Jean Metzinger Catalogue Raisonné

Number: AM-07-001 Jean Metzinger

Date: 1907

Title: Les Ibis

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 54 x 73 cm

Inscriptions: Signed (lower left)

Provenance: Formerly collection of the son of Nabis painter Emile Bernard.

Exhibitions: Pre-Cubist and Cubist Works, 1900-1930, International Galleries, Chicago, 17 April – 10 May 1964, no. 4, reproduced p. 4 (as circa 1907)

Notes: Les Ibis is one of a series of compositions in which Metzinger had virtually abandoned his Divisionist fracture in favor of a free-style expressionistic hand with a Fauve palette. This painting and others of the series, just as his advanced Divisionist works, is chromatically-driven with strong anti-naturalistic pictorialism. Les Ibis though is no longer rooted in the Neo-Impressionist color theories that Seurat had advocated.

The colors Metzinger uses are basically pure. Many of them are mixed together probably directly on the canvas (rather than on a palette), yet they retain their brilliance, i.e., there are no inert tones. As before, contrasting hues are placed side by side—resulting in optical vibration effects. The lines, the large strokes of color, like words in a phrase, are treated autonomously—each possessing an abstract value independent of one another, yet combine with meaning. The impulse toward abstraction seems to be a primary quality of Les Ibis. Though not devoid of reference to the real world, Metzinger’s treatment of the painted surface meant to draw away from nature, in the sense of disdaining imitation in order to concentrate upon the distillation of essential shapes and movements. These distilled forms were superior to nature because they partook of idea, and represented the dominance of the artist over mere nature.

This composition was not only different from what Seurat, Cross, Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Odilon Redon, and the other Neo-Impressionists, Symbolists and Nabis, but different from Matisse, Derain, Friesz and the other Fauves. Indeed Metzinger had already been a pioneers without knowing it. (Alexander Mittelmann, Jean Metzinger, Divisionism, Cubism, Neoclassicism and Post Cubism, written 2 May 2012)

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