This work will be included in the forthcoming Metzinger catalogue critique currently being prepared by Bozena Nikiel.
The emergence of moving pictures as a radically new form of art and communication was undoubtedly one of the factors that led Guillaume Apollinaire, in his review of the 1911 Salon des Indépendants, to label the new Cubist “movement” a cinematic art, which “in some ways has for its goal to show us plastic truth under all its faces without renouncing it for the benefit of perspective,” noting also that Metzinger “is here the only one adept at Cubism proper” (D. Robbins, “Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism,” Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, exh. cat., University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, 1985, p. 16).
The present vibrant still life, Moulin à cafe, verre à pied et boîte de thé painted circa 1914 includes motifs (grapes and wine glasses) dating back to the so-called Golden Age of Dutch still-life painting, but, with its radically tilted table top, the composition refers more immediately to Paul Cézanne, the master whom Metzinger and his fellow Cubist and co-author Albert Gleizes credited with retrieving the French tradition, reconnecting contemporary artists with such illustrious predecessors as Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres. The composition of Moulin à cafe, verre à pied et boîte de thé is exceptional for its bold color palette and use of texture. Here thickly applied strokes of paint build up the surface and result in raised cubed forms, contributing to the work’s three-dimensional quality.
At the end of 1912, Metzinger and Gleizes had published Du Cubisme, the most comprehensive and coherent survey to date of the theories and aims of the new movement, developing many of their ideas about the new painting from weekly discussions held in the home of Jacques Villon in the Paris suburb of Puteaux. Mathematics and geometry were frequent subjects at Villon’s, and when these artists decided to organize as a group in order to exhibit together, Villon suggested the name La Section d’Or (The Golden Section), taken from the theorems of the mathematical proportion of the human figure in the writings of Pythagoras and Leonardo da Vinci. In July 1916, Metzinger wrote to Gleizes as follows: “You can’t begin to imagine what I’ve found out since the beginning of the war, working outside painting but for painting. The geometry of the fourth space has no more secrets for me. Previously I had only intuitions, now I have certainty…. The actual result? A new harmony. Don’t take this word harmony in its ordinary, everyday sense, take it in its original sense. Everything is number” (ibid., p. 21). Metzinger shared this urgent passion for deeper harmonies with other early modernist painters and poets, not only in France but also in Germany, Italy, England and America.