This section is from the book "Is It Art? Post-Impressionism. Futurism. Cubism.", by J. Nilsen Laurvik.
His color sense is as personal as either of these masters, but more sensuous and exotic perhaps, while his predilection for the primitive art is no less natural and instinctive. He, like CÚzanne, was drawn to it by an inner compulsion and not by any extravagant desire to appear different.
Both of these men impressed upon their work something of the character of their own physiognomy, producing something at once individual and yet related to the main evolution of art. From the method followed by these two painters comes the name I have applied to their art and that of their followers: primitive art, because of its tendency to go back to the beginning. Hence a few observations on primitive art may be in place here.
The people who appeared at the dawn of civilization cultivated the arts, not as they wished, but as they could. They had neither masters nor antecedents and they copied nature without being able to interpret nature, nor even to faithfully reproduce it, because they lacked the most indispensable elements. Drawing was limited to the simple line, and later when they began to use color their paintings were monochromes; when they finally arrived at parachronism this was imperfect and crude; and as they still remained ignorant of the laws of perspective their figures appear all in the same plane upon a flat background.
The psychology of a race is identical to the psychology of the individual; the intellectual development is just as gradual in one as in the other. Look at the drawing spontaneously made by a child and compare it with those made by the artists of the primitive races. In both of them we will find the silhouette, the line more or less clumsy, but not lacking in intention. This is quite universal and common to all humanity in that particular state of development, finding a more or less identical expression in Aztec drawings and Egyptian drawings which have led certain ethnologists and archaeologists to establish anthropological affiliations.
Appearances have led them into error. They have not considered that humanity is the same wherever it is found and follows the same laws in its development. To establish affiliations simply because one finds that two races have developed their arts through the same methods and that there are resemblances in their work, is as reasonable as to pretend to establish the same affiliations because it may be observed that in both races children begin by crawling, later they learn to stand, then to walk and finally to run. This evolution of motion corresponding to the physical evolution is not a patrimony of a certain race but of humanity.
The same thing happens with the psychological evolution, and consequently the same happens also with the esthetic evolution, which proceeds from the simple to the complex, from the line to the composition, from the note to the melody and from the melody to the harmony. The evolution which takes place in each individual is a synthesis, in the material as well as in the psychological domain, of the evolution of each race, and even of all humanity.
To take primitive art as a model or even "as a point of departure," as our present-day Pseudo-Primitives are fond of saying, seems to me as illogical as to take as a model of locomotion the way a child transports itself by crawling. I repeat that the primitives drew and painted as best they could and not as they wanted to just as the child walks as he can and not as he wants to. And therefore I can not bring myself to believe that the realization of our present-day artistic ideals can be sought in good faith in the archives of primitive times.
With the exception of one or two men like Picasso I feel that what these Pseudo-Primitives of the present are seeking is novelty, something that will break what has already been consecrated, to compel attention with the extraordinary even if they have to fall into extravagance. It does not seem to me that this is the logical consequence of progress in general and of painting in particular, because I do not see in it anything that signifies advancement, either in its technique or in its arguments, neither in the impression it tries to produce nor in the ideas it tries to awaken.
I do not see that this reversion to primitive art can be the natural result of the slow and laborious evolution which has been operating in painting through long centuries. But I have to admit that humanity, at present, finds itself shaken by a terrible neurasthenia which unbalances its spirit in general, and particularly in art. And in these chaotic social conditions may perhaps be discovered the underlying cause of all the unrest that has found such a perverse and disconcerting expression in art.
However, I feel very strongly that this whole movement obeys the spirit of imitation, and that most of those painters and sculptors who are to-day regarded as the most original and revolutionary of all, have simply discovered a fruitful source of inspiration in the works of the primitive races and much that appears so startling, such as the sculpture of Brancusi, of Maillol, Archipenko, and Lembruck, as well as the painting of Matisse, is very closely related to primitive African art and primitive Greek and Etruscan art. Brancusi's much discussed portrait of "Mile. Pogany" as well as his "Une Muse" is obviously related to the fine art of ancient Benin and to early Greek primitive sculpture.
This indebtedness to the past is very apparent in the work of Henri Matisse who of all these men is the one who has given the greatest impetus to this movement. Like Gauguin he was an academic draughtsman of the most approved type, saturated with the principles of the schools. After the exhibitions held a few years ago of CÚzanne's paintings he saw a new light and changed his whole style of painting; gathering all the energies of his indisputable talent and forcing them into the service of the new ideal he shot into instant prominence in the artistic firmament.