Guillaume Apollinaire and Important Artists and Artworks
Women Bathing (1900)
Five nude women in the woods, clustered in a circle in a variety of seated, crouching, and standing positions dominate the foreground of Paul Cézanne's painting. While the women are engaged in the basic act of cleansing, here in the artist's masterful hands they possess a sense of graceful movement and rhythm which imbues the act of bathing with an almost sensual quality. A masterpiece of Post-Impressionism, the forest background in which the figures are placed is rendered in loose brushstrokes of brown, greens, and yellow. For Apollinaire, "the trees in these delicate landscapes are so alive that they appear almost human".
When considering the pantheon of nineteenth-century artists, Apollinaire wrote that "Paul Cézanne must be reckoned one of the greatest". During his short career, he wrote many reviews of key Parisian exhibitions and salons. It was during a review of a 1910 exhibition of Cézanne's work at the Bernheim Gallery that he specifically distinguished his paintings of women bathing as proof of his skill in extending the long tradition of female nudes into the realm of modernity. He wrote "[the painting] constitutes a formidable argument against the critics who used to tell us in their inimitable fashion that Cézanne did not know how to paint nudes".
Oil on canvas - Collection of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark
Acrobat and Young Harlequin (1905)
Early in his career, Picasso took as his subject humble performers for a series of paintings such as this one depicting a young man dressed in a red clown costume who rests his hand on the shoulder of a boy posing in an acrobat's leotard with a multicolored diamond design. Even before heralding his development of Cubism, Apollinaire discussed some of Picasso's early paintings, including those of performers, in one of his first articles about the artist. Written for the May 1905 issue of La Plume magazine, it was, according to author Leroy Breunig, "the first serious piece to appear on the Spanish painter, and for Apollinaire it was only the beginning of a series of eulogies of the artist whom he considered without question the greatest of his generation".
Set against a background of barely discernible buildings, the scene is rendered in a soft palette of blues, browns, and white and yet the presence of the vibrant shades of red in both the outfits and pot of flowers behind them firmly place this work among those of the artist's rose period. Even here, however, Apollinaire was able to see the modernity in Picasso's approach and he acknowledged how in this work, "color has the flat quality of frescoes, and the lines are firm". Distinguishing Picasso's style from the art of the past, Apollinaire added that, "one cannot confuse these saltimbanques [acrobats] with mere actors on a stage. The spectator who watches them must be pious, for they celebrate wordless rites with painstaking agility. This is what distinguishes this painter from the Greek potters, whom his drawing sometimes calls to mind. On the painted vases, bearded, verbose priests sacrificed resigned animals bound to destiny. In these paintings virility is beardless, but it manifests itself in the muscles of the skinny arms and flat cheekbones, and the animals are mysterious".
His praise for this painting is an important contribution to the writer's faith in the young Pablo Picasso's potential. There was something Apollinaire admired about the stark humanity of these figures. Brought to life through Picasso's capable hands, they are not mere figure studies, but rather suffering creatures whose lives are spent in the role of entertaining others which, according to Apollinaire, was supported by the observation that "the cheeks and brows of taciturn clowns are withered by morbid sensibilities".
Oil on canvas - Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Muse Inspiring the Poet (1909)
In The Muse Inspiring the Poet (the second of two versions featuring this subject), Rousseau has shown a couple standing in a landscape with trees in the background and a row of pink, red, and white flowers in front of them. Here Rousseau has in fact depicted Apollinaire with his then girlfriend, artist Marie Laurencin, appearing as his muse, arm raised in a fashion reminiscent of the mythological goddess of the art of antiquity. Here Rousseau pays homage to the creative genius of Apollinaire by depicting him holding a scroll of paper and feather quill pen.
Interestingly, when the work was created many failed to recognize Apollinaire's likeness in the male figure. This shocked the poet who wrote of it in 1914, "some found the painting touching, others thought it bordered on the grotesque, but as far as the resemblance was concerned, everyone was in agreement: there was none at all". However, Apollinaire felt the painting accurately represented him stating, "I tend to think that that portrait was such a good likeness - at once so striking and so new - that it dazzled even those who were not aware of the resemblance and did not want to believe in it. Painting is the most pious art".
Oil on canvas - Collection of Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel, Switzerland
Study for the portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire (1911)
In this work on paper, Jean Metzinger has depicted Guillaume Apollinaire, seated with arms crossed in front of him, well dressed in suit and tie and smoking a pipe. On the table in front of him is a drink and the tools of his trade; sheets of paper and a pen. Rendered in the Cubist style, the subject is depicted in crisp geometric lines while sitter and table seem jammed into the foreground of the picture plane.
In what can only be seen as an act of reverence, many of the artists that Apollinaire promoted during his career took him as their subject. While no direct copy of this work exists in painted form (although Metzinger did create an earlier painted portrait), his later work Man with Pipe (Le Fumeur) (1912-13) which bears some similarities to this study is believed to be either a portrait of poet Max Jacob or Apollinaire. More than just a physical representation of the subject, here Metzinger has captured the essence of a close friend. Known for his dapper dress sense and what author Francis Steegmuller describes as the sometimes, "false impression of extravagance", he is here depicted as well dressed and with his trademark pipe of which friend Fernande Olivier said, "it was always with a pipe in his mouth or in his hand that he told his stories, always with a very serious air even when they were trivial or rollicking".
That Apollinaire's portrait would be a Cubist work is fitting and he called attention to Metzinger whom he described as, "one of the most appealing figures among today's young French painters. Believing him to be an important figure in the Cubist movement, Apollinaire once wrote of his works that the "attractiveness they all possess proves that the discipline of cubism is not incompatible with reality". In Metzinger, he found proof that Cubism was more than a passing phase and rather a strong force in shaping the trajectory of modern art.
Graphite on paper - Collection of Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
The City of Paris (1912)
Delaunay's painting is a celebration of Parisian modernity. In describing the work, Apollinaire wrote, "on the left, the Seine and Montmartre; on the right, the Eiffel Tower and some houses: in the center, three slim, powerful figures who critics claim are copied from the wall paintings of Pompeii but who nevertheless are incarnations of French grace and power".
Apollinaire was mesmerized by this painting when it debuted at the 1912 Salon des Indépendents and wrote of it more than once. Calling it, "the most important picture in the Salon," it represented for him the next important step in modern art, Orphism. According to Apollinaire, this painting was, "more than an artistic manifestation. This painting marks the advent of a conception of art that seemed to have been lost with the great Italian painters. And [...] it also epitomizes, without any scientific paraphernalia, all the efforts of modern painting. It is broadly executed. Its composition is simple and noble. And no fault that anyone might find with it can detract from this truth: It is a painting, a real painting, and it has been a long time since we have seen anything of the kind".
Apollinaire's praise of this work provides a glimpse into his own ideas of what modern art can and should be and the reason why he wanted to be its champion. Apollinaire praised Delaunay as, "one of those rare painters of the younger generation who, after taking part in all the foremost artistic movements, has now cut himself off from them in a reaction against their exclusively decorative tendencies. Robert Delaunay's art is full of movement and does not lack power. Rows of houses, architectural views of cities, especially the Eiffel Tower - these are the characteristic themes of an artist who has a monumental vision of the world, which he fragments into powerful light".
Oil on canvas - Collection of Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France
Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire (1913)
This work on paper features a bust portrait of Apollinaire. Created in the Cubist style, here Picasso has depicted the figure in a composition of broken-down geometric shapes and black lines and sharp contrasts of white and dark. An immediate kinship was established when Picasso and Apollinaire met in 1904 with the two bonding over the desire to break with the past and push forward in an embrace of a modern future that would change art and literature. Apollinaire would go on to be a major promoter of Picasso's art praising him in articles by describing him as, "heir of all the great artists of the past. Having suddenly awaken to life, he is heading in a direction that no one has taken before". Recognizing him as a figurehead for modernism, he stated, "he is a new man and the world is as he represents it. He has enumerated its elements, its details, with a brutality that knows, on occasion, how to be gracious".
Apollinaire's celebration of Picasso was not one-sided. Picasso made several sketches and drawings of the poet during the years of their friendship. He even attempted to create a memorial tribute to Apollinaire after his death, but according to journalist Jonathan Jones, his "design for an abstract Monument to Apollinaire was rejected as too odd to stand in Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery". This work is arguably his most impressive portrait of Apollinaire because it was created in a fitting example of the Cubist movement; a style he and Georges Braque founded having been first introduced by Apollinaire himself.
Pencil and Chinese ink wash on paper - Private Collection
Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire (1914)
A double portrait of sorts, this painting features a stone bust of poet Apollinaire depicted in the foreground wearing sunglasses. Positioned in the front of a dark brown interior, on the right there is a column on which hangs molds of a fish and a shell. In the background set against a green sky, Apollinaire can once more be seen in profile silhouette with a white circle partially visible on his head. A sense of foreboding is present in this work with the dark figures and open spaces that are both characteristic of Giorgio de Chirico's style and a forerunner of Surrealism (despite the artist never aligning himself with the movement).
In this portrait, de Chirico pays homage to Apollinaire who helped to promote the key art movements of the twentieth century. He has been preserved here in marble which is symbolic of forefathers of other fields that have been recorded in the same material - a tribute dating back to the days of Ancient Greece. According to critic Jonathan Jones, "he looks right at us, however: his blindness is that of the seer, the poet [...] This painting belongs to a series on the theme of the poet as type [...] the poet sees or engenders visions of impossible conjunctions: the moulds of a fish and a shell on unresolved Renaissance architecture, and the silhouette of a man [Apollinaire] on whose head a white circle has been drawn [...] So in this painting the spirit of Apollinaire, embodied by the bust, has a deathly vision of Apollinaire, the flesh-and-blood man".
Apollinaire's respect for di Chirico is evident in his writings; saying of this work that it was a "harmonious and mysterious compositions in the midst of silence and meditation". The painting is all the more powerful in that it foreshadows Apollinaire's own death. As Jones explains, "in 1914, de Chirico painted Apollinaire in silhouette with what looks like a target down on his cranium. Apollinaire enlisted in the French army in the first world war and in 1917 was severely wounded - in the head.[...] De Chirico's Premonitory Portrait is a menacing masterpiece of the 20th century, a dream of death that happened to come true".
Oil on canvas - Collection of Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France
A hybrid of painting and sculpture, in this work Alexander Archipenko depicts a bather stepping into a bright blue body of water. Cubist in style, the golden-yellow colored figure is rendered via basic geometric shapes. According to the object label for this work from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the work was created while Archipenko spent time in the Mediterranean during the duration of the First World War as he was unfit to serve: "lacking the proper facilities for making large-scale sculpture, the artist turned to what he called 'sculpto-painting,' a collage medium in low relief. While this female bather was undoubtedly inspired by real-life swimmers that Archipenko would have seen on the beach during his time in Nice, the presence of a delicately shaded classical column imbues the composition with a timeless quality".
Archipenko excited Apollinaire mostly because of his willingness to challenge the idea of what sculpture could be. Of the artist he wrote, Archipenko, "seeks above all the purity of forms. He wants to find the most abstract, most symbolic, newest forms, and wants to be able to shape them as he pleases". Here he took the traditional notion of the bather, a longtime subject in art history and revised it. Writing in praise of the work, Apollinaire stated, "Archipenko's daring constructions timidly but firmly proclaim the singularity of this new art [...] that unites internal plastic structure with the supreme charm of a sensuously beautiful surface. The archings, the complementary forms, the differentiation of planes, the hollows and the reliefs, never abruptly contrasted, are transformed into living stone that the passionate touch of the chisel has endowed with sculptural expression. Let us look at [...] this Bather who, ever-changing, appears ever-new".
Oil paint, graphite, paper, and metal on panel - Collection of Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania