The image of sacrifice is imposed on our reflection so necessarily that, having passed the time when art was mere diversion or when religion alone responded to the desire to enter into the depths of things, we perceive that modem painting has ceased to offer us indifferent or merely pretty images, that it is anxious to make the world “transpire” on canvas. Apollinaire once claimed that cubism was a great religious art, and his dream has not been lost. Modern painting prolongs the repeated obsession with the sacrificial image in which the destruction of objects responds, in a manner already half-conscious, to the enduring function of religions. Caught in the trap of life, man is moved by a field of attraction determined by a flash point where solid forms are destroyed, where the various objects that constitute the world are consumed as in a furnace of light. In truth, the character of current painting — destruction, apocalypse of objects — is not put clearly into relief, is not highlighted in the lineage of sacrifice. Yet, what the surrealist painter wishes to see on the canvas where he assembles his images does not differ fundamentally from what the Aztec crowd came to see at the base of a pyramid where a victim’s heart was to be torn out. In either case the flash of destruction is anticipated. Doubtless we do not see cruelty when we envision modern artworks, but on the whole the Aztecs were not cruel either. Or what leads us astray is the too simple idea we have of cruelty. Generally we call cruelty that which we do not have the heart to endure, while that which we endure easily, which is ordinary to us, does not seem cruel. Thus what we call cruelty is always that of others, and not being able to refrain from cruelty we deny it as soon as it is ours. Such weaknesses suppress nothing but make it a difficult task for anyone who seeks in these byways the hidden movement of the human heart.


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