Le Fumeur

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)

Christie’s, New York, 19 November 2022, lot 617

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.)

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