Cubism

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. It was created by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963) in Paris between 1907 and 1914. The French art critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the term Cubism after seeing the landscapes Braque had painted in 1908 at L'Estaque in emulation of Cézanne. Vauxcelles called the geometric forms in the highly abstracted works "cubes." Other influences on early Cubism have been linked to Primitivism and non-Western sources. The stylization and distortion of Picasso's ground-breaking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York), painted in 1907, came from African art. Picasso had first seen African art when, in May or June 1907, he visited the ethnographic museum in the Palais du Trocadéro in Paris.

Cubism

 

Cubism

The Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening. They wanted instead to emphasize the two-dimensionality of the canvas. So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, and then realigned these within a shallow, relieflike space. They also used multiple or contrasting vantage points.

Cubism

 

Cubism

 

In Cubist work up to 1910, the subject of a picture was usually discernible. Although figures and objects were dissected or "analyzed" into a multitude of small facets, these were then reassembled, after a fashion, to evoke those same figures or objects. During "high" Analytic Cubism (1910–12), also called "hermetic," Picasso and Braque so abstracted their works that they were reduced to just a series of overlapping planes and facets mostly in near-monochromatic browns, grays, or blacks. In their work from this period, Picasso and Braque frequently combined representational motifs with letters. Their favorite motifs were still lifes with musical instruments, bottles, pitchers, glasses, newspapers, playing cards, and the human face and figure. Landscapes were rare.

 

Cubism

 

Cubism

 

During the winter of 1912–13, Picasso executed a great number of papiers collés. With this new technique of pasting colored or printed pieces of paper in their compositions, Picasso and Braque swept away the last vestiges of three-dimensional space (illusionism) that still remained in their "high" Analytic work. Whereas, in Analytic Cubism, the small facets of a dissected or "analyzed" object are reassembled to evoke that same object, in the shallow space of Synthetic Cubism—initiated by the papiers collés–large pieces of neutral or colored paper themselves allude to a particular object, either because they are often cut out in the desired shape or else sometimes bear a graphic element that clarifies the association.

Cubism

 

Cubism

 

While Picasso and Braque are credited with creating this new visual language, it was adopted and further developed by many painters, including Fernand Léger, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Juan Gris, Roger de la Fresnaye, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and even Diego Rivera. Though primarily associated with painting, Cubism also exerted a profound influence on twentieth-century sculpture and architecture. The major Cubist sculptors were Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Jacques Lipchitz.

The liberating formal concepts initiated by Cubism also had far-reaching consequences for Dada and Surrealism, as well as for all artists pursuing abstraction in Germany, Holland, Italy, England, America, and Russia. —Sabine Rewald, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

RECOMMENDED READING

 

 Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection

Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art)//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=historygraphi-20&l=am2&o=1&a=0300208073

An innovative new history of Cubism told through some of the most significant artworks ever produced, drawn from a distinguished private collection

This groundbreaking new history of Cubism, based on works from the most significant private collection in the world today, is written by many of the field’s premier art historians and scholars. The collection, recently donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, includes 80 works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, and Léger and is unsurpassed in the number of masterpieces and iconic pieces deemed critical to the development of Cubism.

Twenty-two essays explore various facets of Cubism from its origins and consider small groupings of works in light of specific themes—such as a study by neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel on Cubism and the science of perception. Also included is a fascinating interview in which Lauder discusses his approach to collecting. This is a work to place beside other great histories of Modernism.  It is a comprehensive, copiously illustrated book that offers a greater understanding of Cubism and will stand as a resource on this pioneering style for many years to come.

2018 History Graphic Design

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