Jean Metzinger (24 June 1883 - 3 November 1956) was a French artist who lived and worked in Paris for most of his professional career. Inspired by the work of Georges Seurat and Paul Cézanne, he is one of the founders of Cubism, along with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Albert Gleizes.
Jean Metzinger, Note sur la peinture, Pan (Paris), October–November 1910, 49–52. Translation in Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighten, A Cubism Reader, Documents and Criticism, 1906-1914, The University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 75–83
Already, a conscious courage is coming to life. Here are some of the painters: Picasso, Braque, Delaunay, Le Fauconnier. . . they are highly enlightened, and do not believe in the stability of any system, even if it were to call itself classical art. . . Their reason is poised between the pursuit of the fleeting and a mania for the eternal.
Cézanne showed us forms living in the reality of light; Picasso gives us a material report of their real life in the mind. He establishes a free, mobile perspective, in such a way that the shrewd mathematician Maurice Princet has deduced an entire geometry.
It used to be said of a woman: why she's a Velázquez infanta! Now it is said: she's a Renoir blonde! I have no doubt that, in the future, it will be proclaimed: she's as exuberant as a Delaunay, as noble as a Le Fauconnier, as beautiful as a Braque or Picasso.
Du Cubisme (1912)
Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes, Du "Cubisme", Edition Figuière, Paris, 1912 (First English edition: Cubism, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1913), From Du Cubisme, Paris, 1912. English translation in Robert L. Herbert, Modern Artists on Art, Englewood Cliffs, 1964, Art Humanities Primary Source Reading 46
Du "Cubisme", 1912, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Eugène Figuière Editeurs (cover)
To understand Cézanne is to foresee Cubism. Henceforth we are justified in saying that between this school and previous manifestations there is only a difference of intensity, and that in order to assure ourselves of this we have only to study the methods of this realism, which, departing from the superficial reality of Courbet, plunges with Cézanne into profound reality, growing luminous as it forces the unknowable to retreat.
Some maintain that such a tendency distorts the curve of tradition. Do they derive their arguments from the future or the past? The future does not belong to them, as far as we are aware, and one be singularly ingenuous to seek to measure that which exists by that which exists no longer.
Unless we are to condemn all modern painting, we must regard cubism as legitimate, for it continues modern methods, and we should see in it the only conception of pictorial art now possible. In other words, at this moment cubism is painting.
Let the picture imitate nothing; let it nakedly present its raison d'être. We should indeed be ungrateful were we to deplore the absence of all those things flowers, or landscape, or faces whose mere reflection it might have been. Nevertheless, let us admit that the reminiscence of natural forms cannot be absolutely banished; not yet, at all events. An art cannot be raised to the level of a pure effusion at the first step.
If we wished to relate the space of the [Cubist] painters to geometry, we should have to refer it to the non-Euclidean mathematicians; we should have to study, at some length, certain of Riemann's theorems.
We do not mechanically connect the sensation of white with the idea of light, any more than we connect the sensation of black with the idea of darkness. We admit that a black jewel, even if of a dead black, may be more luminous than the white or pink satin of its case. Loving light, we refuse to measure it, and we avoid the geometrical ideas of the focus and the ray, which imply the repetition-contrary to the principle of variety which guides us-of bright planes and sombre intervals in a given direction. Loving colour, we refuse to limit it, and subdued or dazzling, fresh or muddy, we accept all the possibilities contained between the two extreme points of the spectrum, between the cold and the warm tone.
We are frankly amused to think that many a novice may perhaps pay for his too literal comprehension of the remarks of one cubist, and his faith in the existence of an Absolute Truth, by painfully juxtaposing the six faces of a cube or the two ears of a model seen in profile.
But we cannot enjoy in isolation; we wish to dazzle others with that which we daily snatch from the world of sense, and in return we wish others to show us their trophies. From a reciprocity of concessions arise those mixed images, which we hasten to confront with artistic creations in order to compute what they contain of the objective; that is of the purely conventional.