Proto-Cubism is an intermediary transition phase in the history of art chronologically extending from 1906 to 1910. Evidence suggests that the production of proto-Cubist paintings resulted from a wide-ranging series of experiments, circumstances, influences and conditions, rather than from one isolated static event, trajectory, artist or discourse. With its roots stemming from at least the late 19th century this period can be characterized by a move towards the radical geometrization of form and a reduction or limitation of the color palette (in comparison with Fauvism). It is essentially the first experimental and exploratory phase of an art movement that would become altogether more extreme, known from the spring of 1911 as Cubism.
Proto-Cubist artworks typically depict objects in geometric schemas of cubic or conic shapes. The illusion of classical perspective is progressively stripped away from objective representation to reveal the constructive essence of the physical world (not just as seen). The term is applied not only to works of this period by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, but to a range of art produced in France during the early 1900s, by such artists as Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Henri Le Fauconnier, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, and to variants developed elsewhere in Europe. Proto-Cubist works embrace many disparate styles, and would affect diverse individuals, groups and movements, ultimately forming a fundamental stage in the history of Modern art of the 20th-century.
History and influences
The building blocks that lead to the construction of proto-Cubist works are diverse in nature. Neither homogeneous nor isotropic, the progression of each individual artist was unique. The influences that characterize this transition period range from Post-Impressionism, to Symbolism, Les Nabis and Neo-Impressionism, the works of Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin to African, Egyptian, Greek, Micronesian, Native American, Iberian sculpture, and Iberian schematic art.
In anticipation of Proto-Cubism the idea of form inherent in art since the Renaissance had been questioned. The romanticist Eugène Delacroix, the realist Gustave Courbet, and practically all the Impressionists had abandoned a significant portion of Classicism in favor of immediate sensation. The dynamic expression favored by these artists presented a challenge in contrast to the static means of expression promoted by the Academia. The representation of fixed objects occupying a space, was replaced by dynamic colors and form in constant evolution. Yet other means would be necessary to jettison completely the long-standing foundation that surrounded them. While the freedom of Impressionism had certainly jeopardized its integrity, it would take another generation of artists, not just to bring the edifice down piece by piece, but to rebuild an entirely new configuration, cube by cube.
Several predominant factors mobilized the shift from a more representational art form to one that would become increasingly abstract; one of the most important would be found directly within the works of Paul Cézanne and exemplified in a widely discussed letter addressed to Émile Bernard dated 15 April 1904. Cézanne ambiguously writes: “Interpret nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone; put everything in perspective, so that each side of an object, of a plane, recedes toward a central point.”
In addition to his preoccupation for the simplification of geometric structure, Cézanne was concerned with the means of rendering the effect of volume and space. His rather classical color-modulating system consisted of changing colors from warm to cool as the object turns away from the source of light. Cézanne’s departure from classicism, however, would be best summarized in the treatment and of application of the paint itself; a process in which his brushstrokes played an important role. The complexity of surface variations (or modulations) with overlapped shifting planes, seemingly arbitrary contours, contrasts and values combined to produce a strong patchwork effect. Increasingly in his later works, as Cézanne achieves a greater freedom, the patchwork becomes larger, bolder, more arbitrary, more dynamic and increasingly abstract. As the color planes acquire greater formal independence, defined objects and structures begin to lose their identity.
The art critic Louis Vauxcelles acknowledged the importance of Cézanne to the Cubists in his article titled From Cézanne to Cubism (published in Eclair, 1920). For Vauxcelles the influence had a two-fold character, both ‘architectural’ and ‘intellectual’. He stressed the statement made by Émile Bernard that Cézanne’s optics were “not in the eye, but in his brain”.
With both his courage and experience to draw from, Cézanne created a hybrid art-form. He combined on the one hand the imitative and the immobile, a system left over from the Renaissance, and the mobile on the other; together to forming a hybrid. His own generation would see in his contradictory codes nothing more than impotence, unaware of his intentions. However, the next generation would see in Cézanne greatness, precisely because of this duality. Cézanne was seen simultaneously as a classicist by those who chose to see in his work the imitation of nature and perspective, and as a revolutionary by those who saw in him a revolt against imitation and classical perspective. Timid, yet clearly manifest, was the will to deconstruct. Artists at the forefront of the Parisian art scene at the outset of the 20th century would not fail to notice these tendencies inherent in the work of Cézanne, and decided to venture still further.
Avant-garde artists in Paris (including Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Henri Le Fauconnier, Robert Delaunay, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, André Lhote, Othon Friesz, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Alexander Archipenko and Joseph Csaky) had begun reevaluating their own work in relation to that of Cézanne. A retrospective of Cézanne’s paintings had been held at the Salon d’Automne of 1904. Current works were exhibited at the Salon d’Automne of 1905 and 1906, followed by two commemorative retrospectives after his death in 1907. The influence generated by the work of Cézanne suggests a means by which some of these artist made the transition from Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism and Fauvism to Cubism.
Cézanne syntax didn’t just ripple outwards over the sphere, touching those that would become Cubists in France, Futurists in Italy and Die Brücke, Der Blaue Reiter, Expressionists in Germany, it also created currents that flowed throughout Parisian art world threatening to destabilize (if not topple) at least three of the core foundations of the academia: the geometrical method of perspective used to create the illusion of form, space and depth since the Renaissance; Figuratism, derived from real object sources (and therefore representational), and aesthetics. At the time, it was assumed that all art aims at beauty, and anything that wasn’t beautiful couldn’t be counted as art. The proto-Cubists revolted against the concept that objective beauty was central to the definition of art.
In his Sources of Cubism and Futurism, art historian Daniel Robbins reviews the Symbolist roots of modern art, exploring the literary source of both Cubist painting in France and Futurism in Italy. The revolution of free verse with which Gustave Kahn was associated, was a principle example of the correspondence between progress in art and politics; a growing conviction among young artists. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti acknowledged his indebtedness to it, as a source of modern artistic liberty. “Paul Fort’s Parisian review Vers et Prose”, writes Robbins, “as well as the Abbaye de Créteil, cradle of both Jules Romain’s Unanimism and Henri-Martin Barzun’s Dramatisme, had emphasized the importance of this new formal device”. Kahn’s free verse was revolutionary because, in his own words, “free verse is mobile, like mobile perspective”. In classical French poetry, writes Robbins, “meaning and rhythm were united, and sense and rhythm stopped simultaneously. The unity consisted in the number and rhythm of vowels and consonants together forming an organic and independent cell”. The system began to break down, according to Kahn, with the Romantic poets when they permitted a stop for the ear, with no stop in meaning. This is akin to Jacques Villon’s drawings and prints of 1908 and 1909, notes Robbins, “where the hatching lines that create a shape do not stop at the contour, but continue beyond, taking on an independent life”.
The next step, wrote Kahn, was to impart unity and cohesion by means of a union of related consonants, or the repetition of similar vowel sounds (assonance). Poets were thus free to create novel and complex rhythms, with, if so desired, inversions that destroyed the beat of the strophe. As Kahn noted, this was shocking because traditionally it was the regularity of the strophe that gave the reader meaning. Symbolist concepts vacated the metronome-like symmetry and introduced liberty, flexibility and elasticity. Each was to find her own rhythmic force. The classicists feared that the dismantling of meter by the decadent Symbolist ‘barbarians’ would undermine the French language, and thus attack the very foundations of social order.
Elasticity, one of Kahn’s favorite words used to describe free verse, would become the title of well known Futurist works by Umberto Boccioni, as well as two paintings by Roger de La Fresnaye, a proto-Cubist work and later a cubist work entitled Marie Ressort (ressort meaning elasticity or spring). These paintings, writes Robbins, are an homage to the prose of Jules Laforgue, whose poems concerned the life of his sister Marie.
“Artists of the years 1910-1914, including Mondrian and Kandinsky as well as the Cubists”, writes Robert Herbert, “took support from one of its central principles: that line and color have the ability to communicate certain emotions to the observer, independently of natural form.” He continues, “Neo-Impressionist color theory had an important heir in the person of Robert Delaunay. He had been a Neo-Impressionist in the Fauve period, and knew intimately the writings of Signac and Henry. His famous solar discs of 1912 and 1913 are descended from the Neo-Impressionists’ concentration upon the decomposition of spectral light.”
The height of Metzinger’s Neo-Impressionist work was in 1906 and 1907, when he and Delaunay painted portraits of one another in prominent rectangles of pigment. In the sky of Metzinger’s Coucher de soleil no. 1, 1906–1907 (Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller), is the solar disk which Delaunay was later (during his Cubist and Orphist phases) to make into a personal emblem.
The vibrating image of the sun in Metzinger’s painting, and so too of Delaunay’s Paysage au disque, “is an homage to the decomposition of spectral light that lay at the heart of Neo-Impressionist color theory…” (Herbert, 1968) (See, Jean Metzinger, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo).
Metzinger, followed closely by Delaunay—the two often painting together in 1906 and 1907—would develop a new style of Neo-Impressionism incorporating large cubic brushstrokes within highly geometrized compositions that had great significance shortly thereafter within the context of their Cubist works. Both Gino Severini and Piet Mondrian developed a similar mosaic-like Cubo-Divisionist technique between 1909 and 1911. The Futurists later (1911–1916) would incorporate the style, under the influence of Gino Severini’s Parisian works, into their ‘dynamic’ paintings and sculpture.
“The Neo-Impressionists” according to Maurice Denis, “inaugurated a vision, a technique, and esthetic based on the recent discoveries of physics, on a scientific conception of the world and of life.”
Robert Herbert writes, of the changes occurring in the early 20th century: “By about 1904, the resolution of the dilemma was made in favor of the abstract side of the equation. “Harmony means sacrifice”, Cross said, and much of early Neo-Impressionism was jettisoned. Although they paid lip service to their established theory, Signac and Cross now painted in enormous strokes which could never pretend to mix in the eye, and which did not even retain nuance of tone. Raw, bold yellows, magentas, reds, blues, and greens sprang forth from their canvases, making them as free of the trammels of nature as any painting then being done in Europe.”
Where the dialectic nature of Cézanne’s work had been greatly influential during the highly expressionistic phase of proto-Cubism, between 1908 and 1910, the work of Seurat, with its flatter, more linear structures, would capture the attention of the Cubists from 1911.
“With the advent of monochromatic Cubism in 1910-1911,” Herbert continues, “questions of form displaced color in the artists’ attention, and for these Seurat was more relevant. Thanks to several exhibitions, his paintings and drawings were easily seen in Paris, and reproductions of his major compositions circulated widely among the Cubists. The Chahut [Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo] was called by André Salmon “one of the great icons of the new devotion”, and both it and the Cirque (Circus), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, according to Guillaume Apollinaire, “almost belong to Synthetic Cubism”.
The concept was well established among the French artists that painting could be expressed mathematically, in terms of both color and form; and this mathematical expression resulted in an independent and compelling ‘objective truth,’ perhaps more so than the objective truth of the object represented.
Indeed, the Neo-Impressionists had succeeded in establishing an objective scientific basis in the domain of color (Seurat addresses both problems in Circus and Dancers). Soon, the Cubists were to do so in both the domain of form and dynamics (Orphism) would do so with color too.
With the exception of Picasso (his Blue and Pink periods being entirely different intellectually), all the leading Cubists and Futurists came from Neo-Impressionism, believing its objective validity to be a scientific discovery. It was in part this scientific basis that left the avant-garde artists vulnerable to the critique of scientific objectivity, of the type developed first by Immanuel Kant, then Ernst Mach, Henri Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski and of course Albert Einstein; in relation to, for example, the treatment of time as the fourth dimension.
Grasset’s cubes, cones and spheres
In 1905 Eugène Grasset wrote and published Méthode de Composition Ornementale, Éléments Rectilignes within which he systematically explores the decorative (ornamental) aspects of geometric elements, forms, motifs and their variations, in contrast with (and as a departure from) the undulating Art Nouveau style of Hector Guimard and others, so popular in Paris a few years earlier. Grasset stresses the principle that various simple geometric shapes (e.g., the circle, triangle, the square, along with their respective volumes, spheres, cones and cubes) are the basis of all compositional arrangements.
The Chronophotography of Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey had a profound influence on the beginnings of Cubism and Futurism. These photographic motion studies particularly interested artists that would later form a groups known as the Société Normande de Peinture Moderne and Section d’Or, including Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes and Marcel Duchamp. A predecessor to cinematography and moving film, chronophotography involved a series or succession of different images, originally created and used for the scientific study of movement. These studies would directly influence Marcel Duchamp’s Nu descendant un escalier n° 2 and could also be read into Metzinger’s work of 1910-12, though rather than simultaneously superimposing successive images to depict the motion, Metzinger represents the subject at rest viewed from multiple angles; the dynamic role is played by the artist rather than the subject.
Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photography of movements broken down frame by frame produced in the late 19th century depicting a wide variety of subjects in motion, were known in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Muybridge often traveled to Europe to promote his work and he met Étienne-Jules Marey in 1881. His freeze-framed images evoked time and motion. Displayed in a grid, the subject is captured in split-second intervals.
In an interview with Katherine Kuh, Marcel Duchamp spoke about his work and its relation to the photographic motion studies of Muybridge and Marey:
“The idea of describing the movement of a nude coming downstairs while still retaining static visual means to do this, particularly interested me. The fact that I had seen chronophotographs of fencers in action and horse galloping (what we today call stroboscopic photography) gave me the idea for the Nude. It doesn’t mean that I copied these photographs. The Futurists were also interested in somewhat the same idea, though I was never a Futurist. And of course the motion picture with its cinematic techniques was developing then too. The whole idea of movement, of speed, was in the air.”
Between 1883 and 1886, Muybridge made more than 100,000 images, capturing the interest of artists at home and abroad. In 1884, the painter Thomas Eakins briefly worked alongside him, learning about the application of photography to the study of human and animal motion. Eakins later favoured the use of multiple exposures superimposed on a single photographic negative, while Muybridge used multiple cameras to produce separate images that could be projected by his zoopraxiscope. In 1887, Muybridge’s photos were published as a massive portfolio comprising 781 plates and 20,000 photographs in a groundbreaking collection titled Animal Locomotion: an Electro-Photographic Investigation of Connective Phases of Animal Movements.
In his later work, Muybridge was influenced by, and in turn influenced the French photographer Étienne-Jules Marey. In 1881, Muybridge first visited Marey’s studio in France and viewed stop-motion studies before returning to the US to further his own work in the same area. Marey was a pioneer in producing multiple exposure sequential images using a rotary shutter in his so-called “Marey wheel” camera.
While Marey’s scientific achievements in photography and chronophotography are indisputable, Muybridge’s efforts were to some degree more artistic than scientific.
After his work at the University of Pennsylvania, Muybridge travelled extensively, giving numerous lectures and demonstrations of his still photography and primitive motion picture sequences. At the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Muybridge presented a series of lectures on the “Science of Animal Locomotion” in the Zoopraxographical Hall, built specially for that purpose. He used his zoopraxiscope to show his moving pictures to a paying public, making the Hall the first commercial movie theater.
Marey also made movies. His chronophotographic gun (1882) was capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second, and the most interesting fact is that all the frames were recorded on the same picture. Using these pictures he studied a great variety of animals. Some call it Marey’s “animated zoo”. Marey also studied human locomotion. He published several books including Le Mouvement in 1894.
His movies were at a high speed of 60 images per second and of excellent image quality: coming close to perfection in slow-motion cinematography. His research on how to capture and display moving images helped the emerging field of cinematography.
Towards the turn of the century he returned to studying the movement of quite abstract forms, like a falling ball. His last great work, executed just before the outbreak of Fauvism in Paris, was the observation and photography of smoke trails. This research was partially funded by Samuel Pierpont Langley under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, after the two met in Paris at the Exposition Universelle (1900).
Philosophical, scientific and social motivations
To justify such a radical move towards the depiction of the world in unrecognizable terms, Antliff and Leighten argue that the emergence of Cubism transpired during an era of dissatisfaction with positivism, materialism and determinism. The 19th century theories upon which such philosophies were based, came under attack by intellectuals such as the philosophers Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche, William James and the mathematician Henri Poincaré. New philosophical and scientific ideas emerged based on non-Euclidean geometry, Riemannian geometry and the relativity of knowledge, contradicting notions of absolute truth. These ideas were disseminated and debated in widely available popularized publications, and read by writers and artists associated with the advent of Cubism. Popularized too were new scientific discoveries such as Röntgen’s X-rays, Hertzian electromagnetic radiation and radio waves propagating through space, revealing realities not only hidden from human observation, but beyond the sphere of sensory perception. Perception was no longer associated solely with the static, passive receipt of visible signals, but became dynamically shaped by learning, memory and expectation.
Between 1881 and 1882 Poincaré wrote a series of works titled On curves defined by differential equations within which he built a new branch of mathematics called “qualitative theory of differential equations”. Poincaré showed that even if the differential equation can not be solved in terms of known functions, a wealth of information about the properties and behavior of the solutions can be found (from the very form of the equation). He investigated the nature of trajectories of integral curves in a plane; classifying singular points (saddle, focus, center, node), introducing the concept of a limit cycle and the loop index. For the finite-difference equations, he created a new direction – the asymptotic analysis of the solutions. He applied all these achievements to study practical problems of mathematical physics and celestial mechanics, and the methods used were the basis of its topological works.
Poincaré, following Gauss, Lobachevsky, Bernhard Riemann and others, viewed geometric models as mere conventions rather than as absolute. Euclidean geometry, upon which traditional perspective had been founded, was but one geometric configuration among others. Non-Euclidean geometry, with its hyperbolic or spherically curved space, was thus, at the very least, an equally valid alternative. This discovery in the world of mathematics overthrew 2000 years of seeming absolutes in Euclidean geometry, and threw into question conventional Renaissance perspective by suggesting the possible existence of multi-dimensional worlds and perspectives in which things might look very different.
Pictorial space could now be transformed in response to the artists own subjectivity (expressing primal impulses, irrespective of classical perspective and Beaux Arts artistic expectations). “Adherence to subjectivity in turn” write Antliff and Leighten, “signalled a radical break from past pictorial conventions in favour of a Nietzschean expression of individual will”.
Poincaré postulated that the laws believed to govern matter were created solely by the minds that ‘understood’ them and that no theory could be considered ‘true’. “The things themselves are not what science can reach…, but only the relations between things. Outside of these relations there is no knowable reality”, Poincaré wrote in his 1902 Science and Hypothesis.
Maurice Princet was a French mathematician and actuary who played a role in the birth of Cubism. An associate of Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Juan Gris and later Marcel Duchamp, Princet became known as “le mathématicien du cubisme” (“the mathematician of cubism”).
Princet is credited with introducing the work of Henri Poincaré and the concept of the “fourth dimension” to artists at the Bateau-Lavoir. Princet brought to the attention of Picasso, Metzinger and others, a book by Esprit Jouffret, Traité élémentaire de géométrie à quatre dimensions (Elementary Treatise on the Geometry of Four Dimensions, 1903), a popularization of Poincaré’s Science and Hypothesis in which Jouffret described hypercubes and other complex polyhedra in four dimensions and projected them onto the two-dimensional surface. Picasso’s sketchbooks for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon illustrate Jouffret’s influence on the artist’s work.
In 1907, Princet’s wife left him for André Derain, and he drifted away from the circle of artists at the Bateau-Lavoir. But Princet remained close to Metzinger and would soon participate in meetings of the Section d’Or in Puteaux. He gave informal lectures to the group, many of whom were passionate about mathematical order.
Princet’s influence on the Cubists was attested to by Maurice de Vlaminck: “I witnessed the birth of cubism, its growth, its decline. Picasso was the obstetrician, Guillaume Apollinaire the midwife, Princet the godfather.”
Louis Vauxcelles along similar lines dubbed Princet, sarcastically, the ‘father of Cubism’: “M. Princet has studied at length non-Euclidean geometry and the theorems of Riemann, of which Gleizes and Metzinger speak rather carelessly. Now then, M. Princet one day met M. Max Jacob and confided him one or two of his discoveries relating to the fourth dimension. M. Jacob informed the ingenious M. Picasso of it, and M. Picasso saw there a possibility of new ornamental schemes. M. Picasso explained his intentions to M. Apollinaire, who hastened to write them up in formularies and codify them. The thing spread and propagated. Cubism, the child of M. Princet, was born”.
Metzinger, in 1910, wrote of Princet: “[Picasso] lays out a free, mobile perspective, from which that ingenious mathematician Maurice Princet has deduced a whole geometry”. Later, Metzinger wrote in his memoirs:
Maurice Princet joined us often. Although quite young, thanks to his knowledge of mathematics he had an important job in an insurance company. But, beyond his profession, it was as an artist that he conceptualized mathematics, as an aesthetician that he invoked n-dimensional continuums. He loved to get the artists interested in the new views on space that had been opened up by Schlegel and some others. He succeeded at that.
Bergson, James, Stein
The nineteenth-century positivists concept of measurable deterministic time became untenable as Henri Bergson exposed his radical idea that the human experience of time was a creative process associated with biological evolution. He rejected the division of space into separate measurable units. Both Bergson and William James described the intellect as an instrumental tool, a by-product of evolution. The intellect was no longer considered a cognitive faculty able to grasp reality in an impartial manner. Instead, argued Bergson, we should rely on intuition to inspired creative insights in both the sciences and the arts. His third major work, Creative Evolution, the most widely known and most discussed of his books, appeared in 1907, constituting one of the most profound and original contributions to the philosophical consideration of evolution. The proto-Cubists would have known of his work through, amongst others, Gertrude Stein a student of William James. Stein had recently purchased, following the 1905 Salon d’Automne, Matisse’s Woman with a Hat (La femme au chapeau) and Picasso’s Young Girl with Basket of Flowers. With James’s supervision, Stein and fellow student, Leon Mendez Solomons, performed experiments on normal motor automatism, a phenomenon hypothesized to occur in people when their attention is divided between two simultaneous intelligent activities such as writing and speaking, yielding examples of writing that appeared to represent “stream of consciousness”.
By early 1906, Leo and Gertrude Stein owned paintings by Henri Manguin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Honoré Daumier, Henri Matisse and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Among Stein’s acquaintances who frequented the Saturday evenings at her Parisian apartment were: Pablo Picasso, Fernande Olivier (Picasso’s mistress), Georges Braque, André Derain, Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin (Apollinaire’s mistress), Henri Rousseau, Joseph Stella and Jean Metzinger.
Disposed to accept the unorthodox in life and art, and naturally tolerant of eccentricity, Gertrude Stein had accommodated the tendency of her Parisian contemporaries of spend their time and talent looking for ways to Épater la bourgeoisie. According to the American poet and literary critic John Malcolm Brinnin, this was “a society committed to the systematic outraging of every rule”. Picasso’s famous dinner party for Le Douanier Rousseau was an eye-opening event in the proto-Cubist period. Le Banquet Rousseau, “one of the most notable social events of the twentieth century”, writes Brinnin, “was neither an orgiastic occasion nor even an opulent one. Its subsequent fame grew from the fact that it was a colorful happening within a revolutionary art movement at a point of that movement’s earliest success, and from the fact that it was attended by individuals whose separate influences radiated like spokes of creative light across the art world for generations.”
Maurice Raynal, in Les Soires de Paris, 15 January 1914, p. 69, wrote about “Le Banquet Rousseau”. Years later the French writer André Salmon recalled the setting of the illustrious banquet; Picasso’s studio at Le Bateau-Lavoir:
“Here the nights of the Blue Period passed… here the days of the Rose Period flowered… here the Demoiselles d’Avignon halted in their dance to re-group themselves in accordance with the golden number and the secret of the fourth dimension… here fraternized the poets elevated by serious criticism into the School of the Rue Ravignan… here in these shadowy corridors lived the true worshippers of fire … here one evening in the year 1908 unrolled the pageantry of the first and last banquet offered by his admirers to the painter Henri Rousseau called the Douanier.”
Guests at the banquet Rousseau of 1908, in addition to Picasso and the guest of honor, included Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Marie Laurencin, Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Maurice Raynal, Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, Leo Stein and Gertrude Stein.
No observer, either academic or independent, could have mistaken the direction of change taken by the avant-garde between 1906 and 1910. The fundamental shift away from nature within artistic circles had advanced to the status of revolt, in far-reaching ways, diverging significantly from the developments of Cézanne or Seurat. The symptoms of that shift during the first decade of the 20th century are countless and redoubtable, bursting practically overnight, and were soon to be perceived by the reactionary adversaries as no more than grotesque, incomprehensible, to be considered with haughty amusement.
Source from Wikipedia