43.


   Kandinsky, 234, 264, 308-315;
     _The Art of Spiritual Harmony_, 310;
     _Improvisation No. 29_, 315.

   Kanoldt, 325.

   Keion; _Flight Turning a Corner_, 274.

   Knauerhase, 324.

   Korngold, 52;
     _Symphonietta_, 332.

   Kroll 324.


   La Fosse, 79.

   Lancret, 34.

   Landon, C. P., 44.

   Laprade, Pierre, 321.

   Largillière, 121.

   Larson, Carl, 221.

   La Tour, 34.

   Lautrec, _see_ Toulouse-Lautrec.

   Laval, 197.

   Lawrence, 37, 209.

   Lebasque, 321.

   Le Beau, Alcide, 202, 322.

   Leclerc, Julien, 193.

   Léger, Fernand, 256-257, 258;
     _Maisons et Fumées_, 256;
     _Les Toits_, 256.

   Legrand, Louis, 213, 218, 218-219, 221, 227;
     _Maîtresse_, 219.

   Legros, 209.

   Leibniz, 269.

   Le Moyne, 79, 121.

   Le Nains, the, 34.

   Lewis, Wyndham, 320, 323.

   Lhermitte, 209.

   Lhote, 324.

   _Liberté Guidant le Peuple sur les Barricades, La_, 38, 40.

   Liombruno, 223.

   _Lion Déchirant un Cadavre_, 41.

   _Lise_, 109, 109-110, 111.

   Liszt, 97.

   Little Dutchmen, the, 188.

   _Loge, La_, 114.

   _Lola de Valence_, 68.

   _London series_ (Monet), 102.

   Loti, Pierre, 191.

   Lotiron, 324.

   Louis Philippe, 43.

   Louis XVI, 34.

   Louvre, the, 36, 53, 69, 136, 223, 226.

   Luce, 175.

   Lucretius, 134.

   _Lutte de Jacob avec l’Ange, La_, 40, 45.

   _Lutteurs, Les_ (Courbet), 59-60.

   _Lutteurs, Les_ (Daumier), 59.

   Luxembourg gallery, 53, 68, 99, 104, 115.


   Macdonald-Wright, S., 283, 284-285, 286, 287-288, 289, 289-290, 292,
     293, 296, 298, 300-302, 303, 338;
     _Arm Organisation in Blue-Green_, 301;
     _Synchromie en Bleu_, 297.

   _Madame T. et Son Fils_, 26.

   _Mlle. Durand-Ruel_, 113, 114.

   Maeterlinck, 310;
     _L’Intruse_, 193.

   _Maisons et Fumées_, 256.

   _Maîtresse_, 219.

   Mallarmé, 275.

   Manet, 25, 52, 53, 62, 64-82, 83, 87, 90, 93, 98, 99, 106, 107, 108,
     109, 111, 112, 113, 115, 127, 128, 131, 134, 135, 191, 204, 207,
     212, 225, 226, 239, 243, 282, 283, 308, 330, 335, 336, 337;
     _Angelina_, 68;
     _Les Anges au Tombeau_, 79;
     _Le Bar des Folies-Bergère_, 80;
     _Les Bulles de Savon_, 80;
     _Le Buveur d’Absinthe_, 66, 68;
     _La Chanteuse des Rues_, 79;
     _Le Chemin de Fer_, 80;
     _Le Claire de Lune_, 80;
     _Combat du Kerseage et de l’Alabama_, 80;
     _Course de Taureaux_, 80;
     _Le Déjeuner_, 79;
     _Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe_, 69-70, 77-78, 79;
     _Émile Zola_, 79;
     _En Bateau_, 79;
     _L’Enfant à l’Épée_, 67;
     _Eva Gonzalès_, 79;
     _Exécution de Maximilien_, 80;
     _La Femme au Perroquet_, 79;
     _Le Guitarrero_, 67;
     _Le Jardin de Bellevue_, 80;
     _La Jarretière_, 75;
     _Lola de Valence_, 68;
     _Nana_, 75;
     _La Nymphe Surprise_, 66;
     _Olympia_, 74-75, 79, 335;
     _Les Parents de l’Artiste_, 67;
     _Le Port de Bordeaux_, 80;
     _Rendez-vous de Chats_, 77, 80;
     _Le Repos_, 76.

   Manguin, 321.

   Mantegna; _The Dead Christ_, 24.

   Mantz, Paul, 336.

   _Man with the Hoe, The_, 57.

   Marconi, 97.

   Marinetti, 265, 276.

   Marquet, 324.

   _Marseillaise_, 311-312.

   Martin, Henri, 101, 102, 175.

   Martinet’s gallery, 68.

   _Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, The_, 55.

   Marval, Madame, 321.

   Masaccio, 22, 42, 329;
     _Saint Peter Baptising the Pagans_, 24.

   _Massacre de Scio_, 36, 39.

   Massys, 217;
     _The Courtesan_, 217;
     _Head of an Old Man_, 217;
     _Portrait of a Canon_, 217.

   Matisse, 22, 32, 97, 123, 202, 203, 216, 222-236, 237, 238, 241, 243,
     246, 247, 254, 256, 262, 280, 281, 282, 284, 285, 289, 291, 308,
     309, 310, 315, 316, 320, 321, 323, 324, 331, 332, 337;
     _Baigneuses_, 226, 235;
     _La Glace sans Tain_, 235;
     _Jeu de Balles_, 235;
     _La Musique—esquisse_, 235;
     _La Musique_ (_panneau décoratif_), 235.

   Mauve, 182.

   _Maya Desnuda, La_, 42.

   Mazo, 67.

   Mazzola-Bedoli, 203.

   Meissonier, 53.

   Meier-Graefe, 55, 340.

   Memlinc, 217;
     _The Casting of the Lots_, 217;
     _Our Lord’s Passions_, 217.

   _Ménage Sisley, Le_, 109, 110-111, 112.

   _Mère et Enfant_, 123.

   Merimée, 43.

   Merril, Stuart, 193.

   _Métbodes et Entretiens d’Atelier_, 44.

   Metzinger, Jean, 257, 257-258;
     _La Femme au Cheval_, 258;
     _Le Port_, 258.

   _Meules, Les_, 102.

   Meunier, 62.

   Michelangelo, 27, 36, 42, 44, 60, 61, 75, 82, 95, 119, 122, 129, 145,
     155, 159, 163, 165, 235, 236, 237, 254, 267, 273, 284, 285, 294,
     306, 308;
     _Creation of the Sun and Moon_, 24;
     _Slaves_, 21, 290, 299, 338.

   _Mille et Une Nuits_, 231.

   Millet, 57, 182, 188;
     _The Angelus_, 57;
     _The Man with the Hoe_, 57.

   _Minerva Expelling Mars_, 57.

   _Miracle Saint Mark, The_, 24.

   Mitsuoki, 77.

   _Modern Painters_, 47.

   Mokkei, 158.

   Molineri, Antonino, 21.

   _Monastery Bells_, 332.

   Monet, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 80, 82, 90, 91, 96, 96-102, 103, 104, 112,
     113, 114, 115, 128, 144, 165, 166, 175, 199, 200, 210, 216, 223,
     274, 280, 283, 285, 308, 324;
     _La Cathédral_, 102;
     _Coins de Rivière_, 100;
     _L’Église à Varengeville_, 99;
     _Falaise à Étretat_, 100, 101;
     _La Gare St. Lazare_, 50;
     _The Houses of Parliament—London_, 100;
     _La Japonaise_, 99;
     _London series_, 102;
     _Les Meules_, 102;
     _Les Nymphéas_, 102;
     _Les Peupliers_, 100;
     _Venice series_, 102.

   Monnier, 62.

   Moore, George, 25, 52.

   Monticelli, 182.

   Moréas, 193.

   Moreau, Gustave, 190, 221, 224.

   Morgan, Wallace 221.

   Morisot, 165.

   Moronobu, 274.

   Morot, Aimé, 258.

   _Moulin de la Gallette, Le_, 26, 114, 115.

   Mounet-Sully, portrait of, 216.

   Mozart, 42.

   _Mrs. Siddons_, 115.

   Münter, 324.

   Münzer, Adolf, 202.

   Murillo, 21, 67.

   _Musiciens à l’Orchestre_, 213.

   _Musique aux Tuileries, La_, 109.

   _Musique—esquisse, La_, 235.

   _Musique_ (_panneau décoratif_), _La_, 235.


   Nadelmann, 163.

   _Nana_, 75.

   Napoleon, 53.

   Napoleon III, 69.

   National Gallery, London, 41.

   _Natte, La_, 123.

   Nattier, 34.

   Negro sculpture, 229, 230, 231, 236.

   Neo-Impressionism (Neo-Impressionists), 164-186, 189, 197, 199, 203,
     208, 222, 224, 234, 260, 275, 278, 293, 303, 330.

   _New age, The_, 9, 341.

   _Ninth Symphony_, 8.

   _Noa Noa_, 190.

   _Nu à l’Étoffe Vert et Jaune_, 123.

   _Nymphe Surprise, La_, 66.

   _Nymphéas, Les_, 102.


   _Obsequies of the Count of Orgaz_, 55.

   _Observateur des Beaux-Arts_, 335.

   _Ode aux Fleurs_ (_d’après Anacréon_), 126.

   _Œuvre, L’_, 134.

   Olivier, 34.

   _Olympia_, 74-75, 79, 195, 335.

   _Opus II_ (Schönberg), 332.

   Orage, A. R., 341.

   Orphism (Orphists), 239, 262, 275, 290, 291.

   Ortolano, 191.

   Ottmann, 324.

   _Our Lord’s Prayer_, 217.


   Padovanino, 23.

   _Panneaux_, decorative (Renoir), 117.

   _Panneaux_ (tambourine player and dancer), (Renoir), 126.

   _Parisiennes Habillées en Algériennes_, 111, 112.

   Pater, 34, 121.

   Paul, Hermann, 221.

   _Paysage de la Martinique_, 194.

   Peckstein, 324.

   Persian art, 64, 190, 230, 231, 236.

   Petitjean, 175.

   _Petit Peintre, Le_, 126.

   _Peupliers, Les_, 100.

   _Philip IV_, 24.

   Picabia, Francis, 257, 258-259, 323.

   Picasso, 9, 22, 121, 234, 236, 240, 243, 246, 247, 251, 252, 255-256,
     158, 259, 262, 274, 284, 308, 323, 331;
     _Femme à la Mandoline_, 251.

   _Pièta_, 41.

   Piot, 322.

   Pisanello, 28.

   Pissarro, 47, 48, 69, 82, 89, 90, 95-96, 99, 104, 107, 114, 131, 135,
     136, 165, 166, 180, 182, 192, 194, 199, 208, 212, 280;
     _Sydenham Road_, 99.

   Pissarro, Lucien, 165.

   _Plume, La_, 338.

   Poe, Edgar Allan, 53.

   Poe, tales of Edgar Allan, 219.

   Pointillism (Pointillists), _see_ Neo-Impressionism.

   Polaire, portrait of, 216.

   Pollaiuolo, 203.

   Pont-Aven school, 187-206, 319.

   _Port de Bordeaux, Le_, 80.

   _Port, Le_, 258.

   _Portrait de Dame_, 114.

   _Portrait d’Homme_, 184-185.

   _Portrait of a Canon_, 217.

   Post-Impressionism (Post-Impressionists), 234.
     _See also_ Matisse.

   Poussin, 19, 21, 22, 40, 97, 129, 320.

   Praxiteles, 218.

   Prendergast, 321-322.

   Prévost, 216.

   Puget, 108.

   Putz, Leo, 202.

   Puy, Jean, 321.


   _Radeau de la Méduse_, 35, 55.

   Raeburn, 89.

   Rafaelli, 188.

   _Rain, Steam and Speed_, 47, 50.

   Raphael, 19, 21, 22, 165, 255.

   _Ratapoil_, 62.

   Ray, Louis, 197.

   Rembrandt, 22, 25, 41, 44, 45, 51, 56, 61, 62, 66, 99, 108, 280, 284;
     etchings, 59.

   Redon, 165, 187.

   Regnault, 21, 34.

   Remberg, Baron, 53.

   Renaissance, the, 26, 29, 39, 51, 92, 128, 223, 227, 255, 306, 322.

   _Rénaude et Angélique_, 62.

   _Rendez-vous de Chats_, 77, 80.

   Renoir, 21, 22, 25, 26, 52, 56, 70, 77, 106, 107-128, 136, 154, 155,
     156, 163, 166, 181, 197, 205, 207, 208, 213, 135, 237, 238, 244,
     234, 302, 306, 308, 316, 324, 330, 336, 337;
     _Au Piano_, 123;
     _Baigneuse_ (1884), 120, 122;
     _Baigneuse_ (1888), 122, 123;
     _La Baigneuse au Griffon_, 112;
     _La Baigneuse Brune_, 123;
     _Baigneuses_ (1835), 121, 125;
     _Baigneuses_ (1902), 125, 126, 157;
     _La Balançoire_, 115;
     _Le Cabaret de la Mère Anthony_, 109;
     _La Chevelure_, 114;
     _Coco_, heads of, 126;
     _Coco et les Deux Servantes_, 126;
     _Le Croquet_, 123;
     _La Danseuse_, 114;
     _Les Deux Sœurs_, 123;
     _Diane Chasseresse_, 109;
     _Les Enfants en Rose et Bleu_, 120;
     _La Femme à la Perruche_, 112;
     _La Femme au Miroir_, 127;
     _Les Filles de Catulle Mendès_, 123;
     _La Fillette à la Gerbe_, 123;
     _La Fillette Attentive_, 114;
     _La Fillet et l’Orange_, 26;
     _Ingénue_, 115;
     _Le Jardin d’Essoyes_, 126;
     _La Loge_, 114;
     _Lise_, 109, 109-110, 111;
     _Madame T. et Son Fils_, 26;
     _Mère et Enfant_, 123;
     _Le Ménage Sisley_, 109, 110-111, 112;
     _Mlle. Durand-Ruel_, 113, 114;
     _Le Moulin de la Galette_, 26, 114, 115;
     _La Musique aux Tuileries_, 109;
     _La Natte_, 123;
     _Nu à l’Étoffe Vert et Jaune_, 123;
     _Ode aux Fleurs_ (_d’après Anacréon_), 126;
     _Panneaux_, decorative, 117;
     _Panneaux_ (tambourine player and dancer), 126;
     _Parisiennes Habillées en Algériennes_, 111, 112;
     _Le Petit Peintre_, 126;
     _Portrait de Dame_, 114;
     _La Rose dans les Cheveux_, 126;
     _La Source_, 114;
     _Tête de Jeune Fille_, 120;
     _La Toilette de la Baigneuse_, 125.

   _Repos_, 42.

   _Repos des Saltimbanques, Le_, 60.

   _Repos, Le_, (Manet), 76.

   _République—1848, La_, 61.

   _Resurrection of Christ, The_, 24.

   _Retour de Christophe Colomb_, 40, 51.

   Reynolds, Joshua, 21, 61.

   Ribera, 21, 51, 108, 187;
     _The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew_, 55.

   Rigaud, 79.

   Rimbaud, Arthur, 266.

   Rin Teikei, 315.

   Ririomin; _Head of a Chinese Lady_, 127.

   Roberts, W., 323.

   Robinson, Boardman, 221.

   Robusti, 79.

   Rodin, 62.

   Roll, 101.

   Romanelli, 223.

   Romney, 116.

   Rondinelli, 79.

   Rood, 31, 165, 168, 180, 285.

   _Rose dans les Cheveux_, La, 127.

   Rossetti, 116, 221.

   Rotonchamp, Jean de, 190.

   Roubille, 221.

   Rousseau, 68, 89, 108, 205, 321-322.

   Roussel, K.-X., 315, 318, 318-319.

   _Route de Laon_, 251.

   Rubens, 9, 20, 21, 22, 26, 28, 36, 40, 41, 44, 45, 51, 52, 71, 81, 82,
     87, 97, 108, 121, 125, 126, 127, 138, 158, 163, 165, 187, 203, 205,
     220, 245, 254, 273, 277, 283, 300, 306, 308, 329;
     _The Adoration of the Wise Men of the East_, 40;
     _The Earl and Countess of Arundel_, 24.

   Rude, 273.

   _Ruperupe_, 195.

   _Rural Concert_, 69.

   Ruskin, 46, 47;
     _Modern Painters_, 47.

   Russell, Morgan, 283, 283-284, 285, 286, 286-287, 288, 289, 292, 293,
     294, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 302, 303;
     _Synchromie_, 299;
     _Synchromie en Bleu-Violacé_, 299;
     _Synchromie en Vert_, 288-289, 297.

   Russolo, Luigi, 276.


   _Saint Peter Baptising the Pagans_, 24.

   Salmon, André, 338.

   _Salon d’Automne_, 224, 257.

   _Salon des Artistes Indépendents_, 167, 224, 262, 288, 297, 299.

   _Salon des Refusés_, 69.

   _Salon des Réprouvés_, 69.

   Santerre, 121.

   S. Vitale, mosaics in, 150, 204.

   Sargent, 18, 98.

   Scarsellino, 203.

   Schönberg; _Opus II_, 332.

   Schuffenecker, 165, 197.

   Scott, Walter, 43.

   Scriabine, Alexander, 266, 311.

   Seguin, 197.

   Sérusier, 197.

   _Setting Sun_, 100.

   Seurat, 165, 165-166, 167, 176, 177, 178, 180, 180-181, 181, 182, 183,
     184, 203, 226, 243, 264, 265, 310, 319;
     _La Baignade_, 203;
     _Le Chahut_, 180;
     _Le Cirque_, 180;
     _Un Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte_, 180, 203.

   Severini, 22, 276.

   Shannon, 98.

   Shaw, George Bernard, 52.

   Sheeler, Jr., C. R., 323.

   Shiubun; _Setting Sun_, 100.

   Sibelius, 52.

   Sickert, Walter, 219.

   Signac, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 174, 181, 182, 184, 224, 264;
     _D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme_, 169.

   Signorelli, Luca, 137.

   _Silène_, 63.

   Silvestre, Théophile, 44.

   Simon, 18.

   Simultaneism, 262, 276.

   Sisley, 49, 89, 96, 99, 102-103, 104, 280.

   _Slaves_, 21, 290, 299, 338.

   Sodoma, 218.

   _Soirées de Paris, Les_, 341.

   _Sonneurs de Cloches_, 62.

   Sorolla, 18, 52, 187.

   _Sortie du Bain, La_, 212.

   _Source, La_ (Ingres), 69.

   _Source, La_ (Renoir), 114.

   Spanish art, 62, 97, 111.

   Spiro, 322.

   Stein, Leo, 284.

   Steinlen, 62, 246, 255.

   Stendhal, 43.

   Stern, Maurice, 323.

   Stevens, Alfred, 209.

   Stieglitz, Alfred, 341.

   Stradivarius, 121.

   Strauss, Richard, 25, 52.

   _Stratonice_, 210.

   _Sun of Venice Going to Sea, The_, 49.

   Superville, 165.

   Swift, 191.

   Swinburne, 82.

   _Sydenham Road_, 99.

   _Symphonietta_, 332.

   _Synchromie_, 299.

   _Synchromie en Bleu_, 297.

   _Synchromie en Bleu-Violacé_, 299.

   _Synchromie en Vert_, 288-289, 297

   Synchromism (Synchromists), 32, 97, 115, 275, 277-304, 324, 325, 331,
     332, 335, 336, 338, 339.

   Synthesists, _see_ Pont-Aven school.


   _Table au Moulin-Rouge_, Une, 215.

   _Tahïtiennes_, 195.

   Taine, 32.

   Tanagra figurines, 218.

   _Tête de Jeune Fille_, 120.

   _Thétis et Jupiter_, 79.

   Thiers, 36.

   Tiepolo, 87, 218, 244.

   Tillot, 165.

   Tintoretto, 21, 22, 51, 66, 137, 271, 329;
     _Minerva Expelling Mars_ 57;
     _The Miracle of Saint Mark_, 24.

   Titian, 21, 36, 42, 44, 66, 72, 74, 75, 97, 108, 127, 189, 320;
     _Emperor Charles V_, 24;
     _Venus Reclining_, 75.

   Toba Sojo, 218.

   Tobeen, 324.

   _Toilette, La_, 212.

   _Toilette de la Baigneuse, La_, 125.

   _Toits, Les_, 256.

   _Tokaido, series of the_, 100.

   _Torse de Femme S’Essuyant_, 212.

   Toulouse-Lautrec, 62, 213, 214-218, 220, 221, 242, 246, 255, 318, 321;
     _Une Table au Moulin-Rouge_, 215;
     Portraits of Loie Fuller, Sarah Bernhardt, Mounet-Sully, Yahne,
     Anna Held, 216.

   _Tours, Les_, 261.

   _Trattato della Pittura_, 148.

   _Trois Danseuses_, 212.

   _Trovatore, Il_, 42.

   Troyon, 67.

   Tudor-Hart, 168.

   Turner, 17, 43, 46-50, 58, 63, 88, 89, 91, 97, 99, 103, 175, 205, 277,
     302, 329;
     _The Devil’s Bridge_, 50;
     _The Fighting Téméraire_, 47;
     _Rain, Steam and Speed_, 47, 50;
     _The Sun of Venice Going to Sea_, 49;
     _Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus_, 47.


   _Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus_, 47.

   Utamaro, 100.

   Utrillo, 324.


   _Vague, La_, 101.

   _Vaïraoumati Téi Oa_, 196.

   Valensi, 324.

   Vallotton, 321-322, 322.

   Van de Velde, 175.

   Van Dongen, Kees, 321.

   Van Dyke, 50.

   Van Gogh, 46, 62, 150, 182-186, 187, 192, 193, 196, 199, 215, 234, 314;
     _Portrait d’Homme_, 184-185.

   Van Rysselberghe, 174, 175.

   Van Vranken, _see_ Macdonald-Wright, S.

   _Vaudeville_, the, 193.

   Velazquez, 19, 51, 66, 67, 70, 82, 89, 110, 212, 282, 284;
     _Philip IV_, 24.

   Venetians, 39, 43, 44, 62, 70, 135, 162.

   _Venice series_ (Monet), 102.

   _Vénus Accroupie_, 226.

   _Venus Reclining_, 75.

   Verdi; _Il Trovatore_, 42.

   Verkade, 197.

   Verlaine, 193.

   Veronese, 36, 38, 40, 44, 137, 282, 329.

   Véron, Eugène, 44.

   Vien, 34.

   _Vierge à l’Écuelle, La_, 62.

   _Views of Fuji_, 100.

   Vignon, 165.

   _Ville de Paris_, 259-260, 260.

   Virgil, 134.

   Vlaminck, Maurice de, 320-321.

   Vollard, Ambroise, 145.

   Vollard collection, 125.

   Vorticism (Vorticists), 325.

   Vuillard, 315, 318, 318-319.


   Wagner, 42, 53, 266.

   Walkowitz, 325.

   Watteau, 22, 34, 97, 112, 113, 121.

   Whistler, 21, 47, 52, 69, 98, 134, 187, 209, 212, 244, 258, 318.

   William of Orange, 50.

   Wolff, Albert, 336.

   Wright, S. Macdonald. _See_ Macdonald-Wright, S.


   Yahne, portrait of, 216.

   Young, Thomas, 84.


   Zak, 205, 321-322.

   Zanchi, 23.

   Zawadowsky, 324.

   Zola, 52, 73, 131, 133, 134;
     _L’Assommoir_, 73;
     _Fécondité_, 73;
     _L’Œuvre_, 134.

   Zorn, 52.

   Zuloaga, 21, 98.

   Zurbarán, 50.


_OTHER BOOKS BY WILLARD HUNTINGTON WRIGHT_


WHAT NIETZSCHE TAUGHT

A comprehensive exposition of Nietzsche’s philosophy, book by book,
with, a complete biographical sketch and a frontispiece of Professor
Karl Donndorf’s bust of Nietzsche.

The best book of its sort I have ever seen.—_James Huneker._

We know of no other book just like Mr. Wright’s, nor anyone that, on the
whole, we can recommend more heartily.—_The Nation._

As a presentation in compact form of biographical data and certain
extracts from the philosopher’s writings, the book is admirable.—_Review
of Reviews._

It offers a better and truer report of Nietzsche’s ideas than any other
book either in English or German.—_H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore
Evening Sun._

An excellent survey of the life and philosophy of Nietzsche ... The best
summary of Nietzsche that has yet appeared in English.—_Springfield
Republican._

Just as one should begin the study of Nietzsche’s works with “Human,
All-too-Human,” so could one most advantageously undertake the study of
Nietzsche with Mr. Wright’s volume.—_The Dial._

Mr Wright’s compilation may be warmly recommended.—_Boston Transcript._

Mr. Wright knows thoroughly what he is talking about, and his book is
excellent.—_New York Evening Sun._


THE PRINCIPLES OF ÆSTHETIC FORM AND ORGANISATION

(_In Preparation_)

An inquiry into the laws governing æsthetic appreciation in all the
arts. The first basic co-ordination of the factors which make for
empathy and æsthetic emotion, and the only fundamental _rationale_ for
criticism in existence. Mr. Wright, in this new and important work,
defines æsthetic form and rhythmic composition, and establishes a
definite foundation for artistic judgment. “The Principles of Æsthetic
Form and Organisation” is by far the most profound and important
contribution to the science of æsthetics since Kant.


THE MAN OF PROMISE

(_To be published January, 1916_)

Mr. Wright has here written one of the most penetrating and unusual
novels of this generation. Its conception, its point of view, its
frankness, its freedom from all prejudice, and its form are in accord
with the highest standards of the best Continental fiction. The central
character—“the man of promise,” despite his potentialities of genius, is
an intensely appealing and sympathetic figure. In his nature are
combined weakness and strength, cruelty and tenderness, virtue and
viciousness. In short, he is inherently human, capable of ascending the
heights, yet capable also of sinking to the depths of life’s
degradations.

The story, which takes him from early boyhood to middle age, is centred
about his affairs, psychological and sexual, with the many women who
touch his life. Not one of these women is able to assist him in his
great work or to attain to his high and solitary ideals. In not one of
them can he find an “inspiration.” They are not necessary to his
intellectual development. To the contrary, each tends to drag him down
to the mediocre level of the world’s criterion of greatness, to sap his
vitality, to curb his heresies, to make of him a commonplace man. The
book, in short, is an undogmatic refutation of the theory that great men
need the influence of women. It shows how women, by their conservatism
and social conventionality, interfere with true greatness and conspire
instinctively and unconsciously against the higher nature of the men
they love.

First Mr. Wright shows the cramping influence of mother love, the
maternal efforts to inculcate conventional and religious ideals into the
child. Then we are given a glimpse of the influence of the man’s boyhood
romance. Next we see his college sweetheart, in love with life’s
pleasures and gaieties, turning his mind from his work. Later we have
the young man’s mistress, a selfish and calculating woman, ready to
sacrifice his career to her personal ends. Still later, his wife, a
sweet, loving and admirable woman, hinders him by her conservatism and
constant attentions. In a final attempt to find a woman who can wholly
appreciate his exalted desires and follow him to the heights he has in
mind, he deserts his wife for what he thinks is an advanced and
intellectual woman. But she in the end proves little different from the
others. She exhibits the same petty jealousies and makes the same
demands on him, and he sends her away in a last desperate attempt to
consummate his aspirations. But at this time his daughter, now a young
woman, appears; and he is forced to make the final sacrifice to her
future.

“The Man of Promise” goes deep into the undercurrents of life, and it is
not a novel any man or woman can afford to miss reading. It is a
powerful story and in many ways a ruthless one; but both in conception
and execution it marks a new epoch in American fiction.





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