From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Albert Gleizes (8 December 1881 – 23 June 1953), was a French painter. Born Albert Léon Gleizes and raised in Paris, he was the son of a fabric designer who ran a large industrial design workshop. He was also the nephew of Léon Comerre, a successful portrait painter who won the 1875 Prix de Rome.
The young Albert Gleizes did not like school and often skipped classes to idle away the time writing poetry and wandering through the nearby Montmartre cemetery. Finally, after completing his secondary schooling, Gleizes spent four years in the French army then began pursuing a career as a painter, primarily doing landscapes. Initially influenced by the Impressionists, he was only twenty-one years of age when his work titled La Seine à Asnières was exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1902. The following year he was part of the first Salon d'Automne and soon came under the influence of Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier.
In 1907 Gleizes and some of his friends pursued the idea of creating the Abbaye de Créteil, a self-supporting community of artists which would allow them to develop their art free of any commercial concerns. For nearly a year, at a large house in Créteil, Gleizes along with other painters, poets, musicians and writers, gathered to create. A lack of income forced them to give up their cherished Abbaye de Créteil in early 1908 and Gleizes moved temporarily into La Ruche, the artist commune in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris.
Gleizes' evolving cubism saw him exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1910 then collaborate with Jean Metzinger to produce a theoretical essay about cubism that was published in 1912. In the fall of that year, he and Metzinger joined the Puteaux Group led by Jacques Villon and his brother Marcel Duchamp. In February 1913, Gleizes and other artists introduced the new style of painting to an American audience at the Armory Show in New York City.
With the outbreak of World War I, Albert Gleizes re-enlisted in the French army. He was put in charge of organizing entertainment for the troops and as a result was approached by Jean Cocteau to design the set and costumes for the William Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Discharged from the military in the fall of 1915, Gleizes and his new wife, Juliette Roche, the daughter of a prominent and wealthy French statesman, moved to New York City. From there, the couple sailed to Barcelona where they were joined by Marie Laurencin plus Francis Picabia and his wife. The group spent the summer painting at the resort area of Tossa del Mar and in December Gleizes had the first solo exhibition of his works at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona. Returning to New York city, Gleizes began writing poetic sketches in verse and in prose. Traveling to Bermuda, he painted a number of landscapes but when the war in Europe ended he returned to France where his career evolved more towards teaching through writing and he became involved with the committee of the Unions Intellectuelles Françaises. In 1927, still dreaming of the communal days at the Abbaye de Créteil, he founded an artist's colony at a rented house called the Moly-Sabata in Sablons near his wife's family home in Serrières in the Ardèche département in the Rhône Valley.
In 1931, Gleizes was part of the committee of Abstraction-Création that acted as a forum for international non-representational art. By this time, his work reflected the strengthening of his religious convictions and his 1932 book, La Forme et l’histoire examines Celtic, Romanesque, and Oriental art. On tour in Poland and Germany, he gave lectures titled Art et Religion, Art et Production and Art et Science and wrote a book on Robert Delaunay but it was never published. In 1937, Gleizes was hired to paint murals for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne at the Paris World’s Fair. He collaborated with Delaunay in the Pavillon de l'Air and with Léopold Survage and Fernand Léger for the Pavillon de l'Union des Artistes Modernes. At the end of 1938, Gleizes volunteered to participate in the free seminars and discussion groups for young painters set up by Robert Delaunay at his Paris studio.
In the late 1930s, the wealthy American art connoisseur Peggy Guggenheim purchased a great deal of the new art in Paris including works by Albert Gleizes. She brought these works to the United States which today form part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. During World War II, Gleizes and his wife remained in France under the German occupation. His religious convictions deepened and at war's end he was hailed by some as having laid out the principles for a renewal of religious art. In 1948, Gleizes accepted an offer from a publisher in Casablanca to create a series of etchings illustrating the Pensées sur l'Homme et Dieu of Blaise Pascal. In 1951, he was made a jury member for the Prix de Rome and the government of France awarded him the Legion of Honor. In 1952, he did his last major work, a fresco titled Eucharist that he painted for a Jesuit chapel in Chantilly.
His rarely available original paintings now fetch many, many tens of thousands of dollars.