Wednesday, October 3, 2007


What is Cubism?

A nonobjective school of painting and sculpture developed in Paris in the early 20th century, characterized by the reduction and fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric structures usually rendered as a set of discrete planes.

Who started it?

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

Tell me about the conception and early years of Cubism.

During the late 19th century and into the early 20th century the European cultural elite was discovering the art of Africa, Micronesia, and Native Americans for the first time. Europeans were fascinated, intrigued and educated by the newness, wildness and the stark power embodied in the art of those faraway places. During the 1890s Paul Gauguin led the way, and younger artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso in the early days of the 20th century were inspired and motivated by the raw power and simplicity of the so-called Primitive art of those foreign cultures. Around 1904, Picasso met Henri Matisse through Gertrude Stein, at a time when both artists had recently acquired an interest in African sculpture. Picasso and Matisse became friendly rivals and competed with each other throughout their careers. Possibly because of this rivalry and friendship, Picasso's work entered a new period by 1907 marked by the influence of Greek, Iberian and African art, and masks in particular. His paintings of 1907 have been characterized as Protocubism, the antecedent of Cubism. In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form — instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the ambiguous shallow space characteristic of cubism.

Some believe that the roots of cubism are to be found in the two distinct tendencies of Paul Cézanne's later work: firstly to break the painted surface into small multifaceted areas of paint, thereby emphasising the plural viewpoint given by binocular vision, and secondly his interest in the simplification of natural forms into cylinders, spheres, and cones.

The cubists went farther than Cézanne; they represented all the surfaces of depicted objects in a single picture plane as if the objects had had all their faces visible at the same time, in the same plane.

This new kind of depiction revolutionised the way in which objects could be visualised in painting and art.

The invention of Cubism was a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, then residents of Montmartre, Paris. These artists were the movement's main innovators. A later active participant was the Spaniard Juan Gris. After meeting in 1907 Braque and Picasso in particular began working on the development of Cubism. Picasso was initially the force and influence that persuaded Braque by 1908 to move away from Fauvism. The two artists began working closely together in late 1908 - early 1909 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The movement spread quickly throughout Paris and Europe.

French art critic Louis Vauxcelles first used the term "cubism", or "bizarre cubiques", in 1908 after seeing a picture by Braque. He described it as 'full of little cubes', after which the term quickly gained wide use although the two creators did not initially adopt it. Art historian Ernst Gombrich described cubism as "the most radical attempt to stamp out ambiguity and to enforce one reading of the picture - that of a man-made construction, a colored canvas."

Cubism was taken up by many artists in Montparnasse and promoted by art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, becoming popular so quickly that by 1911 critics were referring to a "cubist school" of artists.

However, many of the artists who thought of themselves as cubists went in directions quite different from Braque and Picasso. The Puteaux Group was a significant offshoot of the Cubist movement, and included artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, his brother Jacques Villon, and Fernand Léger.

In 1913 the United States was exposed to cubism and modern European art when Jacques Villon exhibited seven important and large drypoints at the famous Armory Show in New York City. Braque and Picasso themselves went through several distinct phases before 1920, and some of these works had been seen in New York prior to the Armory Show, at Alfred Stieglitz's "291" gallery.

Czech artists who realized the epochal significance of cubism of Picasso and Braque attempted to extract its components for their own work in all branches of artistic creativity - especially painting and architecture. This developed into so-called Czech Cubism which was an avant-garde art movement of Czech proponents of cubism active mostly in Prague from 1910 to 1914.

What is Analytic Cubism?

Analytical Cubism is one of two major branches of the artistic movement of Cubism and was developed between 1908 and 1912. In contrast to Synthetic cubism, Analytic Cubists "analyzed" natural forms and reduced the forms into basic geometric parts on the two-dimensional picture plane. Color was almost non-existent except for the use of a monochromatic scheme that often included grey, blue and ochre. Instead of an emphasis on colour, Analytic cubists focused on forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world. During this movement, the works produced by Picasso and Braque shared stylistic similarities. Analytic cubism is the first form of cubism. It was developed by Picasso and Braque. The time period was from about 1907-1912. They had gotten the idea from Paul Cezanne, who said to treat nature as if it were basic shapes. Braque was the main analytic cubist, but Picasso was also prominent. The main concept of analytic cubism was to analyze the object, hence the name analytic, and then to make them into basic geometric shapes. These shapes were used to represent the natural world. By the name, a person would think it was cubes, but it’s more breaking the 3 dimensional objects up into other shapes. The paintings depict the object from many different perspectives because of this. There wasn’t much emphasis on color, the paintings consisting of primarily simple, monotone colors, like gray and blue.

What about Synthetic Cubism?

Synthetic Cubism was the second main branch of Cubism (the earlier being Analytic cubism) developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919. It was seen as the first time that collage had been made as a fine art work.

Can you tell me a small list of Cubists?

Pablo Picasso - 1881 - 1973
Gino Severini - 1883 - 1966
Jacques Villon - 1875 - 1963
Jean Metzinger - 1883 - 1956
Jacques Lipchitz - 1891 - 1973
Andre Lhote - 1885 - 1962
Albert Gleizes - 1881 - 1953
Constantin Brancusi - 1876 - 1957

Show me 5 of their cubism paintings and or sculptures.








1 comment:

Thom Thwaites said...

Cubism and protocubism were my favorite Pablo Picasso periods, like the artist himself these styles of painting were defined by their internal contradictions!

Picasso was a man of deep contradictions. Pablo Picasso was a self avowed communist. However, Picasso was also one of the world's wealthiest artists, leaving his heirs an estate valued at $260 million ($1.5 billion in 2008 dollars) when he died in 1973. Pablo Picasso once remarked, 'I like to live like a poor man, except with lots of money'.

Pablo Picasso cubism and protocubism paintings