This section is from the book "Is It Art? Post-Impressionism. Futurism. Cubism.", by J. Nilsen Laurvik.
Thus it will be seen that the principles formulated by CÚzanne were nowise revolutionary in character. It was his application of these principles that was new to the point of being startling. First of all he strongly affirmed the basic necessity of design as the fundamental element of all art. "The painter," he says in one of his illuminating letters, "makes concrete his sensations and perceptions by means of design and color." This, too, was in accordance with the past teaching of the schools; the novelty consisted in the fact that CÚzanne actually carried it into practice with the utmost consistency, reducing form to an exact science in which he established the principle that form in nature is based upon the geometric figures of the sphere, cone and cylinder.
His re-discovery of this principle, which had been the animating spirit of art from the time when it emerged from a purely intuitive state into a condition of self-consciousness that perceived in geometry the key to the universe, his affirmation of this principle constituted his chief contribution to modern art.
Upon this solid foundation his fame rests securely and in due time his work will no doubt repose in the Louvre together with those other masters - the Venetians and the Spaniards - whom he venerated. Even now, only seven years after his death, he is regarded by many of the most discerning spirits of our age as at least a demi-classic who had the root of the matter in him and therefore worthy to be ranked with the elect. He was perhaps the last great painter whose work has in it something of the grand manner, a certain severity of style that inevitably recalls El Greco and the Primitives with whom he has much in common. At all events it would seem that he carried realism to its ultimate limits and that art can go no further in this direction but must turn back upon itself or seek new channels of expression.
This is exactly what has happened in the person of Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard from Malaga, whose advent marks the parting of the ways. His whole tendency is a negation of the main tenets of the gospel of CÚzanne whose conception of form he rejects together with Monet's conception of light and color. To him both are non-existent. Instead he endeavors "to produce with his work an impression, not with the subject but the manner in which he expresses it," to quote his confrere, Marius De Zayas, who studied the raison d'etre of this work together with Picasso himself.
Describing his process of esthetic deduction further M. De Zayas tells us that: "He (Picasso) receives a direct impression from external nature; he analyzes, develops, and translates it, and afterwards executes it in his own particular style, with the intention that the picture should be the pictorial equivalent of the emotion produced by nature. In presenting his work he wants the spectator to look for the emotion or idea generated from the spectacle and not the spectacle itself.
From this to the psychology of form there is but one step, and the artist has given it resolutely and deliberately. Instead of the physical manifestation he seeks in form the psychic one, and on account of his peculiar temperament, his psychical manifestation inspires him with geometrical sensations.
When he paints he does not limit himself to taking from an object only those planes which the eye perceives, but deals with all those which according to him constitute the individuality of form; and with his peculiar fantasy he develops and transforms them.
And this suggests to him new impressions, which he manifests with new forms, because from the idea of the representation of a being, a new being is born, perhaps different from the first one, and this becomes the represented being.
Each one of his paintings is the coefficient of the impressions that form has performed in his spirit, and in these paintings the public must see the realization of an artistic ideal, and must judge them by the abstract sensation they produce, without trying to look for the factors that entered into the composition of the final result.
As it is not his purpose to perpetuate on canvas an aspect of the external world, by which to produce an artistic impression, but to represent with the brush the impression he has directly received from nature, synthesized by his fantasy, he does not put on the canvas the remembrance of a past sensation, but describes a present sensation......
In his paintings perspective does not exist; in them there are nothing but harmonies suggested by form, and registers which succeed themselves to compose a general harmony which fills the rectangle that constitutes the picture.
Following the same philosophical system in dealing with light, as the one he follows in regard to form, to him color does not exist, but only the effects of light. This produces in matter certain vibrations, which produce in the individual certain impressions.
From this it results, that Picasso's paintings present to us the evolution by which light and form have operated in developing themselves in his brain to produce the idea, and his composition is nothing but the synthetic expression of his emotion."
Thus it will be seen that he tries to represent in essence what seems to exist only in substance. And, inasmuch as his psychical impressions inspire in him geometrical sensations, certain of these exhibits are in the nature of geometrical abstractions that have little or nothing in common with anything hitherto produced in art. Its whole tendency would appear to be away from art into the realm of metaphysics.
Here is a design, a pattern of triangles, ellipses and semi-circles that at first glance appears to be little more than the incoherent passage of a compass across the paper in the hands of some absent-minded engineer. After a little attentive study, however, these enigmatic lines resolve themselves into the semblance of a human figure and one begins to discover a clearly defined intention behind this apparent chaos of ideated sensations.