Cubism was an avant-garde art movement that revolutionized
European painting and sculpture in the early 20th century.
In cubist artworks objects are broken up, analyzed,
and reassembled in an abstracted form — instead of rendering
objects from a single fixed angle, the artist divides them into
multiple facets, so several different aspects, or faces, of the
objects are seen simultaneously. Often the surfaces of the facets,
or planes, intersect at angles that show no recognizable depth.
Cubism began in 1906 with Georges Braque and Pablo
Picasso, who lived in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France. They
met in 1907, and worked closely together until World War I began
French art critic Louis Vauxcelles first used the
term "cubism" "(bizarre cubiques)" in 1908.
After which, the term was in wide use but the two creators of cubism
refrained from using it for a quite some time.
The cubism movement, born in Montmartre, expanded
by the gathering of artists in Montparnasse, and was promoted by
art dealer Henry Kahnweiler. It became popular so quickly that by
1910 critics were referring to a "cubist school" of artists
influenced by Braque and Picasso. However, many other artists who
thought of themselves as cubists went in directions quite different
from Braque and Picasso, who themselves went through several distinct
phases before 1920. Famous became the Puteaux Group, an offshoot
of the Cubist movement, to which artists like Guillaume Apollinaire,
Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger belonged.
Cubism influenced artists of the first decades
of the 20th century and it gave rise to development of new trends
in art like futurism, constructivism and expressionism.
Violon, verre, pipe et encrier by Pablo Picasso,
1912.Innovative artists, Braque and Picasso sought new ways to express
space and form in painting. They were influenced by Paul Cezanne,
Georges Seurat, Iberian sculpture, African tribal art (although
Braque later disputed this), and by the Fauves.
Picasso and Braque worked alongside one another (1906-1909 pre-cubism)
and then started to work hand-in-hand to further advance their concepts
into what was later termed "analytical cubism" (autumn
1909 to winter 1911/1912), a style in which densely patterned near-monochrome
surfaces of incomplete directional lines and modelled forms constantly
play against one another.
Picasso's painting of the Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
is not considered cubist, however it is considered essential in
the development of the movement. In this work Picasso first experiments
with seeing the same object, or figure in this case, from various
directions. Impressed by the painting, Braque experimented further
with this idea. The developments of both men in the field would
lead to what would be cubism.
Some art historians have also identified a secondary
phase in this analytical period, the "Hermetic" phase,
in which the works are characterized by being monochromatic and
hard to decipher. The painters gave clues as to what is portrayed
by leaving some identifiable object. For example a pipe, which leads
to identifying that a person is smoking it. During this time the
cubists neared abstraction. Some alphabetic letters were introduced
to the works during this phase, to also serve as clues. Braque introduced
these which gave immediate connection to everyday objects like a
bottle of rum or a newspaper.
The second phase of cubism, beginning in 1912, is called "synthetic
These works of art are composed of distinct superimposed
parts — painted or often pasted onto the canvas — and
are characterized by brighter colours, something that they had previously
tried to reintroduce, but were unsuccesful in doing so in a smooth
transitory way. Unlike analytic cubism, which fragmented objects
into its composing parts or facets, synthetic cubism attempted more
to bring many different objects together to create new forms.
This phase constitutes the birth of the collage
and of papier collé. Picasso invented the collage with his
Still Life with Chair Caning, in which he pasted a patch of oil
cloth painted with a chair-caning design to the canvass of the piece.
Braque, interested by Picasso's technique, first employed papier
collé in his piece Fruitdish and Glass. Papier collé
consists of pasting material to a work much in the same way as a
collage, except the shape of the patches are objects themselves.
For example, the glass on the left in Fruitdish and Glass is a piece
of newspaper cut into the shape of a glass.
While Braque had previously used lettering, the
two artist's synthetic pieces began to take the idea to a new extreme.
Letters that had hinted to the objects, became objects themselves.
Newspaper scraps are among the most usual items the artists pasted
to their canvases. They went further by adding paper with a wood
print, or other types of scraps. Later they pasted advertisements,
as well. This helped reintroduce color into the cubist works.
Marie Marevna Vorobyev-Stebelska (for a specimen of her cubist paintings
depicting herself, her daughter Marika and Marika's father Diego
Rivera – himself a "master cubist" – with
friends from La Ruche, cf. this Korean website where it is the 16th
painting in sequence;)
There were also critics (Andre Salamon, Guillaume Apollinaire),
poets (Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Gertrude Stein) and following
Jacques Lipchitz, other sculptors such as Raymond Duchamp-Villon
and Elie Nadelman who were soon drawn into the sphere of cubism.
Robert Delaunay practiced what he called "Orphic
cubism" which is identified with the Puteaux Group.
Pigeons have been trained to correctly distinguish between cubist
and impressionist paintings.