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Albert Gleizes Photo

Albert Gleizes

French Painter, Educator, Activist, and Theorist

Born: December 8, 1881 - Paris, France
Died: June 23, 1953 - Avignon, France
Albert Gleizes Timeline
"In order to discover one true relationship it is necessary to sacrifice a thousand surface appearances..."
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Albert Gleizes
"The visible world only becomes the real world by the operation of thought..."
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Albert Gleizes
"[A true painting] harmonises with the totality of things, with the universe: it is an organism."
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Albert Gleizes
"Loving light, we refuse to measure it, and we avoid the geometric ideas of focus and ray...Loving colour, we refuse to limit it..."
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Albert Gleizes
"To sum up, Cubism, which has been accused of being a system, condemns all systems."
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Albert Gleizes

Summary of Albert Gleizes

One of the founding fathers of Cubism, Gleizes was in equal parts artist, theoretician and philosopher. As a member of the so-called Salon Cubists, he was responsible for bringing Cubism to the attention of the general public and, with Jean Metzinger, wrote the first major treatise on Cubism, the hugely influential, "Du Cubisme". His was an uncompromising commitment to the movement and it was Gleizes who pushed Cubism towards its furthest point of abstraction. Driven by a faith in social idealism, he produced numerous writings that saw him progress the static, purely formal, aspects of Cubism towards something more animate and, ultimately, something more divinely spiritual. Gleizes helped found many important artistic societies and retreats, and, in later life, devoted his intellectual activity to exploring potential overlaps between Romanesque, Byzantine, Arabic, Celtic and modern art. Following his full conversion to Catholicism, he turned exclusively to religious paintings which he executed firmly within the Cubist tradition.

Accomplishments

  • The standard for Analytic Cubism had been set by Picasso and Braque who had all but eliminated the "distraction" of color and any notion of a coherent, single perspective, art. Gleizes's early Cubist works retained both a faith in color and a noticeable element of spatial depth. Although it was an approach that didn't sit so well with the radical element of the movement, it was Gleizes and the other members of the Salon Cubists who announced this radical new movement to the world through their infamous "Salle 41" exhibition.
  • Gleizes was amongst the earliest Cubist converts and, was part of the first Cubist Groupe de Puteaux. The group mounted the first ever major Cubist exhibition: La Section d'Or and it was augmented by Gleizes's and Metzinger's groundbreaking treatise Du Cubisme. It remains the only description of early Cubism written by the artists themselves. The double impact of the exhibition and the publication of Du Cubisme stands as a landmark event in the history of avant-garde art.
  • Gleizes, a pacifist and social idealist, founded the artists' community Moly-Sabata in the Rhone valley as a retreat for people disillusioned with urban industrial society. Based on Gleizes's search for an "absolute truth" in art, it became "a place of freedom and friendship" and presented a riposte to the French cultural establishment. Dismissed by many as little more than utopian idealism, Moly-Sabata exists to this day as an artists' residency and in 2017 celebrated its 90th anniversary, making it the oldest active artist residency in France.
  • Once Gleizes had fully submerged himself in the Catholic faith, his painting became absorbed by the search for the "pure affect". His previous works, in which the material and the transitory coexisted on a single canvas, gave way to works through which he pursued an elusive - or "socially indeterminate" - quality that was revolutionary as a way of renewing the viewers' relationship with the Christian piety through art.

Biography of Albert Gleizes

Albert Gleizes and Juliette Roche-Gleizes pictured in 1913.

"I wish to establish the true history of Cubism whose beginning was not a matter of mere chance", wrote Gleizes; Cubism was not, he insisted, "something dependent on a throw of the dice", but for the history of art a "revaluation of all the values of whose absolute necessity no-one in these days can be in any doubt".

Important Art by Albert Gleizes

Paysage (Countryside) (1902)

In this early work, the twenty-one-year-old Gleizes had seemingly taken on board some of the influence of Impressionism. We see this in his brushwork and also in his choice of a single-perspective viewpoint; Gleizes places us in the midst of the foreground, at a safe distance from the pathway that centrally winds down. Yet at the same time there is a preference here for asymmetry and a compositional irregularity which lends his picture a naturalistic feel that ties it to the realistic traditions of landscape painting. The fluctuating sky, with clouds scudding and bellying on a windswept and bright autumnal day, sees Gleizes's exploring the effects of light, but this is countered by the repoussoir ("pushing back") effect of the group of trees on the right that unbalances the composition by edging the scene to the left out into the further distance.

The thick impasto of the foreground vegetation is quickly applied giving the image a tactile, material, grounding. We do see in the distance an impressionistic quality where the sky meets the land, and the elements seem to blend, but this effect also accurately represents the climatic tumult of a windy day. While the painting itself now seems rather conventional, Gleizes's "crooked" landscape signals a burgeoning artistic ambition for creating an individual vision. This is most evident in the trees that show a strong feeling of the importance of line, and in the sky with its rich in painterly qualities. These would both become recognizable tendencies in Gleizes's later work.

Bords de la Marne (Banks of the Marne) (1909)

Bords de la Marne (Banks of the Marne) (1909)

This image might be considered one of Gleizes's best proto-Cubist works. It seems at first to reveal a growing concern with Fauvism and the paintings of André Derain or Henri Matisse. In this respect, Gleizes's sky, a bright crimson that is pock-marked with purples and blues, can be read as a vigorous expression of the artist's subjectivity. The opportunity to render his sky in sweeping brushstrokes is complimented by a young painter who announces himself in the bold purple diagonal band that jets ever upward to the right. This sky can be seen thus as an early attempt by Gleizes to announce himself.

In the Fauvist style, the impasto layering seems to thwart the orderly and conventional recession of the walkway into the picture space, particularly where it meets the boathouse; it almost stands up before the viewers' eyes. The shape of the great tree at the head of the receding trees, meanwhile, seems an unnatural topiary and anticipates Gleizes's Cubist work. His tree is drained of colour but this "muting" allows the artist to concentrate on other matters: specifically a concern with abstract forms and naturalistic tones. The curator Daniel Robbins wrote, that in his pre-Cubist "treatment of inclusive landscapes" Gleizes was trying to "solve the problem of balancing many simultaneous visions on a painted surface" and that he "mitigated the distortion of distance by linear perspective, by flattening the picture plane". When placed within arc of his career, the painting sits as early evidence of the artist's intuitive sense of compositional poise and expression that would soon come to dominate his creative thinking.

La Femme aux Phlox (Woman with Phlox) (1910)

La Femme aux Phlox (Woman with Phlox) (1910)

La Femme aux Phlox stands as a revolutionary moment in Gleizes' art. A seated woman stares down intently reading and is flanked by two vases of flowers. After having seen Henri Le Fauconnier's Pierre Jean Jouve of 1909, Gleizes's artistic direction changed. Le Fauconnier's portrait flattened forms and compressed the picture space but Gleizes has moved beyond his inspiration with the help of examples by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. But in contrast to Braque and Picasso, whose Analytical Cubism was all but obliterating coherent representation in favor of picture fragmentation, Gleizes's forms are distinctly and immediately recognizable here. He uses the visible world and its objects as a foundation for the elaboration on his new obsession with form. The sleeve of the woman's garment, for example, is exploited as an exercise in volume using strong lines and contrasting tones. The vase to the left has a dense sculptural appearance, as is the woman's head that is the embodiment of her intense concentration.

Gleizes does not hesitate to introduce spatial depth to his nascent style: the woman's raised right arm itself recedes in space and prompts the viewer to look behind her to what seems to be a window. In tension with his spatial depth here is perhaps a contraction of time, as the folds of the woman's reading material suggests the movement of the turning of pages - a fusing of past and present via a physical expansion of the flat Cubist form. Robbins wrote, "Continuing his new interest in the figure, Gleizes strove to manipulate a genre subject with the same sobriety and broad scale that had always informed his landscapes [and that] exterior nature is here brought into a room and the distant vista seen through the window is formally resolved with a corresponding interior shape".

Influences and Connections

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Albert Gleizes
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    Mainie Jellett
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    Evie Hone
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    Anne Danger
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Content compiled and written by Shane Lewis

Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Tony Todd

"Albert Gleizes Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Shane Lewis
Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Tony Todd
Available from:
First published on 12 Dec 2020. Updated and modified regularly
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