Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1912 (Heft 39)

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EXTRACTS FROM “THE SPIRITUAL IN ART”

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These are the seekers of the inner spirit in outer things.
After a different fashion, and more nearly related to the purer methods of
painting, did Cezanne, the seeker for new laws of form, take on like tasks.
Cezanne knew how to put a soul into a tea-cup, or, to speak more correctly,
he treated the cup as if it were a living thing. He raised “nature morte”
(still-life) to that height where the outer dead things become essentially living.
He treated things as he treated human beings, because he was gifted with the
power of seeing the inner life of everything. He realizes them as color ex-
pressions, picturing them with the painter’s inner note and compelling them
to shapes which, radiating an abstract ringing harmony, are often drawn up in
mathematical forms. What he places before us is not a human being, not an
apple, not a tree, but all these things Cezanne requires for the purpose of
creating an inner melodious painting, which is called the picture. That, also,
is how one of the latest of modern Frenchmen, Henri Matisse, understands his
own work. Matisse paints “pictures,” and in these he seeks to reproduce the
“divine” that is in things. To attain this end he requires no other means
than the object (be it a man or anything else) for his starting point, and the
painter’s peculiar means—Color and Form.
Led by the purely personal quality of the Frenchman, specially and
excellently gifted as a colorist, Matisse lays the greatest stress and weight on
color. Like Debussy, he is not always able to free himself from conventional
ideas of beauty—Impressionism runs in his blood. That is why we find in
Matisse’s work which is the expression of the larger, inward, living fact and
which has been called forth as the necessary product of his point of view, other
paintings which are chiefly the product of outward influences, outward stimuli
(how often one thinks of Manet in this connection!), and chiefly or finally
expressions of the outer world. Here is to be seen how the specially French
conception of beauty in art, with its refined, epicurean and pure ringing melo-
dious quality, is carried over clouds to cool and abiding heights.
That other great Parisian, the Spaniard, Pablo Picasso, never served this
Beauty. Always moved, and always tempestuously torn by a compulsion for
self-expression, Picasso throws himself from one extreme of means to another.
If there is a chasm between the methods, Picasso takes a mad leap, and there
he is on the other side to the astonishment of the enormous mass of followers.
Just when these think they have reached him, the wearying descent and ascent
must begin again for them. That is how the latest French movement of
Cubists arose. Picasso strives to achieve construction by numerical pro-
portion. In his last work (1911) he arrives by a logical road to an annihila-
tion of the material, not by analysis, but by a kind of taking to pieces of each
single part and a constructive laying out of them as a picture. At the same
time his work shows in a remarkable way his desire to retain the appearance
of the material things. Picasso is afraid of no means. If he disturbed by color
in a problem of pure line form he throws color overboard and paints a picture
in brown and white. And these problems are the high water mark of his art.
Matisse—Color. Picasso—Form. Two great highways to one great goal.
Kandinsky.
(Translated from the German.)

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