ozenfant, guitar and bottles, 1920


This Purist-inspired painting, completed in 1920 by Amedee Ozenfant, encompasses many of the aspects of Purism, which Ozenfant developed himself after branching off from Cubism. As the title suggests, the painting depicts some basic objects, namely a guitar and bottles. There is also a slender glass as well as several other geometric figures. The color of the painting conforms to the ideals of the Purists, as each shape in the work is clearly defined by a distinct and natural color. This goes for all objects in the work with the exception of a slender glass, which appears to be clear. The work is a still life, depicting inanimate objects. The depth is of particular interest in this work as the bottles and glass appear to be upright as the bottom of the canvas is a tabletop or floor, however the guitar appears to be resting unnaturally as if the left or right extremity of the canvas was its resting place. The guitar resting in this position is an attempt by Ozenfant to take a familiar object, and to gently stretch the laws of nature to stimulate the mind to make different associations than one would if the guitar was resting on the same plane as the other objects in the work. Through the inclusion of elements such as a natural depiction of objects and the use of horizontal lines Ozenfant corrected artistic practices that he believed cubism had ruined.

As a Purist, Amedee Ozenfant believed that Cubism had gone too far in exaggerating the minor aspects of objects in paintings, and art should return to a more basic machine-inspired style. Amedee Ozenfant wrote “The goal (of viewing purist art) is not simple pleasure, but to take part in the nature of happiness.”1 Ozenfant and the other Purists concluded that painting common objects and depicting them as they actually appear ignites interest in the viewer, and does not create “arbitrary images” like Cubism.

The Purists also had interest in the psychology of the lines. Ozenfant noted that viewers grow tired of following vertical lines, and horizontal lines create feelings of ease and pleasure. This is exemplified in Guitar and Bottles in that the longest object, the guitar, is comprised of more horizontal lines than vertical lines. The objects drawn using vertical lines are much shorter in length, such as bottles and a glass. At this time in history, the world had just experienced the worst war yet, World War I. It is only natural that artists would be encouraged to promote feelings of ease and pleasure in their work as the world recovers from the war.

Despite the feelings of ease and pleasure promoted by the horizontal lines, many artists would agree that the true pleasure of art comes in the interpretation. Ozenfant and the Purists believed that the Cubists had taken interpretation itself out of art. To restore the need to interpret, the Purists depicted everyday objects but stretched the laws of nature in minor ways. Ozenfant stated this aim by stating that the art should “Remain, nevertheless, at such a distance from nature’s aspects that the disturbance introduced into habitual aspects may deprive us momentarily of our rationalizing facilities.”2 By causing this momentary deprivation, the mind is forced to make new associations and think in different ways. This is illustrated in Guitare et Bouteilles in that the guitar in the painting is resting upside down on the left side of the canvas, while the bottles and glass are resting on the bottom, natural plane of the canvas. Therefore, the laws of gravity are pushed and the mind is forced to interpret.




Works Cited

1-Arnason, H.H., and Marla F. Prather. History of Modern Art. New York: Harry N.          Abrams, Inc, 1998.


2- Harrison, Wood, Charles, Paul. Art In Theory, 1900-2000. Malden, MA: Blackwell        Publishing, 1992.


3- Preaching Painter.” Time 32, no. 1 (July 4, 1938): 28. Academic Search Premier,            EBSCOhost (accessed March 27, 2012).

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