Monday, 15 December 2014


Cubism was an art style that developed from 1907 in France.  Cubist paintings are often very difficult to understand.  The artist takes a subject and then deconstructs it.

Picasso was the first cubist.  The first cubist painting he did was Les Demoiselles d'Avignon – the figures have been simplified to an extreme degree.  This painting took his art off in a bold new direction.

The work was not like by the critics or even other artists.  There was one other artist, though, who saw the potential in cubism – Georges Braque – who then worked in partnership with Picasso to develop cubism.  Braque was an ex-fauvist.

This painting is Houses at L'Estaque by Braque – it is a landscape simplified into geometric shapes.  The painter Matisse didn't think much of it and said that it was just made up of small cubes – and this is how Cubism got its name!

Cubism wasn't actually a very good name for it – because the art style is not about showing three dimensions (like cubes) but was very much two dimensional.

This painting is Violin and Palette done in 1909 by Braque.  You can see the violin at the bottom and an artist's palette at the top.  The violin is broken up into several pieces and then loosely re-assembled.  You can see it from several angles all at once.

All this change in art was happening around the same time that Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity.  The theory and existence of a fourth dimension was well known to Picasso and Braque and was the subject of much debate.

Other artists picked up on the new style – like Juan Gris.  The pic above is of his Still Life with Flowers (1912) – this painting has a guitar in it that is almost unrecognisable.

Cubism was an important waypoint on the way to Abstract Art.

To help viewers understand his work Picasso started to add words to it – this was new territory for the art world.  Amazing that it was so new given how important words are in the works of so many modern artists!  The painting above is Ma Jolie (1911-12) by Picasso.

Picasso and Braque then started incorporating mass manufactured items into their work – a sort of collage approach.  Yet another major innovation!

And then they went to 3 dimensional collage – see Guitar (1912)

Cubism only lasted about a decade but its influence on subsequent art was just immense.

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