JEAN METZINGER (1883-1956)
JEAN METZINGER (1883-1956)

Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier

JEAN METZINGER (1883-1956)
Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier
signed 'Metzinger' (lower left)
oil on canvas
130.5 x 89.3 cm. (51 3⁄8 x 35 1⁄8 in.)
Painted circa 1922
Galerie de I'Effort Moderne [Léonce Rosenberg], Paris (by 1924)
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 March 1990, Lot 54
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale

The late Bozena Nikiel confirmed the authenticity of this work
Galerie de L'Effort Moderne, Jean Metzinger, Album I, no. 374 (illustrated)
L. Rosenberg (ed.), Bulletin de I'Effort Moderne, Paris, July 1924, no.7 (illustrated, titled "Melon et compotier")
Jean Metzinger in Retrospect (exh. cat), The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, 1985-86, p.83, no. 120 (illustrated)
Paris, Galerie Melki, Les Cubisters, 1985

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Lot Essay

'…in art, the results which one obtains never coincide with the goals for which one aims. For the artist, the attraction of art is the attraction of the unknown. Each work is an adventure... and this sometimes suffices to change the entire general orientation. The painting of today can teach us nothing about that of tomorrow and the painting of tomorrow would not merit being awaited should it not surprise us.' – Jean Metzinger (quoted in “Réponse à notre enquête : « Où va la peinture moderne ? »” in Bulletin de L’Effort Moderne, no. 3, Paris, 1924, p. 6)

Although credit for the invention of Cubism lies unequivocally with Picasso and Braque, it was Jean Metzinger more than any other painter who took the helm in formulating a Cubist school of painting and codifying its ideas in writing. In 1911, he organized a group of likeminded artists—Delaunay, Léger, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, and himself—to exhibit together at the Salon des Indépendants, officially launching the Cubist movement in Paris; the next year, he was a driving force behind the Section d’Or exhibition at the Galerie la Boétie, the most comprehensive manifestation of Cubism before the war. Along with Gleizes, moreover, Metzinger was the co-author of Du Cubisme (1912), which articulated fully for the first time a philosophical basis for this radically new pictorial language.

Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier is a substantial still life composition, magnificently well-balanced between blocks of strong colour against clearly defined dark outlines and recesses. The sharp delineation of contours and volumetric shading of rounded forms describes each object, cutting dramatic profiles with darker shading to the left and brighter colour to the right. Such descriptive devices are emblematic of this period in Metzinger’s work as he gradually emerged away from his late-Cubist phase toward his purist aesthetic that would become more prominent from 1923 onwards.

When comparing the present work to Fruit and a Jug on a Table from 1916-1918 in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, clear parallels can be observed in palette of ochre and blue with dark outlines, and the composition, a domestic interior featuring a quintessentially Cubist table setting bearing fruit and wine. The influence of Gris remains clear in both, however, in Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier, gone are the overlapping blocks of colour that intersect through the forms and disrupt their solidity. In its place, there appears a more reverent form of visual logic, for example, the loaf of bread disappears behind the physicality of the bottle of wine, which in turn firmly pins down the tablecloth, obscuring it.

Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier appears in the stock books of Léonce Rosenberg’s Parisian dealership, Galerie de L’Effort Moderne. A fervent devotee of Cubism, Rosenberg was one of the leading protagonists of the wartime Parisian art world, instigating a number of strategies in order to defend, propound and market this movement to an international audience. Throughout the war, he signed contracts with a host of cubist artists including Braque, Léger, Metzinger and others which enabled them to sustain their respective practices and produce the exceptional work in the years ahead, such as Nature morte à la baguette de pain, bouteille et compotier.

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