Gleizes started work as an apprentice in his father’s textile design industry, which he left at the age of 19 to devote himself to painting, starting out as self-taught under the influence of Cézanne. As an active member of the Parisian artistic avantgarde, he was one of the founders of the Autumn Salon. The influence of Le Fauconnier and Metzinger led him to simplify his style around 1908. He exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants with his Cubist friends in 1911. The important role he played in Cubism included his crucial work as the movement’s theoretician: in 1912, along with Metzinger, he published Du Cubisme. His work was also exhibited at the Salon de la Section d’Or, founded that year by Jacques Villon.
Having been mobilized in 1914 to serve in the Great War, he and other artists were entrusted with organizing cultural entertainments for the troops. In 1915, together with his wife Juliette Roche, he set sail for New York, where they met Duchamp and Picabia, with whom he exhibited at the Bourgeois Galleries. Always loyal to Cubism, Gleizes did not follow his colleagues at the start of their Dadaist adventure. His style continued to simplify towards the abstraction of synthetic Cubism, with its radical planes of color and geometric schematization. In 1916, in Barcelona, he contributed to Picabia’s magazine 391, and held his first solo exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries. He then went back to New York and finally returned to Paris in 1919, where the Cubist scene had changed dramatically.
During the 1920s, influenced by Picabia and Léonce Rosenberg, and also by a brief educational period, his compositions focused on ‘translations’ and ‘rotations’ of geometric figures, a fundamental method in the composition of his ‘object-paintings’.
In 1926, the Gleizes moved to Sablons, where in his home, called Moly-Sabata, the painter established a small colony of artists and artisans interested in removing themselves from the influence of industrial production. In 1931 he joined the Abstraction-Creation group.
From the mid-1930s through to the end of his life, Gleizes returned to figuration. After the war he tried to represent Christian themes according to the Cubist aesthetic. Some years later he collaborated with Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger and Léopold Survage on the murals for the Paris International Exposition of 1937. The following year he worked with Jacques Villon and Robert and Sonia Delaunay on the decoration of the Salon des Tuileries. In 1939 he moved to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and devoted himself to painting sacred murals. During this period he created several etchings on Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, various theoretical texts, and a fresco for the chapel of Les Fontaines in Chantilly. A major retrospective of his work was held in Lyon in 1947.
Noemi de Haro