In March of 1912, three Konrad Mägi paintings were on display at the Salon des Indépendants exhibition in Paris. This was a vast exhibition with thousands of works, yet Mägi stood out there. The following was written in a review in the Chronique des Arts magazine:
‘Since the Salon des Indépendants is a strong institution, difficulties can only temper it instead. Due to a shortage of space or money, this year’s selection is clearer and more interesting than ever before. The works presented are also generally of better quality.
The works are very skilfully and almost theatrically put together. Interest grows during the visit. Although so-called “Neo-Impressionism” mightily crowns the whole exhibition, its core nevertheless rests on the shoulders of the Cubist school.
It cannot be denied that the principle of geometrical deformation has become a great success among the younger generations. Experience shows that changes in aesthetics and technique never come about for no reason or with no aim, and there are no more leaps in history than
there are in nature: everything is interconnected, everything can be explained based on context. Classicists, Romanticists, Impressionists, Symbolists, etc. have similarly wanted to free themselves from constraints. Herein lies the secret of the strength and prime position of
the French school. In the same way, the Cubists in turn want to combat vagueness using the weapons of mathematical specification. It is interesting that this is happening at exactly the same time that the state is banning the use of the “Guillaume methodology” in schools because of its excessive abstractness. The Cubists, however, embrace this and take it to extreme consequences. This is first and foremost intellectual and spiritual work. The painting is seen as a mathematical problem that the viewer is not always able to solve. Nevertheless there is reason to hope that such an undertaking, which is logical in principle, can one day bear good fruit.
Metzinger’s The Harbour or Delaunay’s allegory of Paris, for instance, can only be assessed after studying it at length. We nevertheless realise right away that the technical devices of the
Cubists are tied to Neo-Impressionism, and that they share the same source with the oeuvre of Puvis de Chavannes, Gauguin, Bourdelle, Maillol or Rodin. Other less dogmatic works (de La Fresnaye, de Segonzac) help us understand this.
These new trends can be seen especially in nudes, still-lifes and landscapes. Here the works could have been displayed a little bit more systematically. It is especially interesting to note
that views of contemporary life, which even just recently were still so in fashion, tend to retreat in the interests of allegorical or mythological storylines.
Foreign artists still obediently follow our principles, and it pleases us when we discover traces of our teachings in their works. In all honesty, they do not feel the pressure of tradition, and for them art history begins with van Gogh and Matisse.’ ‘Artists from foreign countries
(2) continue as before to meekly proceed from our principles. For many of us, they are to our liking because we find with pride traces of our own teachings in their works. To tell the truth, traditions are not a hindrance to them at all. For many among them, van Gogh and Matisse are the beginning of art history. This is a weakness and at the same time also a strength. This explains the fact that they are so sensitive in relation to our innovations, so good at understanding them, and so receptive to imitating them.’
(2) Messieurs de Hatvany (Nude), Wright (Portrait), Cardozo, Otto Hofer, Salicath, Mägi, missuses Desmorr, Wesselovsky, Hoppe, Centnerswer, Sunderland.
If we do not count Mr. Gabriel Sue, the auteurs of the best paintings on animal themes are foreigners: messieurs Cizaletti and Bolliger, and Miss Guinness.
Translated from French by Jean-Pascal Ollivry