Louis Marcoussis. The Polish creator of cubism

Czas trwania: 29.01–21.02.2019

Ludwik Markus found himself in Paris in 1903. He settled down on Montparnassie – district occupied by the most active artistic bohemia. He also quickly mingled in the company of artists living on Montmartre. In his artistic work from this period we can clearly notice influences of the Impressionism and the Fauvism. First years in Paris took the artist to the profound creative crisis, in the end which led him to quit painting for 3 years. Fortunately in 1910, in the circus on the edge of Montmartre Markus got to know the poet and art theoretician Guillaume Apollinaire. Thanks to that meeting Markus got access to the artists searching for the new way of depicting. Soon, along with Picasso and Braque, Markus got to a select group of authors of the new avant-garde movement – of cubism, which is being regarded as one of the most important revolutions in the art history. He owed also his new French name to Apollinaire – Louis Marcoussis.

At the Louis Marcoussis exhibition. The Polish creator of cubism has been collected gouaches and oils from the period from 1912 to 1930. Works from the first decade of the twentieth century indicate the moment of the development of the cubist theory of imaging. At the time, Marcoussis used a limited palette of colors, focusing primarily on building a composition based on the relationship between synthetically included objects. He supplemented the structures of objects with fragments of inscriptions, numbers or photographs in accordance with the poetics of papiers collés. At that time, Marcoussis work remains close to the assumption of synthetic cubism.

Between 1914–1919, Marcoussis once again suspended artistic activity, this time during the turmoil of the First World War. The 1920s is the period when the artist builds an original style within the framework of a creative approach of analytic cubism. Similarly to Picasso or Braque, props of Marcoussis’ works were everyday objects: playing cards, newspapers, dishes and musical instruments, which the artist „undressed“ into components displaying them from different perspectives. What constitutes the originality of Marcoussis’ style is the special use of color. The artist eagerly reached for bright colors, vibrating thanks to contrasting combinations, difference in temperature and intensity of spots. The painter’s experiments also consisted of introducing dynamics into the composition and building the impression of movement. It served a varied texture, which was obtained by complementing the painting substrate with elements such as leather and sand, as well as using a canvas with a clearly marked structure.

The next stage in Marcoussis’ creation falls on the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, when in his painting there are analogies to the poetics of the Italian pittura metaphisica, revealing a link with the artistic vision of Giorgio de Chirico. Dull coloring, poetic references and an echo of symbolism indicate that Marcoussis’ artistic quests turned towards surrealism, approaching the works of Paul Klee and Joan Miro, but without losing any of the peculiar, geometrical cubist beauty. (text: Sandra Włodarczyk)

Louis Marcoussis, originally Ludwik Kazimierz Markus (1878–1941) – a Polish painter of Jewish origin, working in Paris for most of his life. He came from a wealthy family of Warsaw assimilated Jews associated with the artistic milieu. After a short period of law studies, he abandoned them in favor of learning painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków under the guidance of Jan Stanisławski and Józef Mehoffer. In 1903 he left for Paris, where he quickly found himself among the avant-garde artists with whom he co-founded the bases of cubism. In the 1920s and 1930s, while remaining under the intellectual rigor of Cubism, he experimented in his own, mature artistic way. At the end of the 1930s, probably under the influence of the surrealist movement, the elements of lyricism and poetic metaphor began to appear in his work. In addition to easel painting, Marcoussis practiced graphics and book illustrations, including to the works of Apollinaire and Tristan Tzara. He is also the author of the famous portrait of Gertrude Stein – a writer and patron of artists, an extremely significant figure of the inter-war Paris.

Works in collections:

Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou – MuséeNational d’Art Moderne; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tate Modern – London; Muzeum Sztuki Łódź; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Saint Louis Art Museum; Yale University Art Gallery; The; Barnes Foundation; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; National Gallery of Art – Washington DC; Cleveland Museum of Art; Norwich Castle; Museum and Art Gallery; The Phillips Collection; Manchester Art Gallery; Philadelphia Museum of Art


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