I assure you that it is much less complicated and much easier to explain than you seem to believe. When you say that the painters do not get along with each other, and that you amuse yourself by judging the blows, you are mistaken. Or, at least, you only think of the few painters, whom you met at random in life, […]. The Salon d’automne, a battleground that was prepared and wanted by a small band of artists, writers, journalists and politicians, who still need a semblance of combat – this amusing, living, It is newer than the others allows one to take attitudes, positions. But the struggle, or the semblance of struggle which makes it illusion, is provoked and maintained deliberately. I say that a painter alone can realize what is going on there.
First of all, we must agree on the word painter, for if he designates any holder of brushes, colors and palettes, this word is vague and insufficient. The artists who are now called independent, neo-impressionist, etc., note this, and strive so hard to refrain from painting, that Monet’s time was endeavored to paint. To make an object, to copy nature, to approach it (by various means), is precisely what one abstains theoretically. The operation of the voluntary mind, which a group of ” advanced ” painters, in the presence of, and in relation to nature, may seem dangerously arbitrary, as it is not spontaneous, in men of the twentieth century. Cézanne is admirable because he has a primitive temperament and a pure eye that always remained virgin. Exception, exceptional conditions, provincial environment, loneliness, terror of Paris, etc. etc. He does not realize, because he can not realize and cries not to power. This Catholic bourgeois-peasant finds himself becoming the master of a generation of precious souls, pupils of Gustave Moreau, rotten already by the contacts of the blue fruits of this old maniac. They are commonly called others: they disgust me, with their copy of nature, their “rendering”, their painted photograph. Maurice Denis once said to me: ” one can no longer paint a hand like a master of the Renaissance; Why strive for it, since it is sure of being beaten beforehand . “ It is a foolish statement, because I could answer: why take up the tradition of the primitives and try to make a child’s eye when one is an old rogue of the twentieth century? Sure to be beaten too. Matisse is inferior to Giotto; Denis is at Botticelli; The pure harmonists (all in the way of pure decoration) are beaten beforehand by the weavers, the savages, the Orientals, the Gobelins. The art of our ” performers “, ” virtuosos, ” as they were scornfully called yesterday, is as much, but more distant from Velasquez, Van Dyck, than Denis is the great Italian frescoes of the fifteenth .
I have the advantage of amusing myself with their attempts, of admiring them often, while they, regimented and trained in cliques and small neighborhood chapels, are exclusive.
In addition, they have a new flag to defend. It is a struggle of principles, of religion. They arise in revolt, in contested, without seeing that they are becoming the sustained, the applauds, the successes of the day. The challenged will be on another side and the unknown will be in another corner.
Yet another element of trouble and error: since Wagner one no longer wants to be deceived and not to understand everything. We are looking for works that are difficult to understand. We die of the desire to have a great misunderstood, an incomprehensible genius to admire without understanding it. Now, nothing more rare than a great misunderstood, revolutionary genius bringing new formulas. One looks for one under the paving stones and one takes the first larva that came for this white robin. One is tired, disgusted, because of this very search. The question, as it arises, is insoluble.
The art of painting has for centuries been the representation of nature, with very definite ends: decoration of buildings, ornament of our dwellings, portraits to preserve the intact image of relatives and friends: trades To exercise honestly and with as much talent as possible; Without it being all the time, without judging the works of the day before, the very next day. Criticism, the intrusion of literary writers, professional amateurs, not to mention speculators, the market, banking, stock-picking: these are the new agents of dissolution and even of death.
Finally, the social question, and the financial question, the financial competition, the money that some believe that others earn; A remnant of hatred of the poor devils for those who ” sell “, who have official orders; For the protection from above granted, for a lifetime, at a price of Rome, to a protégé of the Institute.
A general lassitude, an anxiety that is felt everywhere; A need to deny, to destroy, absolutely imperious and anarchic: put all this into consideration. It is frightfully complex; And when you say that painters can not get along, you think of the failures, of the intelligents who have been duped by a false vocation, of all those inverted and androgynous essayists we have become. It is therefore on an elite, on an exceptional group, on a band of unhappy people that your observation takes.
When you say that Ingres denied Delacroix – yes, he had to do the one who cursed him; But who tells you that without pupils, alone in relation to himself, he would not have admired him as Delacroix admired him, Ingres? . . . I have known generations of painters who were fair to each other. They were doing justice, while they hated each other. I have known this until the appearance of your buggers. Degas used to say: such a? It is said that he raped his sister and stole his brother; Yes, but he is a famous artist .
Degas, the last representative of a pleiad of admirable artists, is interested in everything, discovers qualities everywhere, and he knows it! He knows it because it is a time when talent , difficulty overcome , difficult and successful passage , counted.
By eliminating talent, craft, rendering, realization, we have suppressed any basis, any element of criticism. If what we do is not a trade: then it is useless to undertake to judge. Let’s feel ! Most of the young painters you have met in life are tendentious and unable to agree on a question of painting with the devotees of the next chapel because: if they have no genius, they Have no talent . If they do not have the gift, they have nothing at all . Nowadays criticism does not admit anything beyond the gift (so rare, granted to two or three in the space of twenty years), criticism taking into consideration only genius, invention, discovery, in short Which is called personality, she is obliged to vomit on almost any work, or else she exalts herself with emphatic and lyrical as soon as she thinks she has laid her hand on a temperament.
Now, the history of the last twenty years, which you will grant me, as I know well, proves that criticism, and often the artists, have put their finger in the eye every time; Because they have believed, fifty times, that they have found the rare bird; This bird died young, and soon they perceived that only a little dust had been held in the hand. The Seurat, the Van Gogh were the last examples of notable judicial errors. And poor Carriere! Already evaporated … All the great young successes, all, all.
I’d have a lot more to say, but I’m tired. Good evening and see you soon.
Jacques-Émile Blanche – Portraitiste
October 27, 1907
PS – When I say Career, I’m not talking about the tradesman. Full of easy talent. I speak of genius, the thinker, the original, the creator.