Jean Metzinger : biography

June 24, 1883 - November 3, 1956


In the words of S.E. Johnson, an in-depth analysis of Metzinger's Pre-Cubist period—his first artistic peak—"can only class that painter, in spite of his youth, as being already one of the leading artistic personalities in that period directly preceding Cubism. [...] In an attempt to understand the importance of Jean Metzinger in Modern Art, we could limit ourselves to three considerations. Firstly, there is the often overlooked importance of Metzinger's Divisionist Period of 1900-1908. Secondly, there is the role of Metzinger in the founding of the Cubist School. Thirdly, there is the consideration of Metzinger's whole Cubist Period from 1909 to 1930. In taking into account these various factors, we can understand why Metzinger must be included among that small group of artists who have taken a part in the shaping of Art History in the first half of the Twentieth Century."

Early life

Danseuse au café (Dancer in a café), oil on canvas, 146.1 x 114.3 cm, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Published in Au Salon d'Automne "Les Indépendants" 1912, Exhibited at the 1912 Salon d'Automne]] Jean Metzinger came from a prominent military family. His great-grandfather, Nicolas Metzinger (18 May 1769 - 1838), Captain in the 1st Artillery Regiment on Horse, and Knight of the Legion of Honour, had served under Napoleon Bonaparte. A street in the Sixième arrondissement of Nantes (Rue Metzinger) was named after Jean's grandfather, Charles Henri Metzinger (10 May 1814 – ?). Following the early death of his father, Eugène Francois Metzinger, Jean pursued interests in mathematics, music and painting. Jean's younger brother Maurice (born 24 Oct. 1885) would become a musician, excelling as a cellist.Jean Metzinger, 1883-1956: exposition, Nantes, École des beaux-arts, Atelier sur l'herbe, 4 au 26 janvier 1985 By 1900 Jean was a student at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, working under Hippolyte Touront, a well-known portrait painter who taught an academic, conventional style of painting. Jean Metzinger, however, was interested in the current trends in painting.

Metzinger sent three paintings to the Salon des Indépendants in 1903, and subsequently moved to Paris with the proceeds from their sale. From the age of 20, Metzinger supported himself as a professional painter. He exhibited regularly in Paris from 1903, participating in the first Salon d'Automne the same year and taking part in a group show with Raoul Dufy, Lejeune and Torent, from 19 January-22 February 1903 at the gallery run by Berthe Weill (1865–1951), with another show November 1903. Metzinger exhibited at Berthe Weill's gallery 23 November-21 December 1905 and again 14 January-10 February 1907, with Robert Delaunay, in 1908 (6–31 January) with André Derain, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso, and 28 April-28 May 1910 with Derain, Rouault and Kees van Dongen. He would show four more times at Weill's gallery, 17 January-1 February 1913, March 1913, June 1914 and February 1921. It is at Berthe Weill's that he would meet Max Jacob for the first time. Berthe Weill was also the first Parisian art dealer to sell works of Picasso (1906). Along with Picasso and Metzinger, she helped discover Matisse, Derain, Amedeo Modigliani and Utrillo.

In 1904 Metzinger showed several paintings, again at the Salon des Indépendants (six) and the Salon d’Automne (where he would show regularly throughout his life).

In 1905 Metzinger exhibited eight paintings at Salon des Indépendants. In this exhibition Metzinger is directly associated with the artists soon to be known as Fauves: Camoin, Delaunay, Derain, van Dongen, Dufy, Friesz, Manguin, Marquet, Matisse, Valtat, Vlaminck and others. Matisse is in charge of the hanging committee, assisted by Metzinger, Bonnard, Camoin, Laprade Luce, Manguin, Marquet, Puy and Vallotton.

In 1906 Metzinger exhibits at the Salon des Indépendants. Once again he is elected member of the hanging committee, with Matisse, Signac and others. Again with the Fauves and associated artists, Metzinger exhibits at the 1906 Salon d'Automne, Paris. He exhibits six works at the 1907 Salon des Indépendants, followed by the presentation of two works at the 1907 Salon d'Automne.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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