Lettres de Léo Marchutz à Erle Loran - 1947
5th June 1947
Leo Marchutz
Château Noir

Dear Mr. Loran,
Our friend John Rewald, who has been here last week, lent me the copy of your book « Cézannes composition » he possesses, and it is with tremendous interest I am studying your book. But first I have to say a little word about myself. I am a painter to. In 1928, I had the pleasure of paying you a visit in Cézannes atelier, it was Marsden Hartley, who introduced me to you. In 1932 I got a copy of your article in « The Arts ». Meanwhile I had found several of Cézannes « motifs » and had got in touch with Novotny, who was already working on his study about Cézanne and asking me, if I could provide him with photographs of some of Cézannes motifs. I had no camera. In spring 1933, John Rewald came to Aix, as a student of art history, and we became friends. He had a Zeiss-Ikonta, which later on he changed against a Leica, and undertook to make the photos for Novotny. In doing so, we found more and more motifs, and finally Rewald got so interested in Cézanne, that he decided to write a book about him, which first appeared in 1936 : his « Cézanne and Zola ».
The reason for my writing you is the following. I think your book is very interesting and I sympathise with its aim « to establish a few general principles (of drawing and composition?) that can be applied to creative work, teaching and criticism in general ».
But I have many objections and perhaps suggestions I should like to submit you. You are a teacher and it seems to me terribly dangerous to lead yound peaple to accept opinions, which do not always withstand a critical analysis, as first principles of art. There is a much more complicated psychological processus going on in a man, and especially in a painter, before, when and after he works with his hands and I do not see that you emphasize enough the importance of that. Also it is, in my opinion, impossible to agree, that « Photography can record the normal, factual vision of the world more accurately than other mediums. » Vision is an activity, and science has to-day replaced the former notion of « perception » by : « perceptive activity ». That does not mean that there is not a kind of objective world, but it is more a thought one than a seen one, and vision is never objective. Also « l'espace perceptif n'est pas homogène » and in admitting that, the position of the problem becomes entirely different from what it is in your study, because there is no more any need (and even possibility) of explaining Cézannes deformations in regard of « objective » nature (or photograph), because there is no objective nature for a creative artist. Therefore too scientific perspective, which is implicated in the notion of objective nature, would not be anything Cézanne paid much attention to. He was obsessed only by what he called his « little sensation » and which – little as it was – has never been followed so strongly and so exclusively by anybody before him, and the facts he formed in following his perceptive activity are just now beeing dicovered by science as of utmost importance for understanding the mind of man. No wonder he has not been able to form a theorie of his own, the language he could dispose of having been entirely inadequate to express his expérience.
I should like to enter in more ample discussion, but I would like if you are willing to do so. There are without any doubt schemes assisting continuously creative painting, but they are many and in successive order and different from your diagrams. I think it is dangerous to give a picture of Cézanne which is not true and fails to show his uniqueness, which you feel so vehemently. But even, if the results of his painting coincide very often with the results of the great painters of the past we admire, the way of doing them is entirely different and cannot be reconstructed with means or schemes of the past.
With very many regards
yours sincerely
Leo Marchutz

Châteaunoir, 18th August 1947

Dear Mr Loran, it was a great pleasure to get your letter of July 18th and I enjoy very much the idea of beeing able to keep on exchanging our views. I surely agree fully with your statement, that art historians merely lead to obfuscation when « they insist on the differences of one art to another » and « that art is astonishingly constant and stable during its high periods. » So you may perhaps line this statement of Konrad Fiedler, the friend of Adolf Hildebrandt, and a most profund thinker : « Mangelhafter Begriff von Kunst bei allen, die ueber Kunst schreiben, demgegenueber eine ungeschriebene Kunstgeschichte bei den einsichtigen Kuenstlern. » Another thought of his you will agree with : « Kunst werden nicht mit dem Gefuehl gemacht, darum reicht auch das Gefuehl nicht hin, um sie zu verstehen. »
But to come closer to your letter, what is handicapping me now is, that I no longer have your book, having been obliged to send it back to Rewald, and I had no time before doing so to excerpt alt the passages I wanted to discuss with you.
You say that diagrams do not intend to trace the creative and emotional elements in Cézanne's work, but that you outline purely mechanical and factual ingredients actually to be observed in the painting. I fully agree with you that what you outline can always be observed in the painting, but cannot agree that you outline – as you seem to believe – and deal with purely mechanical and factual ingredients. There are behind it schemas which have to be apprehended and of which schemas the mechanical and factual ingredients are only outflow or continuance. This has nothing to do with psychoanalysis, which is quite a different matter and whose study for better understanding of painting seems to me quite unnecessary. But a psychology of what is happening in man – in every man to a certain degree – that there is at the end a visible world is of an utmost interest. Not dealing whith that leaves the doors open to all the à peu près, of which we are so fed up, and even necessitates finally the use of common words and misleading ones, as classical, nature, etc..., allowing everybody to think and feel in hearing them what he wants to or what he is accustomed to. It is – as your point out – lamentable, that the body of facts you deal whith is not thaught in American or European Artschools, but I believe it is by far not enough and quite other problems have to be dealt whith too, concerning vision and nature and nearly everything refering to art.
Concerning the use of photographs as recording the normal factual vision. There is a page in your book - I regret not to be able to look for more precise information – where you make the statement, which is right, that Cézannes pictures of the motif comes much nearer to the normal factual vision, then the photograph, and I am deeply convinced that it is always so. The photographic camera is certainly an improvement so to speak of Durers device, but : oblige men to accept this point of view as the normal, factual one is already to put vision in limits, which, later on, had such devasting effects on art (parallel to the efforts of Leonardo, whom you hold – and rightly – responsible for most further evils).
I see that you agree with me, that Cézanne's déformations do not need explication, or only if one accepts the notion of an objective nature. You say that you wanted to point that out, the real knowledge about nature not beeing common knowledge. But using the language of the others, we risk to falsify our own meaning and it is therefore so more necessary, I think, to establish dear terms before entering deeper in the subject.
I certainly do not think that Cézanne's expression : « ma petite sensation » means « modulation in plans of colors », that is what « they » understood and want to make us believe. For me it is an entirely different thing : it is just that what makes him such a new and outstanding painter, it is his view of nature as a moving thing ; the contrary of Durers device (which device, besides was still valuable for the Impressionists, but not for Cézanne at any moment of his history).
But such device has not been valuable for all the periods of art you speak of and you find so astonishingly near and equal to Cézanne. They all have their : petite sensation as departure point, which is something in the perception order and prelogical, but which in the process of creating gets logical and powerful and, therefore, « composed ». Also « composition » is a result ??? a rigid frame for sensations to be pressed in or joined in, as there surely doen't exist for the painter an objective space either.
The only point on which I surely will never agree with you, is about your calling Picasso a great master of space composition. He has no notion of space of his own and therefore no composition either. So he is well obliged to look at the works of others and to take whatever he wants, wherever he finds it, and in our glorious days there is no limit in the order of variation, even if he would live up to 999 years !
Write me soon again, very cordially
Leo Marchutz

We are most ignorant about the order in which things concerning painting should be thaught. The right order is as important than the things to be thaught !