You are on page 1of 4

('ontt,Ttts of



7. Der llleg zu,m Kubism,us, Munich, 1920, p.

27 .

8. Statement to Marius de Zayas, published in The -4rls, Nerv Yorko
1923, under thc


Picasso Speaks.

9. Grrillaumc Apollinairc, Les Peintres Cubistes, Paris, I913, p. 36.
10. Vallier, op. cit., p. 17.
I l. Aragon, La Peinture au d6fi,. Prcfacc to the catalogue of an exhibition of collages at thc Galerie Goemans, Paris, I arch Ig30.
12. Frarigoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life,*^itlt, Picosso, London, 1965,




'Ihc rnassive exhibibion of Corot's figure pieces mounted at the

Salorr d'Automnc of lg09 may, indeed, have influencc(l thc Cubists both

formally and iconographically; for cxa,mple, tlie motif of the female
figurc holding or playing a rnusical instmment is a rccurrcnt one in
Corot's rvork.


\'allier, op. cit., p. 16.
fn an intervicu, by Alcxander \Iratt, The Studio, November 196I,


lluyghe it La Naissance du Cubi,sme, Histoire de
Paris, 1935, p. 80.
17. Jtran Cris, -Atrofas on nly Painting, first published in de Qu,
nos I and 2, Frankfurt, L925, pp. 77-8. Reprintcd in D. H. Karrhcnrvcilor,
Juan Gris, London, 1947, pp, 138-9.
18. Notes in L'll.sprit nou,ueqtt, no. 5, Paris, 1921, p. 534.
19. Tlre phrase occurs in Ll:ie I'echnical lIotr,i,Jesto o.f Futurist Painting
(Ituturist Po,inting: Teclm,ical llanifesto), April 11, 19I0.
16. Qrrotccl by Rcn6



Christopher Green
Purism came after Cubism and was launched rvith a book published
in 1918, Apri,s le Cubisme. Cubism, declared its authors Am6d6e
Ozenfant and Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), had ended
by not recognizing its own significance or the significance of thc postwar epoch: it lvas 'the troubled art of a troublcd time':1 Purism
olaimed it u'ould takc Cubism to its proper conclusions, those of a
cooperatiye and coltstructive epoch of order. It was a very ambitious
moyement, which had a brief life (seven years) and only through
the architecture of Le Corbusier did it gain a large international
reputation. Purist paintings rvere sho\yn, within its lifetime, as far
a,way from Paris as Prague, but the great post-war impact in painting
and sculpturc came from De Stijl, Constructivism ancl Surrealism.
Thc high years of the movement, wcrc the years of Theo Yan Doesburg's first Parisian sermons on De Stijl, and of Andri Breton and
Tristan Tzara (1920-25). It lvas, at the sa,me time, against such
competition that Purism rvas able to offer a genuine and independent alternative both to the post-war Cubists of the Paris
School and to De Stijl.
Clarity and objectivitv u'ere central to the Purist theme, art moved
'vers lc cristal '.2 Yet Ozenfant and Jeanneret gave their dcclarations
the rcpctitive insistencc of prophets offering revelation: Apri,s le
Cubisme \rras a passionate declaration of belief, and most of the
editorial opinion of thcir magazine L'Esprit nou,I)ee,u (1920-25) was
put across u.ith manifosto force. Their final undertaking La Peinture
Moderne (1925) sharpens that force. What Cocteau dubbed 'The call
to order' 'ivas made by Ozenfant and Jeanneret with fervour, a
feeling of revolutionary purpose, and a full appreciation of cultural
guerrilla tactics.
Yct, the dynamism of purist publications freezcs rvhen one confronts the ideas they reprcsent,, and t'he calm exactitude of Purist
works [illustrations 28 and 29]. The movement seems calculated to
create opposition. So many of those modern aesthetic ideals lcast
loved by popular opinion are there: the beauty of functional effi-

therefore science. Functionalism in engineering. is unbalanced.n the ordcr of numerical division in thc structure of our thoughts.ork and thc u'orks of nature . an essential factor to r'vhich u'e all aspire. to gain u'idcspread sympathy for Purism bccause it. but thcy arc no longer related to God. tcrms.80 ('onct:1tls of llodtrn rlrt cicncy.a The starting point for this notion is the same as that of the Rcnaissancc. as the Purists admircd his. the unimportance of individuals.' The tendency is tor. an Ozenfant still-life. in their listening and their seeing are thought of as dircctly related to the order oftheir bodics. Tho past antl the prcsent is conceivcd of as a p)rramid: at the top of thc pyramid are found all together Poussin. responding to constant functions. thc existencc of more than one dircctive force in human naturc.s and the arts which used them.s of harmony in proportion represented the true larvs of life. The proportions which give mcn beauty in their thinking.uninformed: it is after all Puritan and restrictive in prccisely the same rv'ay as De Stijl. fn this light functionalism becomes a new extension of Renaissance Humanism . can \\e bcgin to see and enjoy u'hat it is. That factor is Number: the lraY in which \1'c arc shou.ere classical. The dogmatic certainty behind its campaign for order. thc valuc of precision. It is diflicult. Ozenfant and Jeanneret aimed their art at a definite point. etc. that the quality of grcat. the movemcnt secms extreme to the . They lie behind De Stijl and Constructivism as 'rvell as Purism. be certain that thc order revealed to us by reason . Corot. Ingres. it L'Esprit nouueau. the importance of intellect. Eiffel.l. is more than a rcflection of the structurc of our own minds and senses. Bvery organ is thc rcsult of constant adaptation to functional nceds: 'One is ablc to ascertain a tendency toryards certain idcntical fcatures. pleasure plcasing. rvith understanding rather than regret. the human body: in itself it is believed to revcal the ordcr mcn search for.. in industrial dcsign. plcasurc satisfies appctites. u. Ozcnfant and Jeanneret rvere not. Pascal. chango.lvith that of Renaissance Humanism.3 But rve can he certain that this ordcr constantly found in our surroundings and our actions satisfics a genuine human nccd . ccrtain 'objets types' have becn perfected to answcr constant ncctls: glasses.i. It.ho belicvc in instinct. u'ould have admired thcm. ourir. but they did not claim that in this was revealcd some objectively valid Truth. 'These objects associate themselvcs witlr tlrc organism and complcte it'. joy is balanced. see in a passionate declaration of thc po\\'er of reason only a negation of instinct. the Rubcns in us.him. and at its root lies the notion of 'Sdlection Mecanique'. dealt u. Pcricles. Only rvhen rvc have acceptcd lrhat.the need of our minds to conceive equilibrium and our senses to perceive it. but. kill-joys: they distinguished betrveen joy and pleasurc and they preached the end of pleasure in art. Therc is in art. Purism tclls us. and find too tlra. joy satisfics the need ftrr order in life. but combined r. based on a retreat from God into the sphcre of Man alone. Purism is not.vards greatcr and greater economy of effort as the harmony between form and function is pcrfected.vith them. sciencc . the lau.lvith thc cmphasis on proportion.proportion. Ozenfant was adamant: rve cannot. is so easy to sec it for rvhat it is not: a Le Corbusier villa too easily &rouses the Borromini in us. Though mild to the informcd.e. pleasure satisfies passing ll. that Purism 81 the pyramid has the same apex in every era and every sphere. they arc in harmony lvillr NIrr. like that of De Stijl. they bclieved. Such hierarchical thinking implies a certainty analogous . by mcans of the equally dogmatic rcactions causcd. bottlcs. joy satisfics sornething constant in us.ith certainty. and in this sense they u. From tlic human body Ozenfant and Jeanneret move to thosc objects t. Einstein.rr.hile thosc rvho believc in reason see in a passionate declaration of the power of instinct only a negation of reason. the supremacy of joy: plcasure. al:t. mcrely serves to cmphasize. the Purists are simply quiet. For Daniele Barbaro. etc: thc implication is that Poussin. he says. Aristotelian thinker and contemporary of Palladio. lrad lre lived to see thc paintings of L'DsTtrit ?tout'eott. is a hostility to extremes which is alicn to those movements and lr'hich antagonizes informcd opinion: the elemental abstractions of De Stijl make the bottles and jugs of purist still-livcs seem timid: Mondrian is dramatically quict. Those u. just. Science and art are proof of the constancy of this need: the Parthenon and Einstein's cquations both fulfil the same human function.hich men make solely to ans'iver their functional needs.exists apart from us. . grcat living and great thinking does not. rvhich explored these la'w. in architecture and in painting is presented altogether by Ozenfant and Jeannerct in humanist. uas Puritan. joy clcvating. the structurc oftheir sensc organs and oftheir minds. Plato. Their aim rvas to give art an unchanging foundation.

it. always new. l'orm itself is catcgorized as either primary or secondary. Purism's ir. miglrl seern to lead somclvhere very different from thc bottles and guitars of purist paintings: a strictly architcctural painting seelns at first the most logical rcsult . by function Ozenfant and Jeanneret mean more than as efficient as the others and he becomes an artist only when he selccts the one most clearly harmonious in its proportions. because among man's basic needs is for them. l.a new awareness of precision and complcxity within the old thcme of order . the need for art. never new. it lacked somcthing rvhich they defincd it Lu Peintu.vas important to Purism. So full a dcveloprnent of a formal language.iteclzrc rvas based. could never appeal to such feelings .. Yet. However.een tho practical and the acsthctic spheres.6 Form. being on the technological plane alone. The machine might crcatc L'Esytrit nouaeclu .r- T fl' ('. The machine r. and composition is defined as sccondar. free ofsecondary associations. communications tlrrrs.\r't. They are the qualities of a humanist functionalism: thc qualities that follorv from absolutc cflicicncy-precision. while a freely spiralling line might make onc man see a snake and another a whirlpool. From the Purist vier.vpoint there was about the 'objet [ype' a banality rvhich placed it above the human figure as the subject of great art: the human figure too easily appealed to particular feelings: Lhe 'objet type' claboratcd but mutcd version of De Stijl.but it can never be a work of art.' Moderne &s'an intellectual and affective emotion'expected of art"7 That emotion \rras callcd'passion'by Jeanneret in thc ar'liclos on 'rvhiclr lris internationally influcntial book trrers une Arclt. to a constant human need for order.r. 'Passion' was the artist. the artist rvas so gifted that he could intuitir.. representcd an &nswer. An artlvhich did no rnore than elaboratc on primary ftinnal themcs rvas.for dr. whose intcgrity it can so easily destroy. Thc qualities of that ordcr are clear.5 Science and the machinc are based on the changing fabric of knowledge. for the objects of Purist paintings arc of course 'objets types' . Tlie subjcct-nratterr of thoir still-lives in fact binds the hurnanism of Ozenfant and Jcanncrct. Art. that is u.r:l. or not: a cube carries the same 'plastic' meaning for everyone. in the matcrial 'w'orld of all concerned with . ()trgineering.hy paintings are painted and buildings are built as 'architecture'and not simply as'machines for living in'. Primary forrns are established as tho basis for composition. is the rcsult of a strict investig-ation cif the rneans and onds clf art. . constructing a bridge betu. rnerely ornamental. Irrrrn&n needs lrrrnrilnist: the proportions of a humanist art are the proportions rlotcrrnined by human need.. Each new machine sttpersetletl art ultl ortc attrl urolrl(l be sulrt. puttiug thcir painting into dircct contact u. line and colour are secn as the elements of a language which does not change from culture to culture because it is based on invariable optical rcactions. The scientist could construct lteneath the chaotic surface of naturc an intricate and balanced systom of lar'vs. they mean aesthetic function too. mind and body in response to form.ture and man-madc objects. to find art. to the same human rtrlr l'tt -ltt Arclrilr.y in the disorder of his surroundings. either capable of a constant cffect. line and colour.ith th<t practical rvorld of cngineoring and 'objets tqprs'.t1. is bast'tl orr the unchanging physiological structure of the eye. into a complctc rvhole. in Imprcssionism.l .ardly in their form.rsistence on the old subject-mattcr of Analt'tic and Synthetic Cubism is no cornpromise. free of all possible literary associations.rsetlerl h1' anotlrer'.hich demonstrated such a systcm outu. for thc purists rvriting in L'Esprit . &s. The bottles and guitars of Purist paintings are therefore objects in rvhich ordcr has bcen found. too. A grammar and syntax of sensation is elaborated by the Purists as the foundation of art. rve are tolrl.t'setlerl llv alother': rro lnl'k rtf art coulrl be srrpt. The Purists are strict rulemakers: their focus is on constant. because it can nevcr be of constant valrre in an advancing technology. Jeanneret puts his position like this: an engineer is presented with alternative ideas for a bridge ea. factors. industrial design are I'ttt'isttt 8::i ciplincd by the invariably stablc dorninance of thc vertical arrrl the horizontal. Thercfcrrc colour (scen as a surface factor) is subordinated to form.y elaltoration on a prirnary formal thcmc.cly discover objects in the external world 'w. so common that it rvas hardly noticed. Art is not useful but it is necessary.rrt. utensils. and so stronq alr cl)rphasis on the abstract idcals of harrnony ancl prccision. for instance.lrc logical conclusion is that a functional approach to them is corrslir. as we have seen.'s ability to grasp order intuitivel.t11r'1 1tl. i I . dis- na. simplicity and proportional harmony. on the othcr hand. but in a supporting rather than a leading role: it represented an answer.rrr('.

aynal. The painters' negative rcsponse led Apollinairc eventually to admit.. 2. 5. 27. Ozcnfant and Jeanneret. Ozenfant and Jeanneret dismiss pure abstraction for its lack of 'passion'. Waldemar George. Contributors included Maurice R. Ozenfant and Jeannerct . the hero of abstraction .u: founded in lg20 by Ozenfant.Sur Ia plastique'.y 1914.uealt.'L. pp.hich manifestecl itself in Paris between late I9Il and it rvas called at the time -'pure'painting u.Robert Delaunay. Frank Kupka are at least as obvious as thcir similaritics. Jean Lurgat. just as they dismiss the photographic rcalism of Meissonier for its lack of structure. Pierre Revcrdy. Notes l.. 1923. Blaise Cendrars. L'Esprit nouuee. Hc u'as attempting to categorizc thc 'i. L'Esprit nouuealt..itude. ORPHISM Virginia Spate Orphism can briefly be described as a tendency to'w'ards abstract . or . Ozenfant .tl. and Jeanneret . 7. inevitable progression towards abstraction considero(l almost as the climax of Western art: the Orphists who did not . 4.2 Only Picabia and Delaunay accepted the designation and Delaunay tried to restrict it to his kind of painting. AprCs le Cubisme. but independent of it. In all twenty-cight numbers were produced. 1920. 6. consistent pat. 1.'Certitude. Ozenfant and Jeanneret . Francis Picabia and.. it was the creation of the poet. that his classification 'laid no claim to be definitive as to thc artists themselves'.ueelu. but this did not prot:ltttk. L'Esprit nou. Orphism has never received scrious attention largoly trccausc Apollinaire's delinition \vas so ambiguous and because tho differences between the painters he namcd . lg2s.Angle droit'. Ozenfant . from.t nolt. L'Esprit nolu)eau. 1920. Ozenfant and Jeanneret . and in this way the practical order of functional efficiency is joined to aesthetic order: cubist method loses all trace of ambiguity: it becomes the instrument of a philosophy as all-embracing as De Stijl. they shift viewpoint in order to move from one 'essential' aspect of an object to another.. to the material u. 19. rvho christened it at the exhibition of the Scction d'Or in October IgI2.t no?toe(r.'Lc Purisme. and they give a nerv clarity to the cubist method of shifting viewpoint analysis. none of the early abstractionists set out to 'boctlttttr abstract': they sought to express certain states of consciousttrrss which drew them towards abstraction.pursue a.lilic Mondrian. thus translating it into a simple formal theme.orld without danger of distraction. formal emphasis esscntial in art. Ivan Puni and many others. 1920. subtitlcd 'Ce qui vaut d'6tre fait'. have been implicitly condemned by this stanclar<1. 1924. probably. 3. A firm grip is kept on lheir 'objet type' sLartirrg point. L'Espri. or who were 'less abstract' than they apparently claimed. 373-6. No 2.uealt. Marcel Duchamp. Jeannerct and the poct Paul Derm6e. the 'objet type' joincd the generalized.3 Nevertheless.. Thus.'Le Purisme. No l'. Ozenfant -'Ce Mois Pass6'. However. 1923. and it is in the final analysis the Purist approach to the object that demonstrates conclusively Purism's independence from both De Stijl and Cubism. 22. to its circular top. 18. 4.s real: an art rvhich would dispense v'ith recognizable subject-matter and rcly on fcrrrn and colour to communioate meaning and emotion (just as Orphcus has done through Lhe pure forms of music). L'Espri. 4. L'Esprit nou. Ozenfant. Ozenfant and Jeanneret .1 As a movcment. Fernand Ld'gcr. Guillaurne Apollinaire. It has been based on the assumption of a rnore or lcss untrroken.arious tcndencies in Cubisrn (defined uery loosely) and used thc phrase 'Orphic Cubisrn' to rle{ine a group of painters who were moving arvay from recognizalrle subject-rnatter.t noltueau. 1918.u.Le Purisme'... Fernand Ldger. Apollinaircr did discern the beginnings of something that ma.84 (loru:opls ol' illodcrn ? . L'Espri.. Like the ideal cubist following the rules of Gleizes and Metzinger's 1912 Du towards abstraction.lrt is difficult to lust after a bottlc. L'Esprit nouuea. Perhaps a more important reason for the neglect of Orphisrn has been an over-rigid determinisrn applied to tho history of abstract art irr general. say. the circular base of a glass [illustration 28] to its tapering profile.'Cert. 4. L6once Rosenberg. 1920.