Summary of Cubism
Cubism developed in the aftermath of Pablo Picasso's shocking 1907 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in a period of rapid experimentation between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Drawing upon Paul Cezanne’s emphasis on the underlying architecture of form, these artists used multiple vantage points to fracture images into geometric forms. Rather than modelled forms in an illusionistic space, figures were depicted as dynamic arrangements of volumes and planes where background and foreground merged. The movement was one of the most groundbreaking of the early-20th century as it challenged Renaissance depictions of space, leading almost directly to experiments with non-representation by many different artists. Artists working in the Cubist style went on to incorporate elements of collage and popular culture into their paintings and to experiment with sculpture.
A number of artists adopted Picasso and Braque's geometric faceting of objects and space including Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, along with others that formed a group known as the Salon Cubists.
Key Ideas & Accomplishments
- The artists abandoned perspective, which had been used to depict space since the Renaissance, and they also turned away from the realistic modeling of figures.
- Cubists explored open form, piercing figures and objects by letting the space flow through them, blending background into foreground, and showing objects from various angles. Some historians have argued that these innovations represent a response to the changing experience of space, movement, and time in the modern world. This first phase of the movement was called Analytic Cubism.
- In the second phase of Cubism, Synthetic Cubism practicioners explored the use of non-art materials as abstract signs. Their use of newspaper would lead later historians to argue that, instead of being concerned above all with form, the artists were also acutely aware of current events, particularly World War I.
- Cubism paved the way for non-representational art by putting new emphasis on the unity between a depicted scene and the surface of the canvas. These experiments would be taken up by the likes of Piet Mondrian, who continued to explore their use of the grid, abstract system of signs, and shallow space.
Overview of Cubism
From 1907 to 1914 Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso worked so closely together, they dressed alike and joked that they were like the Wright brothers who invented the airplane - Picasso even called Braque "Wilbourg." Braque said, "The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore. It was like being roped together on a mountain," as the two spearheaded the development of the movement.