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Cézanne in the critical work of Max Raphael

Patrick Healy, 2018

In this paper I will examine the response of Max Raphael to the work of Cézanne. I will attempt to show how Raphael's theoretical and methodological approaches were shaped by his specific response to the work of the artist over a 40 year period from 1910 to 1952.

The interest and appreciation of Raphael's work in English can be traced from the earliest response in the Marxist Quarterly in New York 1937 to the reviews of his two publications Prehistoric Cave Painting (1945) and Prehistoric Pottery and Civilization in Egypt (1947).1 The renewal of interest in Raphael was highly stimulated by a publication of the volume The Demands of Art (1968), in the Bollingen Foundation series, a volume made up from the then unpublished German manuscripts Wie ein Kunstwerk gesehen sein will and Empirische Kunstwissenschaft, translated by Norbert Guterman. In the introduction, Herbert Read suggested that the little known author, had made 'the most important contribution in our time to the philosophy of art’.2 In the following year John Berger would endorse Read's judgement bestowing high praise on Raphael's work. It was Berger's advocacy, in its evaluation for example of Frederick Antal and Max Raphael, which influenced the direct engagement with these authors: in the case of Antal, via Anthony Blunt at the London Courtauld Institute of Art, and in the case of Raphael by the art theorist Jonathan Tagg. Tagg had been in direct contact with Claude Schaefer in Paris, the literary executor of Raphael. Tagg added considerably to the awareness of the range and extent of Raphael's work.3 The first part of Elizabeth Chaplin's 1994 study Sociology and Visual Representation (pp. 19-112) contains an extensive discussion of Raphael largely influenced by the research of Tagg.

In the 1970s and 1980s one can speak at the same time of a parallel revival of interest in Raphael's work in Germany culminating in the Suhrkamp edition of eleven volumes of his writings in 1989 – largely on the initiative of Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs. Raphael's work had started to reappear in publication in then East Germany thanks to Norbert Schneider and Jutta Held. Tanja Frank had written an academic study of Raphael in relation to Marxist theory of art.4

The next major contribution in English was Stanley Mitchell’s contribution to Marxism and the history of Art: From William Morris to the New Left, edited by Andrew Hemingway. It was focused on the essay in The Demands of Art which headed the volume on Cézanne.

Raphael’s earliest independent book publication Von Monet zu Picasso has been subject to a recent extensive re-evaluation by Françoise Delahaye in Études Germaniques (2009), following her doctoral work on Raphael at the Paris Sorbonne University (defended in 2008).5 In the substantial book-length study Picasso/Marx, Professor Sarah Wilson of the Courtauld Institute of Art has again returned to look in detail at Raphael's writings on Picasso and the sociology of art, and re-considered the implications of his critical work such as found in essay on Guernica in The Demands of Art, which had been such an inspiration to John Berger.6

Raphael notes in his ‘Biographie’ that his encounter with French art took place in 1910, as a student of philosophy in Berlin. It was also the year of his encounter with Pechstein and his generation, and decision to travel to Paris. Of the five articles published by Raphael in 1910 under the pseudonym M.R. Schönlank, he first makes critical observations on Cézanne in his account of the Sonderbund in Düsseldorf.7 In the foreword to the catalogue of the 1910 show, provided by the art historian Niemeyer, Raphael makes an argument for the work of Cézanne who was seen as having through sculptural structure and simplification of form reacted against the subtle optical analysis of the more northerly manner of Impressionism. Raphael then quotes directly from the foreword of the catalogue:

In his foreword to the catalogue Dr. Niemeyer has the following to say about the emergence of this painting: ‘Impressionism was superseded (?!) [sic] by the style of Cézanne, the logical extension of Manet's optical syntheses which, after the atmospheric absolutism of landscape art, once again taught one to understand painting as the pure creation of colour. […] In its massively sculptural structure and its simplification of form, Cézanne's paintings signifies the reaction of the deepest Roman feelings, against the clear, more northerly manner of Impressionism, with its subtle analysis of optical phenomena.’

Raphael then sees the work of Matisse as enacting the linear essence from Cézanne's sculptural construction. Crucially the artist in the desire for the subjectively decorative free the artist from seeking his model in nature or the object, but rather in the 'mirror of his imagination is everything'.8 The response to Cézanne had already been signalled in Julius Meier-Graefe's art historical overview of 1904 where attention to Cézanne would focus on the antinomian nature of his work, mentioning the variety of little brush strokes and speaking of his achievement as a kind of pictorial architecture. Given the commitment of Meier-Graefe to a developmental and evolutionary view of art the case of Cézanne was, to say the least, awkward.

The First Part of Von Monet zu Picasso

Von Monet zu Picasso, was published in 1913 by Delphin Verlag in Munich. Raphael took the opportunity in his book publication to develop the theoretical underpinning of the movement from Impressionism to Expressionism, placing the work of Cėzanne as the pivot between the Impressionists and the subsequent developments leading up to the work of Picasso.9 Indeed his critical positioning was such that the newly emergent Kandinsky and his dominance in Munich was directly rejected by Raphael, as of course were the arguments of Fritz Burger, whose guide to the problems of contemporary art was also published by Delphin Verlag in 1913.

The theoretical part of Von Monet zu Picasso is as much a manifesto as an historical argument, and it elaborates a theory of artistic creation. Raphael argues that the search for the essence of art had to be from its becoming and thus challenges the Kantian epistemological division of consciousness into different activities (morality, science, art) which he thought derived art of the kind of objectification granted by Kant to science. It is the creative drive, then, which is the object of Raphael's theoretical exposition in the first part of Von Monet zu Picasso inquiry and it focuses largely on contemporary painting. He attempts to follow the process by which art is created out of the materials of nature:

It reveals itself to us as a withdrawal from the simply given to the functions of consciousness and the law of the creation of objects, as an experience of the totality of the world, as a dematerialization reality into the intuitable and organic world of art – briefly a process leading from the individual and simply given to a total and intended world.10

Drawing on the epistemological claim that the world is never given to us in itself, Raphael takes it that since the world is governed by our perception of it, everything we see or know is a kind of creation. He undertakes to examine subject, object, and medium in order to follow the whole content of the creative drive and especially in respect to painting. The creative drive begins its activity by simply establishing a fact. This is naturalism in creation – the lowest level – but as the world is never simply given, every imitation theory suffers epistemological impossibilities, and is meaningless as it only contains the negative concept of duplication, thus shifting the problem of the creative drive away from art and into metaphysics and theology.

For Raphael, the passive and descriptive relation of the artist to the world has to seek a higher function in recognising that the world of art is characterised by containing within itself all the conditions all possibilities of its own existence. Reality threatens the purity of such expression. Originality and purity is proper to the creative drive. Where one posits replaceability, then, there is vacillation between naturalism, photography and experience, between idealism, mysticism and philosophy. The creative must be, as Raphael puts it, plucked out of the world of being and into the world of validity. In a more developed sense Raphael argues that even where the will and the emotions as principles of creation belong to the subject, the intellect in its analysis is not a structure but a process, not a being but a function. The function is directed at the origin of objects with a view to remaking them in a new form. Ultimately he will argue that art has nothing to do with the perception of things but with their creation

What can be more obscure and deceptive than the information we get from our eyes- the organs that have the greatest influence on the creation of the world of painting When we open our eyes we get an incomplete, accidental, insignificant picture, a diagram of reality. But where else should the meaning of art reside than in the sharpness of eyesight? But all questions about how we perceive things (whether in two or three dimensions, whether inside or outside us, whether in colour or in line) take us from the main point which is that art – even naturalism – has nothing to do with the perception of things, but rather with their creation.11

Raphael insists that the objects of paintings are never the result of a pure optic, which is an empty abstraction. What he has in mind is that that all the human organs should contribute to creating the object, under the heading of one particular object specific to each manifestation of the creative drive, which in the case of painting is the eye. He continues, seeing is always eye and psyche. This explains why everyone sees something different and also why one cannot be justified in the demand that what the painter paints should look the same as nature. The eye in motion can experience touch. The creative mood, then, is keyed to the opposing movements from subject to object. Perception in its purest state is part of the things themselves. The creative mood is born out of the two (not as contents and materials, but rather as forces):

The creative mood […] is neither a unified mood nor a synthetic concept, but a plurality, although not a confused one: it contains in the Bergsonian sense 'qualitative pluralities' that is a unity of forces striving for expression.12

Art is content only when it exists in such an expression, and finds expressive form, out of the dialectical positing of the becoming of subject and object. It is only in the process of creation that the medium is brought alive. It is not an event taken up only with effects and for its own sake, but it is a handiwork purely and simply for the purpose of creative expression:

[…] No media exists a priori. Neither a particular blue nor a symmetry has any meaning for creative activity prior to or outside the act of creation. The artist must know his medium and its effect […]. But its usage is neither a naturalistic description nor formalism, but the factor of creation or rather a result of creation. Before creation every medium is just dead material, an obstruction to the spirit. […] The only legitimate effect is that which results directly from the creation, everything else is just prostitution.13

The result of the dialectical will of consciousness and the being of the formation of objects depends ultimately on a self positing conflict, and for pictorial art this conflict has one condition, it is never simply a linear, two dimensional conflict, but a spatial (three-dimensional) one because it is only then that ultimate, irreducible conflict of pictorial art can come to pass – the compromise of the three dimensions with the two dimensional surface. The productive force of conflict perfects the whole, and this whole must take on the form of an organism in its origin. Drawing on Bergson and ultimately Schelling, there is a posit of a new world carrying within itself its own conditions of life, freed from all materiality of the real world, which rests in itself and contains its own beginning and end.

Reality as such has been overcome. The return to the function of consciousness, the basics of object formation and the demand for totality has de-materialized reality and its graphic sensuous equivalent has been born. Reality has been mathematicised, both in arithmetic rhythms and geometric shapes.14

Raphael stresses the rhythmic rather than the norms of proportion. Temporal moments of rhythm combine necessarily in the pictorial arts with the basic dimensions of surface – height and width – as spatial values, and the moments of geometric order are inseparable from those of intensity, i.e. time. In the combination of figure and spatial directions the greatest role is played by the intensity of their respective emphases. To this moment of intensity belong the the greatest possibilities, the density of surface occupation, the rhythm of full and empty space of open and closed occupation, even building up to a climax, the drama of the pictorial. Temporal moments multiply the combination possibilities and set up an infinite range of relations.15 Raphael returns to this moment of intensity to indicate how the tension between the dimensions is nothing technical:

[It] is rather a balance achieved by taking a step in the creative act which originates in the intensity of the creative mood. By emphasizing that it has its origin in intensity I am contradicting Hildebrand […]. For me form is a posteriori and there are numerous different types of form. And what is true of a cube is also true of space. Through this balance with surface space becomes a function, a function that is self-creating and has its own life. This can only be described as a forwards and backwards, an in and out, and an up and down, and as the continuity of these spatial relations.16

As soon as the creative drive gets hold of space and time, it tries to combine them or rather to allow each one to inter-penetrate the functions of the other. At every progressive step of creation time and space belong together, but the only level which can ultimately be aimed as at is where each entity runs its course and exists independently and free of all natural ties. It is necessary to reject natural time, both as an infinity or something that be fixed at a certain point, and also the scientific time of the physicist, and ‘seek a time that is analogical to the artistic creation of space’.

The Demands of Art

In reading the theoretical part of this work and passing to the practical, Raphael places Cézanne as the artist who approximates most closely to the notion of absolute formation. It is very illuminating to see how little Raphael adds to his earliest account in his work on Cézanne in Von Monet zu Picasso to the essay on Cézanne which appears in The Demands of Art. The achievement of Cézanne remains crucial for Raphael's construction of the development of painting. Raphael eschews imitation theory; the question is to find the historically conditioned ways in which nature and human mind connect, merge and come into unity. It is neither mind over nature, nor nature over mind. The creative intelligence is never identical with itself for any length of time. As the human mind neither imitates nature nor imposes its own laws on it, the work of art possesses specific reality and is governed by laws of its own.17

To interpret Cézanne's work as intellectual constructivism would relegate his concern with the essence of nature to a secondary place, as would a naturalistic interpretation which overlooks his difference from the Impressionists – in that Cézanne was interested not in perception but in pictorial figuration. Furthermore, one has to account for the emotional surcharge towards the end of his working life when he drops rationalists impulses and tries to realise his inner struggle in form and colour as immediately as possible. His aim was to build the sensory perceptions into the picture with perfect logic, to realize the pictorial idea in terms of sensory perceptions of nature. There are two dissimilar components in his method, one empirical-experimental, the other theoretical-ideational. They must be pursued simultaneously, every empirical nuance refers back to theory, i.e. the pictorial idea.

The artist is engaged in act of multiple equivalences. He translates various component substances of things into a pictorial substance. This is then translated into an evocative substance he articulates within the relation of local to the whole, as in spots of colour, their variety, whereby each of them acquires a third function. He transforms the functional spot of colour into a form as whole within a whole. Nature is represented by shape and colour equivalents. It is the rendering to colour in which the artist makes the sacrifice - his ideas about himself, feelings, the world: that is the primary fact of the painter's condition.

Cézanne wanted to paint the substance of things, and unlike the Impressionists not just to paint the medium of air. An analysis of his palette shows he worked out a system of 'colour equivalents' and formed a working material according to his own personal method. Raphael talks of the palette of the peasant, one who walks the land and feels the world as resistant bodies, and that for Cézanne colour was mass body weight resistance to which light gave maximum substantial reality. Light also had a dissolving action and colour is used by the painter to render the surface feature of things. Cézanne's world is polychromatic but colour is specific and local, in order to link local colour and prevent them from becoming a generalized grey. Cézanne intensifies their contacts to the point where they repel each other, and creates thereby a palpitating dialectical network, where each spot of colour is most sharply distinguished from its neighbour and related to it.

Cézanne renders light through colour, and aims at strong diversification, richer orchestration in which he achieves in his last work a chiaroscuro based on colour. The capacity for differentiation in Cézanne, leads to the abundance of colour gradations found in his work, he differentiates not only as to light and shadow, but warm and cold, transparency and opacity, thick and thin, brilliant and dull, smooth and rough: there is a play of texture in the painting, thinner layers more opaque and smooth. There is a play of transparency in depth, a relief in the foreground.

At a little distance from the canvas each of the colour equivalents seem three-dimensional. Form could be obtained from colour by 'moduler' which is a method of inner definition, no longer working on the basis of outline drawing or contrast of filled volume and void, but as self-limitation of placing filled volumes besides filled volumes. The colour performs spatial function. A colour can be decomposed into different tones, warm and cold, and then it both advances and recedes: we experience tension, and we do not experience time elapsing as we become aware of the multiplicity of layers.

The artist’s task is to bring about a twofold necessary relationship between matter and form, and between form and space. Thus modelling is a further step in the formation of colour, and space is a further stage in the shaping of form: the filled corporeal space of Cézanne is composed of corporeal points. In that sense the struggle of the artist is to make a new 'nature’: a quasi corpus. In this there is attraction and repulsion. The filled space is of internal origin, and does not depend on outline and boundary. This corporeal-substantial view of space means that space cannot be conceived as a medium, such as air with the impressionists. In Cézanne, form determines the air, air is subordinate to form and never extends beyond the point to which it is attached.

Close up the picture appears as a flat surface covered with spots of colour. From a distance it appears articulated in planes, which emerge as structural differences, as geological data. Space possesses a stone skeleton of geological origin, which denotes levels of emotion as much as elements in the composition of space. Painting for Cézanne lays bare the anatomy of the earth. Between the planes there is a contrast between inward and outward movement and the planes press onto one another so that the total effect of a single surface is preserved, even though they are differentiated. The eye moves in a stepwise motion up and down in so far as the eye can be said to move from one to another plane.

Motion through a dimension is transformed into tension within the dimension, between simultaneously existing points of space. The main dimension for Cézanne is depth which is developed vertically. It is the primal dimension, permitted by the substantial and resisting nature of the points of space, a consequence of the nature of the quasi-corpus created. The vertical as opposed to the horizontal dimension – the only two Cézanne recognises – is shorter, finite, closed and has the structure of an 'internally contradictory and self-abolishing finitude'. The space created is neither naturalistic nor atmospheric, as with Monet or Pissaro. The intersection of the axis of the horizontal and vertical produce an action, and the point of intersection, a triad of violet, green and ochre is 'the heart of the picture, the point of crystallization of the composition: everything starts there and everything leads back to it'.

The will of Cézanne to pictorial figuration compelled him to to subordinate visual perception to idea, motif and composition. But sensation and the model are in conflict. To deal with the effects, Cézanne asserts the requirements of the motif and the pictorial idea against a particular point of view and a single intellectual calculable vanishing point. He sough to combine a maximum of pictorial logic with an optimum of verisimilitude.

Raphael draws down a stunning portrait of the lonely artist seeking to understand his own existential fears of dying without achieving his self-realization through his art, the motif of the mountain manifesting itself. The interplay of weight and upsurge, of rising and falling movements and the figuration of this conflict are identified with the creative process of the earth itself, its coming into being and passing away. Raphael uses the discussion of the motif – his painting of Mont Sainte-Victoire – to illuminate Cézanne's creative method and actual way of working. Method for Cézanne is not purely a product of the mind conceived as an a priori element imposed on inner and outer nature. Rather it is contained in nature, and the inductive method of discovering and developing this insight, is aimed at synthesis as well as analysis. Cézanne realised the existence of a leap from analytic induction to synthesising theory. He sought to bridge the gap between raw data and the desired solution in and through work with the aid of the pictorial idea. The idea is an entity in its own right, situated apart from concrete things and also from the thinking mind in such a way that the things 'participate' in it and that the mind can recollect this participation. Every subject has its own pictorial form and every pictorial form is only a potentiality to be discovered and realised by the imagination.

Cézanne's saying to 'refaire Poussin sur la nature', is the desire to refashion the classical in a completely new way and at the same time to give nature classical solidity. He wanted to build the sensory perceptions into the picture with perfect logic, to realize the pictorial idea in terms of sensory perception of nature. Raphael sees that what Cézanne achieves also deprives the painting of a certain spontaneous quality which would allow the viewer to return to see it again and again 'with a fresh eye which is the essence of organic artistic form'. Cézanne still is limited to an 'art for art's sake aesthetic. The criticism is modulated by a broader view:

It was not Cézanne who was sick, but the society of his period, torn by the absolute contradiction between material power and spirit under the impact of industrial capitalism. Cézanne heroically resisted […] and carried art as complete as was possible through an epoch which was bound to destroy art and then itself […]. [H]is work does not disclose the slightest ressentiment […] rather, his work endeavors, with the greatest naturalness, to be nothing but an absolutely faithful hymn of praise to the glory of God's creation. As a result Cézanne’s work, in addition to its artistic value, possesses a moral significance, an exemplary value for the life of creative men.18

The creation of art has nothing to do with progress or decline, but only with the value of the skill and success or failure in dealing with the variable historical conditions to achieve more universal values. In that sense the work of Cézanne fails as much as it works, a view that Raphael also proposed for Picasso's Guernica, in the essay ‘Discord between form and content’ in The Demands of Art which so influenced John Berger, who dedicated his Ways of Seeing to 'Max Raphael a forgotten but great critic'.

The Second Part of Von Monet zu Picasso

From his earliest engagement with contemporary art, Raphael has a complex critical position. Dieter Hörnig and Françoise Delahaye have alluded to the productive ambivalence of Raphael towards modernity. In the earliest work he sees that Cézanne is crucial but that his task to redo nature after Poussin is not entirely successful, a fact that he sees as intensified in the epigoni among whom he deals with in terms that we have difficulty in following, because of the 'grand narrative' of subsequent art-historical interpretation. The shifts in emphasis of Raphael can be followed closely, and almost on a month by month basis in the series of reviews and articles he published from 1910 to the appearance of Von Monet zu Picasso, and have recently appeared in English translation.19

In the second part of Von Monet zu Picasso – the aforementioned first part was the development of his theoretical position – he turned to the specifics of contemporary practise. Much of what he has to say influences profoundly the interpretative consequences for all subsequent interpretation of 'modern art' and the various developments of theories on formalism, abstraction, expressionism, abstract-expressionism, etc. It may be helpful to look at these examples in more detail. The various shifts in Raphael's thinking leads to his emphasis on the picture as gaining autonomy both from nature and ultimately the subjective will which guides form to whatever material the artist chooses to work in.20

The truth is that for some years Raphael had difficulty in defining the influence of French painting on contemporary German artistic tendencies, and his move from defining Impressionism, to decorative impressionism and to expressionism is his first major critical achievement. A second result of his intensive critical work is to define 'modernity' in painting as developed in the trajectory from Monet to his advocacy of Picasso by 1913. It would remain a crucial periodisation and Raphael's work enjoyed both lively critical reaction, and polemical appraisal after its publication. His third and most complex development is to create a normative appraisal of the work of the painter, giving the notion of 'space-creation' a decisive role in his positing of the subjective and collapsing both the mimetic and representational as the aim of art.

When Meyer Schapiro met with Raphael after his arrival in New York, it is clear that the research of Raphael was available to him. The mutual interest of both men in Romanesque architecture, in Cézanne and the problems bequeathed by Marx on the question of how works of art from a previous epoch could have normative value for subsequent periods, when so much of social production and relations were profoundly changed, remained a key to Raphael's life work, and was a question he attempted to answer, as I have indicated elsewhere in his monographic study on the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, and in his published work on the Doric Temple.21 Raphael's method of productive seeing and detailed formal analysis was surely crucial for Schapiro's own development, and would have consequences, thanks to the work of John Berger, to the 'ways of seeing' that continue to this day. Furthermore, for Raphael, the whole issue of seeing and creation emerges from his analysis of Impressionism. The reading of the essay in The Demands of Art requires a re-reading of the arguments in the second part of Von Monet zu Picasso.

Impressionism, as evaluated in the second part of Von Monet zu Picasso, was seen as the response to the collapse of the anthropocentric view of the world, where Kant had still imposed an intellectual, moral and aesthetic responsibility on the post-Copernican 'man’, resulting in a reaction of subjectivism of which art was the dominant ideological expression. The new psychologism disrupted the worlds of previous consciousness, of subject and object, and led to the Machian fictional 'I' where an 'I' could only expand by constantly dividing. Thus the Impressionist made the single act of sight the 'truth', and the seen is opposed only to the not-seen, and no longer to the correctly or incorrectly seen. Despite the atomisation there was a demand for unity of seeing, via touch, taste and hearing a necessary synaesthesia, and Bergson was the one to name this sharing in the creation of reality with his feelings the designation 'intuition'.

There was a fundamental scission, or enforced duality here, the one between the analysing eye, and the 'intuition' leading the whole man into the absolute, which in reality showed how disjointed things were in their structure, 'because it negated the subject's deepest roots'. The unity was metaphysical, and not empirical. It was an absolute law which in impressionist painting led to the disintegration of the object, of its consistent shape and proper meaning into the atmosphere. The dissolving of the concepts of materials (such as local colour, line, three-dimensional form) into a relation to light, a stressing of appearance and of advancing it into the distance, the removal of space as a perceptual category, colour space everything became sensation and in its singularity confirms the law: how in the immanence one could find in every detail of life the whole of one's sense 'backwards'. Pure perception on this account became reactive, it abolished remembrance. The desire to capture the fleeting moment affected the Impressionist working method.

In the response of young artists against Impressionism, Raphael sees a fatal misunderstanding of Cézanne’s work, where it was taken as an accentuation of the creative self, which was freed by intellectual fiat from the majesty of the object. Experience was not to be harboured in pantheistic aestheticism, and did not have to be presented directly, and realistically, but could be made present through indirection and symbolisation. Equivalence and synthesis become basic expressions of the new art. Raphael saw the followers of Cézanne as still committed to metaphysical and mystical iterations, and 'at best an optical, at worst a literary equivalent of Cézanne'. Psychic experience on its own cannot become adequate for the content of art, since it cannot lead to a self-resolving conflict, and any art that tied to egocentric subjectivism condemns itself to absolute poverty.

Raphael invites a comparison to understand what is happening to the new 'expressionist' generation and invoking Wölfflin about the difference between the last generation of the Quattrocento and the first of the Cinquecento. The same formal expressions, Raphael suggests, could apply to development of the modern. In the 'modern' of the expressionist generation he sees an exhaustive and stronger use of means, a greater clarification of the surface-space relationship, the stronger closure of the picture from the different more powerful integration of the part in the whole, making clear and simple the optical representation. Difference between essentials should not be confused as difference in value, a step in evolutionary progress. He goes on to say, great as the achievements and effort of Matisse may be, before he attained to simplicity, ‘I still do not hesitate to name Renoir as the greater artists, just as Mantegna, Signorelli or Botticelli are superior to Raphael or Andrea del Sarto.’ As the two latter artists are to Leonardo, so is Gaugin and Matisse to Cézanne. Art had never been just simply arbitrary subjectivism, but rather a tension between the artistic subject and in some sense the object's hindrance. The new idea was the picture.

The question now was to create a work independent in itself, free from external constraints, and it was the picture and not nature that dictated the laws of creation to the artist. However what is called the picture is not an organism of absolute form, originating from constitutive principles, but a regulative factor, a decorative order, it is not objective and born of the thing. The part to whole relation is is now to be an optical relationship of the surfaces which is inwardly connected. It is the spectator's glance and the optical ordering that leads from the part to the whole. Thus the form of the area, its shape and size seem to have become the constitutive factor of composition. Raphael cites Matisse: ‘If composition is aimed at expression, it will modify itself according to the surface to be filled’. Repetition takes the pace of penetration, and the connection of the parts to the whole is more essential than the part in itself.

Pure colour is the component, the substitute for form, and becomes the immediate vehicle of expression for the inner irritability, excitation. It is better to say not just pure colour – which soon becomes formulaic – but rather colour so delicately gradated in tone ‘that it gives the appearance of a unified field of colour’. Here the quantitative element has great importance for the calculus of colour. The more intensely the colour patch emphasises itself by its size, the more readily the line sets it off and underscores it. Drawing is not a primary linear means for this new generation but a secondary painterly one. Colour as such in its use rests on the doubtful assumption that it signifies the same psychic value to everyone: ‘Experiments I undertook with children demonstrated the prevalence of random association and even the results of empirical psychologists have differed among themselves.’

Colour has come into being through an arbitrary abstraction and not through the creation of a formative unity. Thus we see its correlate is the pure surface and with this we find ourselves in the heart of classicism. 'What distinguishes the new classicism from the old is the circumstance that there, line as element shows how the formation of the human body was abstracted into a direct means’ – an argument he develops more fully in his work on the Doric Temple and especially on the pediment sculpture of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. In the new classicism the role fell to colour, the element expressing inner sensation. For Raphael this meant that there was a real hindrance to dynamic composition. Raphael allows that an artist like Gaugin, 'despite these principles' created significant work. But, at heart he was a realist, and his prizing of simplicity – which he mentions in a letter to Strindberg, in remarks comparing the Maori and European language – was really its opposite in his painting, because it eliminated the sources of composition: space, the cube, life itself, flattening out as he did every cubical form into a surface which as a quality raised the natural colour and as a quantity orders the silhouette of the object decoratively. It is an external harmony and a laboriously desired decorative effect which controls the work.

It is in his consideration of Matisse he draws the crucial distinction with the work of Cézanne, and gives us the key to his whole critical enterprise and validation of his theoretical insights. Essentially Matisse in his work differs from Cézanne in that he, Matisse, deploys an intellectual force that is far from Cézanne's 'organic picture-making'. The totality, the optical unity of Matisse does not arise from the logical outcome of a self-resolving conflict, whereas in Cézanne the speck of colour is an art-form reconciling the most extreme opposites and the colour surfaces differ from Matisse in their shimmering. The line of development beginning with Cézanne found its ending in the absolutism of subjectivity and in flat decorativeness due to the absence of cubical space. With this, Raphael says, the French artists had nothing more to say, and it took a foreign artist to grasp Cézanne by the roots and then try to overcome him. That overcoming is achieved by Picasso. However for Raphael the problem remains, which he invokes by a historical comparison of Cézanne with Poussin. It was whether art could free itself from being locked into such an absolute individualism and be capable of drawing the totality of the world into its conception. For Raphael, the question of art had become the question of life and a need to understand the implications of the loss of inheritance in the stained-glass artists of Chartres, Giotto, Rembrandt, Corot; matters to which he would return throughout his life. On each of these named examples he provided detailed essays, in which the question of Cézanne remained the fundamental reference – from his youthful encounter from 1910 to the last hours of his life, in 1952.


  1. For the most detailed overview of the response to Raphael see Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs ed. "Wir Lassen uns die Welt nicht zerbrechen", Suhrkamp, 1989. Meyer Schapiro was the first to introduce Raphael's work in America with the translation of section of pp.157-171, of Raphael's Zur Erkenntnistheorie der konkreten Dialektik, 1934, as A Marxist Critique of Thomism, Marxist Quarterly. pp. 285-293. Reviews, mostly negative of Raphael's Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Bollingen Series IV, 1945, tr. Norbert Guterman, and Prehistoric Pottery and Civilization in Egypt, Bollingen Series VIII, tr. Norbert Guterman, 1947 most probably delayed the publication of the Demands of Art, which did not appear until 1968. 

  2. The volume published as The Demands of Art in the Bollingen series, contained essays which were in progress from the time of Raphael's teaching at the Berlin Volkshochschule. The re-edited version by Klaus Binder first appeared in Campus Verlag, the publishing house in Frank-am-Main 1984 founded by Hans -Jürgen Heinrichs. This was the version taken over for the Suhrkamp Werkausgabe of 1989 appearing as Wie will ein Kunstwerk gesehen sein? For details of the emergence of the edition see the Editorischer Bericht, from pp. 361-368, supplied by Klaus Binder. This edition is criticised by Werner Drewes in his edition of Max Raphael, Prähistorische Höhlenmalerei, Bruckner & Thünker Verlag, Cologne, 1993, n.6, p. 274, and n.12, p.275. For the purpose of this paper I draw on both the English and German editions. Herbet Read's comment from the Introduction, xv,. of The Demands of Art

  3. In an addendum to his article on Raphael in Andrew Hemingway, ed. Marxism and the History of Art: From William Morris to the New Left, Pluto, London,2006, Chapter 5, ‘Max Raphael: Aesthetics and Politics’, pp. 89-106, notes pp. 239-241, Stanley Mitchell surveys the contribution of Berger and Tagg. Willlis H Truitt published his article in 1971, 'Towards an Empirical Theory of Art: A Retrospective Comment on Max Raphael's Contribution to Marxian Aesthetics, in The British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol.11, London 1971, pp. 227-236. Tagg's editing and notes in Max Raphael, Proudhon, Marx, Picasso: Three Studies in the Sociology of Art, tr. Inge Marcuse, Lawrence and Wishart, London 1980, can be read with his two articles, 'The Method of Max Raphael: Art History Set Back on its Feet' Radical Philosophy, nr. 12, Winter 1975, pp. 3-10, and 'The Method of Criticism and its Objects in Max Raphael's Theory of Art’, Block, no 2, 1980, pp. 2-14. 

  4. For this see Arbeiter, Kunst und Künstler, Verlag der Kunst, Dresden, 1975, with a postscript by Tanja Frank, 'Max Raphaels kunsttheoretische Konzeption', pp. 391-410. This provided the first full introduction of the work of Raphael in the then GDR. 

  5. Françoise Delahaye, 'De l'impressionisme décoratif à l'experiénce vécue.' Études Germaniques, 2009/4, PP.955-976, This article is available online, and is characterised as a response to an earlier article of Werner Drewes ,and notes. For Werner Drewes note 2 above. See also Denise Modigliani ' Voir la peinture avec Max Raphael, (1889-1952), in Max Raphael, Questions d'art, Klincksieck, Paris, 2008, pp. 7-80. 

  6. Sarah Wilson, Picasso/Marx and socialist realism in France, Liverpool University Press, 2013. See especially pp. 32-45. 

  7. See Max Raphael, The Invention of Expressionism, November Editions, Amsterdam, 2016. 

  8. I have discussed this in my article ‘Matisse and the earliest theory of German Expressionism' in: Element, Dublin, 1993, pp. 29-36. 

  9. For all of this see Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs and Patrick Healy (eds.), Max Raphael, Das schöpferische Auge oder Die Geburt des Expressionismus, Die frühen Schriften 1910-1913, Gesellschaft für Kunst und Volksbildung, Wien, 1993, especially pp. 132-160 where Ron Manheim relates the background to the publication of Von Monet zu Picasso. See also, Patrick Healy, Max Raphael, The Invention of Expressionism, November Editions, Amsterdam, 2016, pp. 59-65, see the Raphael article with notes 'The Sonderbund in Düsseldorf'. The contemporary reaction to the book was largely positive. Kahnweiler thought it to be the best book available on modern art. Richard Hamann, then Professor at Marburg, and interested in the main in cultural history thought the book unreadable, which drew a response from Raphael published as an open letter, 'On Expressionism' - see the bibliography on www.max Paul Moss in his German Aesthetics of the Present, 1931, reports on Karl With's comment, that the book was written in unusual limpid style and in its founding of a theory of the creative was a work of immense significance. There were also positive comments from Hermann Hesse. An exhibition at the Palazzo Pitti curated by Achille Oliva and Ĵiri Kotzlik used the work as its guiding source. In the late 80's in a number of Art Forum a call was made for the work to be better known and that it required a full translation in English. In the 2000's there has been considerable interest by French scholars in the text, see note 5 above. 

  10. ‘Er stellte sich uns dar als ein Zurückgehen von dem nur Gegebenen auf die Funktionen des Bewusstseins und die Gesetze der Objektwerdung; als ein Totalitätserlebnis der Welt; als eine Entmaterialisierung der Wirklichkeit zu einer anschaulichen und organischen Welt der Kunst — kurz als ein Prozess, der von dem nur Individuellen, dem nur Gegebenen, in eine totale und gesollte Welt führte.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 43. Own translation. 

  11. 'Was kann zugleich undurchsichtiger und trügerischer sein als die Daten, die uns das Auge liefert, das Organ, durch das die Erzeugung der Welt der Malerei am nachdrücklichsten bestimmt ist? Wo wir die Augen öffnen, empfangen wir ein unvollständiges, zufälliges, belangloses Bild, einen Schemen der Realität. Und worin anders sollte dann noch der Sinn der Kunst bestehen als in der Sehschärfe des Auges? Aber alle Fragen, wie wir die Dinge wahrnehmen (ob flächig oder räumlich, ob in uns oder ausser uns, ob farbig oder linear), treten zurück vor der Einsicht, dass es sich in der Kunst, selbst noch im Naturalismus, nicht um die Perzeption der Dinge handelt, sondern um deren Schaffung.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 23-24. Own translation. 

  12. 'Die schöpferische Stimmung […] ist […] weder eine einheitliche Stimmung noch ein synthetischer Begriff, sondern eine wenn auch nicht verworrene Mannigfaltigkeit; sie enthält – im Bergsonschen Sinne – ‘qualitative Mannigfaltigkeiten’, d. h. eine Einheit von Kräften, die zu einer Äusserung drängen.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 29. Own translation. 

  13. ‘[…] Mittel [gibt es nicht] a priori […]. Weder ein Blau noch eine Symmetrie hat für die schöpferische Tätigkeit Bedeutung vor und ausserhalb der Schöpfung, des Geschaffenseins. Der Künstler muss seine Mittel und ihre Wirkung […] kennen […] aber ihre Verwendung ist weder naturalistisch beschreibend noch formalistisch, sondern Gestaltungsfaktor oder besser Gestaltungsergebnis. Vor der Gestaltung ist jedes Mittel nur Material, tot, Hindernis des Geistes. […] Legitim ist nur die Wirkung, die sich aus der Gestaltung ergibt, alles andere ist Prostitution.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 31. Own translation. 

  14. ‘Die Realität als Realität ist überwunden. Das Zurückgehen auf die Funktionen des Bewusstseins und die Gründe der Objektwerdung, die Forderung der Totalität haben sie entmaterialisiert und ihr anschauliche, sinnliche Äquivalente geboren. Die Realität wird mathematisiert, und zwar arithmetisch-rhythmisch und geometrisch-figürlich.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 35 Own translation. 

  15. Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 57 ff. 

  16. ‘[…] sondern es handelt sich in ihrem Ausgleich um den hauptsächlichsten, aus der Intensität der schöpferischen Stimmung stammenden Schritt der schöpferischen Tat. Indem ich den Ursprung aus der Intensität nachdrücklichst betone, trete ich wohl in Gegensatz zu Hildebrand. [..] für mich [hat] die Form eine a posteriorische Stellung und es gibt eine Mannigfaltigkeit von Formen. Das Gleiche wie vom Kubus gilt vom Raum. Durch diesen Ausgleich mit der Fläche wird der Raum Funktion, und zwar in sich lebendige, sich selbst bildende Funktion. Diese lässt sich nicht anders beschreiben als durch den Wechsel des Hervor und Zurück, Hinein und Heraus, Hinauf und Hinunter und durch die Kontinuität dieser räumlichen Relationen.’ Raphael, Von Monet zu Picasso, München, Delphin Verlag, 1913, p. 40. Own translation. Raphael refers to Adolf Hildebrand's Das Problem der Form in der bildenden Kunst (1893). For the critique of Hildebrand during this period see also Carl Einstein, Negro Sculpture, November Editions, Amsterdam (2017). 

  17. For ease of reference I have drawn the concluding material directly from the first essay in the Demands of Art, 'The Work of Art and the Model in Nature', pp. 7-43. See note 2. 

  18. Max Raphael, The Demands of Art, p. 41 

  19. I refer the reader to my recent publication Max Raphael, The Invention of Expressionism, November Editions, Amsterdam, 2016. 

  20. See note 5 above, especially the paper of Delahaye. Delahaye cites the article of Werner Drewes, 'Max Raphael und Carl Einstein Konstellationen des Aufbruchs in die “Klassische Moderne" im Zeichen der Zeit.', Ėtudes Germaniques, Paris 1998, pp.123-157, as an important source for her own work. 

  21. The currently available published material on Raphael's arrival in America is to be found at Max Raphael, Lebens-Erinnerungen, ed. Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, Suhrkamp, 1989, pp.317-412. See also Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, with Patrick Healy, Lutz Weissenstein, 'Max Raphael', Exil, Nr.1, 1992, pp. 46-57. Raphael met Schapiro shortly after his arrival. Thanks to the Lebens-Erinnerungen publication one can trace his work on the essays later translated for The Demands of Art as being completely reworked at this period, from the third week of June 1941. Later some of the fears he had exchanging his research insights after his arrival, and his break with Schapiro. He arrived on 21st of June 1941, staying initially with the Hirschberg family, Max and Ingeborg, in the nursery room of their home, until September, Long Island, and meeting almost immediately with Ilse Hirschfeld who along with Shirley Chesney were to remain co-workers and editors of Raphael, even after his death. Their papers connected with Raphael, are now at the Getty in Malibu.