In the decades that followed 1912, Cubism would continue to re-emerge and be reinterpreted in waves. However, it was these early years in which the present composition and the following lot were executed, which are considered to be the true crucible of Cubism and which established it as one of the most significant art movements of the twentieth century.
The period of 1910 to 1914 was also significant and deeply transformative for Marcoussis on a personal level. Of Polish origin, Marcoussis (Lodwicz Casimir Ladislas Markus) had moved to Paris from Krakow in 1903 to study at the Académie Julian under Jules Lefebvre. He began his painting career as an exponent of Impressionism. However, the penniless life of a painter did not become him and in 1907 he abandoned fine art to earn his living by drawing satirical caricatures for various French publications such as the Revue Parisienne and L’Assiette au Beurre. This more stable career, combined with his attachment to successful illustrator Marcelle (Eva) Humbert, funded a comfortable bourgeois way of life. However, a chance encounter with poet Guillaume Apollinaire and painter Georges Braque at the Cirque Médrano in 1910 was to irrevocably change his destiny.
In 1910, the seeds of the Cubist art movement had been sown by Picasso and Braque (the first exhibition of Cubist works was to be held the following year at the Salon des Indépendents). Marcoussis was enraptured by their distinctive approach to representation and Picasso and Braque in return encouraged him to take up painting again.
Over the next two years Marcoussis's friendship with Picasso became increasingly complicated. He was drawn to Picasso’s lover Fernande, and Picasso was attracted to Marcelle (fig. 1). The situation came to a head in May 1912 when Fernande left Picasso, and Picasso eloped with Marcelle to the south of France. Not long after, in late 1912, Marcoussis met Alice Halicka, another Polish émigré and painter. They were married the following summer.
Executed in 1914, the present work was not only painted at the apogee of Cubism but also at a moment that represented another crossroads for Marcoussis – the honeymoon period of the newly married and succesful professional artist at the dawn of the outbreak of the First World War. There is a palpable energy to Still Life with Guitar, which is presented as a kind of structured maze – at once frenetic and orderly, with the subdued brown and grey tones so typical of cubist works from this period punctuated by glorious bright turquoise, pink and yellow accents.
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