Jean Metzinger Catalogue Raisonné
Number: AM-12-012 Jean Metzinger
Date: circa 1912
Title: Le Fumeur, Homme à la pipe (Man with a Pipe)
Medium: Charcoal on paper
Dimensions: 61.4 x 47.8 cm
Inscriptions: Signed (lower right)
Provenance: Morton G. Neumann Collection, Chicago (by 1981): Estate sale
Sotheby’s, New York, 17 November 1998, lot 107 (as circa 1912)
Galerie Berès, Paris
Private collection (acquired from the above, 2006)
Exhibitions: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Morton G. Neumann Family Collection, Selected Works, February-April 1981, p. 12, no. 39
Notes: There are two candidates for whom Metzinger may have depicted as the sitter of this work:
1. French poet, painter, writer, and critic Max Jacob. This work appears to be a preliminary study of the upper portion of Metzinger’s 1913 painting Portrait de Max Jacob (AM-13-009).
2. French poet, novelist, and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire. Closely related to a painting by Metzinger titled Le Fumeur (Man with a Pipe), Carnegie Museum of Art (AM-12-021). Apollinaire mentioned this work as a presumed portrait of himself in Paris-Journal, 3 July 1914.
In passing, it is worth highlighting the underlying planar structure of the work on paper, as well as both paintings. In addition to the overlapping planes are a superimposed network of spherical forms and rotational symmetry transformations, particularly striking in the two canvas, but too in the drawing (creating a sense of mobile or multiple perspective). The groupings of geometric forms are imbued with optical transparencies, contributing to a variety of depth cues and to plasticity or crystalline-like fluctuations in density of the composition. The ensemble of interacting elements appear to have been conceived on the basis of a purely geometric foundation. That is, Metzinger drew a highly abstract planar schematic, upon which the compositions are built. For this alone, these works are precursors to the Crystal Cubist era; a collection of works characterized by Metzinger’s desire to build his compositions synthetically from the ground up; the theoretical underpinnings of which Metzinger elaborated upon between 1914 and 1916.
Metzinger wrote: ‘If the beauty of a painting solely depends on its pictorial qualities: only retaining certain elements, those that seem to suit our need for expression, then with these elements, building a new object, an object which we can adapt to the surface of the painting without subterfuge. If that object looks like something known, I take it increasingly for something of no use. For me it is enough for it to be “well done”, to have a perfect accord between the parts and the whole.’ (Jean Metzinger, quoted in Au temps des Cubistes, 1910-1920, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Berès, Paris, 2006, p. 432.)