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Analytic Cubism Collage

Analytic Cubism

Started: 1910
Ended: 1912
Analytic Cubism Timeline
I do not believe in objects. I believe only in their relationships.
Pablo Picasso Signature

Summary of Analytic Cubism

In 1920 the leading promoter of Georges Braque's and Pablo Picasso's work, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, published his book Der Weg zum Kubismus (The Rise of Cubism). It would become the first authoritative text on Cubist history and practice and it was here that the term Analytic Cubism was first introduced. Cubism was a movement that ran for close to two decades, but historians have tended to single out for special consideration its two most important phases: the Analytic phase (1910-12) and the subsequent Synthetic phase (1912-14).

Analytic Cubism defines a style of Cubism that fractured the subject into multi-layered, angular, surfaces that brought still lifes and portraiture close to a point of total abstraction. Following a two-year period of experimentation where Cubist artists took their lead from the faceted landscapes of Paul Cézanne, Picasso and Braque retreated to the studio where, over the ensuing two years, they honed the style of Analytic Cubism. The cadre of Cubist painters, meanwhile, have been put by critics into one of two camps: the "Gallery Cubists", namely Picasso and Braque, and a "second tier", the so-called "Salon Cubists", namely Juan Gris, Jean Metzinger, Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, and Albert Gleizes. Gris, however, would command equal status with Picasso and Braque when the Synthetic phase came to the fore.

Key Ideas & Accomplishments

  • At a time when Impressionism had "progressed" from the avant-garde into the mainstream, and Fauvism was ruling the Salons, Picasso and Braque instigated an avant-gardist movement that would all but insist that the viewer re-evaluate the status of art. Using multiple perspectives to produce images that featured only snatched glimpses of everyday objects, the phase of Analytic Cubism initiated a way of thinking about art that went beyond the limits of fixed perspective compositions.
  • Analytic Cubism brought a higher level of cognitive engagement to art. In a conscious decision to distinguish itself from the seductive styles of the Impressionists and the Fauves, Analytic Cubism's preference was for a limited range of colors and tones. Excessive color would have only served as a distraction from a style of art that was intent of encouraging the viewer/reader to analyse, rather than simply experience, art.
  • In order to keep one foot rooted in realms of reality, Analytic Cubism introduced into its system of geometric grids and planes what Picasso called "attributes". Attributes were the fragments or details of everyday life; points of illusionistic reference that made the image aspects of the image accessible (realistically rendered) and thereby stopping the work from drifting into pure abstraction.
  • Considered to be somewhat deferential to Braque and Picasso, the so-called Salon Cubists were nevertheless instrumental in broadening the appeal of Cubism beyond an elite class of art critics. Important historical figures such as Delaunay and Gris employed some of the techniques of Analytic Cubism but brought to their canvases a more luminous and energetic use of color. Through works such as Delaunay's Windows Series and Gris's Pears and grapes on a table their contribution allowed for a more wistful quality to impact on an art practice that had become, in the hands of Braque and Picasso, a strictly analytical practice.

Overview of Analytic Cubism

Analytic Cubism Photo

Before Picasso and Braque had (seemingly) single-handedly reinvented approaches to pictorial perspective, Paul Cézanne had been the primary influence on the exploration of artistic form and plasticity. During the late 1800's Cézanne began to represent the landscape through spheres, cones and cylinders allowing for the various perspectives of the picture plane to lead the eye towards a dedicated focal point. As Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes wrote in Du Cubisme (1912), Cézanne's work, "proves without doubt that painting is not - or not any longer - the art of imitating an object by lines and colors, but of giving plastic [solid, but alterable] form to our nature".

Key Artists

  • Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
  • Georges Braque was a modern French painter who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed analytic Cubism and Cubist collage in the early twentieth century.
  • Juan Gris was a Spanish painter and sculptor, and one of the few pioneers of Cubism. Along with Matisse, Léger, Braque and Picasso, Gris was among the elite visual artists working in early-twentieth-century France.
  • Influenced by Cubism and Futurism, the French painter Fernand Léger developed a unique style of Cubism using cylindrical and other geometric forms with mechanically smooth edges. Often colorful and punctuated by patterns, his paintings range from still lifes and figures to abstract compositions.
  • Robert Delaunay was a French avant-garde painter. Early in his career he was associated with the Expressionist group The Blue Rider along with Kandinsky and Klee. Delaunay's singular style is referred to as Orphism; an approach that combines visual elements of Cubism, Expressionism and figurative abstraction.

Do Not Miss

  • Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
  • Collage was first employed in fine art in the context of Cubism, and involved the introduction of pre-existing materials into new designs, often to produce a playful ambiguity between art and reality. It has since been enormously influential, impacting not only drawing and painting but also attitudes to sculpture.
  • The Salon Cubists built upon the early Cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and George Braque and painted large scale, vibrant paintings.
  • The Synthetic phase of the Cubism movement embraced a broader palette, simpler geometric planes, and less abstracted subjects while experimenting with collage and other techniques.

The Most Important Art in Analytic Cubism

Violin and Palette (1909)

Artist: Georges Braque

Art critic Roberta Smith observed that Braque's contribution to Cubism can be traced back to "his early training in his father's trade [...] which included sign painting and the painting of imitation wood and marble". His "apprenticeship" was, according to Smith, "clearly the basis for his interest in what he called the 'tactile' or 'manual' space of a painting". For his part, Braque explained that "When fragmented objects appeared in my painting around 1909 [as they do here] it was a way for me to get as close as possible to the object as painting allowed".

In what can be cited as a prototype of Analytic Cubism, Braque paints multiple picture planes in order to fracture and distort images of a violin, a palette, and sheet music. The arrangement of the objects emphasizes the canvas's vertical axis, while the limited color palette stresses (rather than distracts from) the overlapping forms, creating a density that seems somehow tactile. Braque would further emphasize the breaking down of the subject in this way it works such as Piano and Mandola (1909-10) which was described by art historian Jan Avgikos as, "an otherwise energized composition of exploding crystalline forms".

According to art historian Francis Frascina, Braque and Picasso's still lifes become "more difficult to decipher without knowledge of the systematic [language] that the artists appear to be using [and for] many Modernists, the works are on the 'threshold' of a formal development to abstraction", even though the artists themselves were seeking a "realistic orientation" through their work. We find clear evidence of this at the upper left of Violin and Palette, where we notice that Braque has painted a trompe-l'oeil nail, from which hangs the palette of the work's title. It is an illusionist technique that serves to illustrate the contrast between the nascent Analytical Cubism as measured against the traditions of single-perspective illusionism.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Broken down into planes and facets, and rendered in a limited palette of gray, black, white, and brown, we can begin to put together an image of Picasso's sitter (the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler). The viewer can discern his clasped hands at the bottom of the frame, the knot of his tie, and the almost geometric intersection of the bridge of the nose with the eyebrows. Due to the intricacy of the overlapping opaque and transparent planes and the limited color palette the central subject takes on a kind of density that dissolves at the edges into the abstract background. As art critic Jonathan Jones put it, the famous art dealer "haunts [the painting] like a shadow of himself, a nuclear ghost imprinted in space [...] It is not a picture of him. And yet he is fully there, his identity glimpsed with a strange warm intimacy through the shattered glass of the modernist age".

Jones said this work was "Revolutionary and discomforting" and a masterpiece that brought on "a comprehensive dismantling of traditional portraiture" that was "intangible" and "indescribable". The difficulty in deciphering these near-abstract artworks, however, prompted several critics to refer to Analytic Cubism as a hermetic practice. This concept relates to the idea that the language of Analytic Cubism was so revolutionary it had no precedence in art history and was so airtight (so hermetic) it had to be learned from scratch. At the same time, what Picasso called "attributes," such as the wave of hair and the clasped hands (the more highly discernible aspects of the image), helped the viewer by anchoring the subject to reality giving her or him an initial point of reference; giving the viewer "something to build on", in other words.

Nus dans la forêt (Nudes in the Forest) (1909-11)

Artist: Fernand Léger

Employing a somber palette of gray, white, grayish blue and green, this work is a complex and energetic layering of conic, cylindrical, and tubular planes. Léger described it in fact as a "battle of volumes" explaining that "I thought that I shouldn't give it any color. The volumes alone were enough". Though it is a landscape, which places it closer generically to the early phase of "Cézannian" Cubism, the painting is in keeping with the Analytic preference for a restricted color palette and a willingness to test the limits of figurative art. As if solving a picture puzzle, the trained eye eventually discerns the three nudes, one standing at the right and left and the other reclining on the ground in the center, and the resemblance of some tubular shapes to the trunks and roots of trees.

Léger's works take Cézanne's vision of a natural world composed of cones, spheres, or cylinders as the basis for a distinctive approach that also accommodates the mechanized forms of the modern world. Léger became associated with the Salon Cubists under whose auspices his idiosyncratic Analytic approach became a vital part of its aesthetic and theoretical explorations. As contemporary art critic Nechvatal put it, "Léger's early Cubist works are full of astonishing, automated, compulsive, and practically cinematic stutter effects". Léger subsequently developed his use of cylindrical and tubular shapes and a progressively bolder color palette to develop a signature style that became known as "Tubism". Nechvatal added, "his brand of Cubism evolved into an automaton-esque figurative style distinguished by his focus on cylindrical forms. These cylindrical android figures express a synchronization between human and machine that is most relevant today".

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Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Analytic Cubism Definition Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 26 Mar 2020. Updated and modified regularly
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