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Jean Metzinger (France 1883-1956)

Nature morte

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 18 – 20 May 2022

Lot 303 Jean Metzinger (France 1883-1956). Nature morte. Signed J Metzinger lower right. Oil on panel, 33 x 41 cm.

Executed around 1917.
With stamp ”Auktion Pauli 1942” on the reverse.


200.000 – 300.000 SEK
€ 19.000 – 29.000


The collection of artist Georg Pauli (1855-1935), Stockholm.
Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm, auction no. 36, “Georg och Hanna Paulis samling”, 20 March 1942, lot 440.
The collection of Herman Gotthardt (1873-1949), Malmö, acquired at the above sale.
Thence by descent to the present owner.


Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm (according to a note on the reverse).
Herman Gotthardts konstgalleri, Malmö (according to a note on the reverse).

In context

Jean Metzinger’s Nature morte – at the center of cubism 

Many young Swedish artists travelled to Paris during the first half of the decade to study for André Lhote. The artist and collector Georg Pauli was among the first ones to arrive in Paris and together with Prince Eugen he enrolled at André Lhote’s painting school. Georg Pauli developed a strong interest for French art and collected a large number of important works by artists such as André Lhote and Jean Metzinger. The wonderful still-life included in this sale was acquired by Georg Pauli and remained in his collection until the auction of his prominent art collection held at Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm in 1942. At the time of their passing, Georg and his wife Hanna Pauli owned the largest and most prestigious private art collection in Sweden.

The year of 1912 marks a milestone for the French Cubism movement. This was the year of the first groundbreaking exhibition that united the Cubist artists and for the first time presented them to the public. It was also the year when the French Cubist school decided to form the group La Section d’Or (The Golden Group) in order to exhibit together. But also, this was the year when Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes published Du Cubisme, the first and most comprehensive explanation dedicated to this revolutionary new way of depicting the world.

Many of the new ideas originated from weekly discussions in the home of Jacques Villon in a suburb of Paris. Metzinger and Gleizes were joined by the Duchamp brothers, Delaunay, Le Fauconnier, Gris, Léger, Picasso and Archipenko, among others. Mathematics and geometry played a central role in the discussions, and Metzinger was the one who originally recognised the stylistic similarities in the paintings of Picasso, Braque and Delaunay. The Cubist exhibition, which consisted of 180 works by 31 artists, took place at Galerie la Boétie in October 1912. It proved successful and Cubism now became recognised as a new avant-garde movement. Much gratitude should be sent to Metzinger for this – since he not only contributed as an artist that practiced Cubism, but also as a writer who, to the yet unknowing public, explained how to understand these new ideas.

In the following year, Apollinaire wrote that Metzinger’s “art, always more and more abstract, but always charming, raises and attempts to solve the most difficult and unforeseen problems of aesthetics.” (D. Robbins, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, exhibition catalogue, Iowa City, 1985, p. 44). The German art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who was of great importance for many of them, originally supported the Cubist painters. As was also Léonce Rosenberg, who inherited a gallery and a small fortune and in 1915 decided to open his Galerie l’Effort Moderne on rue de la Baume in Paris. Shortly after the opening, he began to collaborate with Metzinger, Gleizes, Hayden, Herbin and other avant-garde artists.

During the First World War Metzinger objected to active service, even though he came from a military family. Instead he was sent to the front as a medical aid, where he witnessed the disasters of the war. These experiences were of profound disturbance for Metzinger, being an avowed pacifist. When he had recovered from his wartime experiences, he searched for a new way in his artistic development, as did many others of his fellow artist friends. In a letter to Gleizes from July 4, 1916 he explains; “After two years of study I have succeeded in establishing the basics of this new kind of perspective I have talked so much about. It is not the materialist perspective of Gris, nor the romantic perspective of Picasso. It is rather a metaphysical perspective – I take full responsibility for the word. You can’t begin to imagine what I’ve found out since the beginning of the war, working outside painting but for painting. The geometry of the fourth space has no more secrets for me” (D. Robbins, p. 21).

This newfound fourth space marked a significant shift in Metzinger’s approach to painting. In 1919 Rosenberger presented a solo exhibition with his works, in a series of exhibitions to show that Cubism was still very much alive even though four years of war had passed. Since the Renaissance, the Cubist movement has investigated the most revolutionary spatial conventions of the perspective in the Western Art. This is, undoubtedly, one of the most artistic movement of the 20th century, and has been of the greatest importance for following generations of artists.

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