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    [Cubism]. Guillaume Apollinaire. Autograph Letter Signed. "Guillaume Apollinaire." One page in French on two sheets of onionskin paper pasted together, 9" x 15", Paris; September 22, 1917.
    In a letter to the publisher or editor of the periodical the Mercure de France, Apollinaire offers his views of the origin of Cubism. He writes [English translation], "On July 1st of this year, Gustave Kahn [Gustave Kahn (1859-1936) was a French Symbolist poet and art critic] wrote about Cubism in Le Mercure de France in such a way that may cast doubt on the origins of this school of painting that is allegedly Spanish: 'Cubism comes from Picasso.' On the contrary, it [the school] knows itself to be French: 'if it comes from Gleizes [Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), a French artist, theoretician, philosopher, a self-proclaimed founder of Cubism who wrote with the French painter and poet Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), wrote the first major treatise on Cubism, Du Cubisme in 1912.] and Metzinger.'

    The two latter artists can claim nothing but to have associated themselves with the school rather than having created it. This does not diminish the qualities they otherwise possess and certainly does not impact their originality. They are simply akin to several other artists who, before the war and without concerted effort, formed what was called the school of Cubism.

    The credit, if indeed there is credit, for creating the school rests with Picasso and Georges Braque [Georges Braque (1882-1963), was a French painter, collagist, draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor]. They are the true 'creators' and therefore the school can be considered Franco-Spanish, or better yet, Latin.

    Admittedly, since the war it has spread to the point of becoming almost cosmopolitan, if its 'latinity' hadn't reaffirmed itself by the absorption of several elements which played a role of the highest importance in the creation of Italian futurism. It is fair, therefore, to call it Latin since its principal members are French, Spanish, and Italian. In any case, it was born on French soil and the artists that practice/maintain it live in Paris; the adjective 'Parisian' would be suitable.

    With no mandate to take up Monsieur Kahn's assertions, I would not have bothered presenting my opinion as an impartial spectator if it had not been for the fact that the dilemma posed by the Mercure de France was then reproduced in other publications including, notably, L'Affranchi dated 20 September.

    I found it unfair to allow a mistake that could negatively reflect upon artists of remarkable ability, including the sublieutenant, Braque, who suffered a head injury and, in fact, just received a cross of the Légion d'honneur as well as the war cross with distinction. Brothers in arms owe each other these kinds of favors to ensure justice is served.

    With all that, if Mr. Kahn remains unconvinced, he can reach out to artists such as Matisse, de Vlaminck, Derain, Gris; or writers of/about art such as André Salmon, Maurice Raynal who, in a real sense, were present for the birth of Cubism."

    Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic. He is considered one of the foremost poets of the early 20th century, as well as one of the most impassioned defenders of Cubism and a forefather of Surrealism. Apollinaire is credited with coining the term "cubism" in 1911 to describe that emerging art movement and the term "surrealism" in 1917 to describe the works of Erik Satie (1866-1925), the French pianist and composer. He was active as a journalist and art critic for several French periodicals, including the Mercure de France. In 1912, Apollinaire cofounded Les Soirées de Paris, an artistic and literary magazine. He died at the age of 38 in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

    A marvelous letter in which Apollinaire discusses the origin on Cubism.

    Condition: Letter has usual folds; onionskin paper is fragile and has several creases on the edges; as mentioned above the letter is comprised of two pieces of onionskin paper glued together. Letter is chipped along top edge; otherwise good.


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    September, 2019
    4th Wednesday
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