The Cubist Blocks

 

Gwinnett tells Jenkins that Louis Glober is staying at the Bragadin Palazzo, which prompts Jenkins to recall meeting Glober in London in the late 1920s. Glober visited Duckworth’s to discuss a project with Daniel Tokenhouse. “The suggestion was to produce generously illustrated, cheaply produced studies of these [Cubist] painters, blocks to be made in Holland or Germany by some newly devised process.” [TK 70/64]

Houses at Estaque George Braque, 1908 zinkatzung plate 16 from Kannweiler, Der Weg zum Kubismus, 1920

Houses at Estaque
George Braque, 1908
zinkatzung plate 16 from Kannweiler, Der Weg zum Kubismus, 1920

 

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are credited with jointly developing Cubism, starting in 1906. Some of Braque’s earliest pieces were done during his summer stay at the French fishing village of Estaque. (The original oil painting that is akin to the print at left is at the Hermann and  Margrit Rupf Foundation in Bern Switzerland.) Their abstract style using angular planes, eschewing or distorting perspective, and avoiding bright colors was dubbed Cubism in 1908 and initially derided by traditionalists in Paris. However, Braque and Picasso were soon joined by Leger, Gris, and others and championed by critics, like Apollinaire, and by their dealer Kannweiler, in his book in German, Der Weg zum Kubism  (1920). We are unsure what ‘newly derived process’ Glober had in mind, but Kannweiler illustrated his book with zinkatzungen, prints made using zinc plates,  a process call zincography,  which was developed in the nineteenth century and is cheaper than limestone lithography.

 

Nude Descending a Staircase, #2 Marcel Duchamp, 1912 oil on canvas 58 x 35 in Philadelphia Museum of Art photo probably in public domain in US from Wikimedia.org but still under copyright in France

Nude Descending a Staircase, #2
Marcel Duchamp, 1912
oil on canvas 58 x 35 in
Philadelphia Museum of Art
photo probably in public domain in US from Wikimedia.org but still under copyright in France

In the 1920s and 30s, when the Cubists had become less controversial in France, Anne Stepney could talk of Braque, and Jenkins and Barnby could joke about Cubist collages. Moreland was familiar with work of Albert Gleizes, another early cubist who wrote a text on cubist theory. However, Jenkins recalls that when he first met Glober, “the Cubists were still generally regarded as wild men…” [TK 70/64]  in both Britain and the United States.  Mr. Deacon’s suspicion of Cubism was a prevailing view in Britain and the United States between the wars, long after his other betes noires like  Impressionism had     become mainstream.
Cubism and other forms of avant garde art were first shown in the United States at the New York Armory Show of 1913. The work was not appreciated by most American critics. One of the most lampooned works was Marcel Duchamp’s cubist Nude Descending a Staircase (shown right.)  Our favorite newspaper cartoon mocking the piece is The Rude Descending a Staircase (shown below left). By 1936, Cubism had enough  acceptance in America that the New York Museum of Modern Art had a Cubist exhibition. However, despite advocates, such as the British critic and collector Douglas Cooper, the general acceptance of Cubism in Britain was delayed.  Kannweiler’s Der weg zum Kubism  (1920)  (The Rise of Cubism) was not published in English until 1949.

The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway) J. F. Griswold, The New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913 in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway)
J. F. Griswold, The New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913
in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The first major exhibition in Britain devoted to Cubism was not held until 1958 when the Tate showed “The Essential Cubism: Braque, Picasso and Their Friends, 1907-1920.”   This delay of British appreciation of the Cubists until the 1950s is reflected later in TK when Ada Leintwardine suggests that her husband’s publishing house might now be interested in acquiring the rights to the still unpublished Cubist blocks from Tokenhouse [TK 138/131 ].

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