Composition of 1915 is a masterful display of bright, colourful abstraction that cemented Gleizes’s talent as a central force of Modernist painting in the mid-1910s. The coloration, derivative of fauvism and yet meshed with the stark intellect of Cubism creates a spectacular article of Modernist fervour. The work is elegantly planned as well as being vibrant and lively, the volutes that curve up through the bottom of the painting add a classical element to the careful balance of the composition. The title is apt and shows the master’s unique language in still-life painting.
Albert Gleizes is widely considered one of the pioneers of Cubism and the present work stems from arguably his most popular and influential period. Gleizes first exhibited in the Salon D’Automnes in 1903 and by 1910 his early Cubist work was shown at the Salon des Independents. Soon Gleizes was an integral part of the Puteaux movement with such luminaries as Jean Metzinger, Jacques Villon and his brother Marcel Duchamps.
He worked particularly closely with Jean Metzinger and they even wrote a theoretical essay together on Cubism in 1912. Their aesthetic follows a similar path, where the droll, intensely cerebral paintings of analytical cubism meets a vivacity of colour and ambitious, semi-abstract shapes that pointed the way towards a freedom of colour as well as composition.
Gleizes’ work was exhibited at the first New York Armory show of 1913, the watershed for American collectors keen to acquire Modern works of art from the continent. It was in 1915, after a short stint on the front line, that he married the subject of the present work, Juliette Roche. Following the war Gleizes moved to the United States where he adored the enthusiasm of the art scene and the culture of Modernity so prevalent in 1920s New York City. He was greatly admired by Peggy Guggenheim and in the 1930s she bought a great deal of his work for her collection. Gleizes was made a Legion d’Honneur in 1951 and on his death in 1953 was interred in his Juliette’s family mausoleum.