Thursday, August 4, 2011

At the Cycle Race-Track by Jean Metzinger

Jean Metzinger. b Nantes (France), 1883 d Paris (France).
At the Cycle Race-Track, c 1914.
Oil and collage on canvas;
h130.4 x w97.1 cm; h51 1/3 x 38 1/4 in.

A cyclist races to the finish line. The track, painted in horizontal strokes of grey and brown, appears to be flashing by at high speed. The wheel of a bicycle on the left is shown spinning round, and the crowd is visible through the cyclist's face, arm and back, as if the participants are rushing by so quickly that they hardly obscure the spectators behind. The subdued palette is close to Cubism, and the interest in the theme of speed and movement is reminiscent of Futurism. But this work is essentially a traditional figurative rendering of a subject onto which Cubist tendencies have been grafted. The figure on the bicycle is reduced to geometric shapes, his form stylized, and a section of the image has been fragmented, yet his features, the background detail of the crowd, and the treatment of space is more conventional than in most Cubist works. Metzinger was also an important theorist. His book, On Cubism, written in 1912, is crucial to later critical understanding of the movement.

From the 20th Century Art Book 2001 Phaidon Press Limited

this postcard is unused

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