Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Cubism was an early 20th century art movement created by Picasso and Braque. It drew influences from the likes of Cezanne's Still Life with Plaster Cupid (1895). The idea that the perfect way to portray perspective was the Renaissance one point perspective was disgarded. The new way was to portray an image from numerous angles and compile it into one randomised image. The style began in approx 1907 when the Salon D'automne exhibition opened up and exhibited Cezanne's work mentioned above. Hopefully you can see in these images how it began and developed. The first style of Cubism is called 'analytic' which represents the fact that the artist would analyse an image, then reassemble it. The second phase is called 'synthetic' cubism where other mediums such as paper clippings and other multimedia would be added to create a collage-like image.

Self Portrait, 1907
Picasso had been on the art scene long before Cubism and began working in the standardised classical tradition under the supervision of his father, before being sent away to Barcelona to attend a prestigious art school. Once he arrived in Paris in the early 20th century he began to create his own style and from 1901-1906 the works he completed were part of his 'Rose Period' and 'Blue Period'. With this image you can begin to see how his images have been watered down to basic shapes. He had begun to 'analyse' the image but not reassemble it just yet. Note also how his interest in primitivism and interest in artists such as Gauguin (see here) were evident in his earlier works and then became part of his Cubist language.

Les Demoiselles D'avignon, 1907
Picasso's thrown a bomb at the typical Renaissance pictorial space and has left us with fragments of it jumbled up. Furthermore, the mask like faces of the women allude to the belief that women are deceitful and bring out a sort of fatal lust in men. Something Picasso would have believed greatly seeing as he had numerous girlfriends, wives and mistresses thoughout his life. The hatched lines are to show the fact that it is not meant to be illusionistic, while also looking like primitive wood carvings (something echoed by the masks too). Clearly influenced by Cezanne's bathers from 1879-82. The masks were probably influenced by Picasso's visit to an ethnographic museum, where he saw the Ngil Mask of Fang Culture (now in MoMA).

Nude with Drapery, 1907
Crude carving, strokes from sculptures. You can see where he's jumbled some of the figure but she is still largely legible. known as 'proto-cubist'.

Three Women, 1907-08
Looks like Michelangelo's unfinished slaves (in the Academia in Florence).

Woman with a fan 1908
Arcaic, clear influence from Gauguin.

The Factory at the Village of Horta, 1909
Analytic phase of Cubism.

Portrait of Ambrose Vollard, 1909-10
Vollard was a great supporter of Picasso and his art dealer. You can see how the analytic phase has well and truly kicked in. Parts of his body are no longer in the right place, or extended (look at his massive head!).

Ma Jolie, 1911-12
You can see how Cubism has developed from clearly messing with the shapes and figures to completely distorting them. This is supposedly a woman, we can guess this from 'ma jolie' French for my pretty, or my sweetheart. It has numerous little signs here and there of words and images.

Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912
Hopefully you notice that the synthetic phase has kicked in. It began to with the superimposition of words in 'Ma Jolie', but here picasso has painted numerous different materials (wood - chair canning, rope like material - the border ... etc). He has also put the word 'Jou' to the left of the image. This could mean to things: first, the French newspaper 'Le Journal' who had been slating the Cubists; or secondly, could mean the verb 'jouer' which means 'to play'. The idea that it says play could be an allusion to Braque and Picasso sending playful cubist imagery to eachother - both in competition and to communate with each other. These pieces were very 'in-jokey'.

Glass and Bottle of Suze, 1912

The Scallop Shell, 1912
The writing on the French colours to the right says 'notre avenir est dans l'air'. This means, 'our future is in the air'. Perhaps a political comment directed towards the oncoming war during the European wide hostility that came before it.

Still Life 1914
Although Picasso used his art to express himself and/or make a comment about the world about him, he did not paint it with a desired affect in mind. This piece here shows how he believed that art needn't have a purpose. Means nothing to anyone?

Georges Braque:
Braque was Picasso's 'in-joke' buddy. The two were at each others necks trying to out do the other.
Large Nude, 1908
Obviously very influenced from the Picasso of 1907! You can see in the background that it's almost ripping open. Very symbolic now knowing that he was to go on and truly rip open the typical painting surface.

Houses at L'estaque, 1908
Things were getting more jumbled...

Violin and Palette, 1909
He he completely cuts up reality to see how it works.

Le Portugais, 1911-12
As with Picasso, things came largely unreadable. This is otherwise known as the immigrant, and there is possibly something to be said that 'bar' happens to be written in the background. Firstly, a bit of an insult directed to the foreigner, as if to say he's no good and spends his time drunk. The other reason it is interesting is that at the height of his analytical phase he begins to introduce a number of words and signs into his paintings. This is the exact same way Picasso moved on to the synthetic phase. Think of 'Ma Jolie' for example.

Fruit Dish and Glass, 1912
The beginning of the analytic phase. Pasted papers and charcoal on paper.

Salon Cubists (from the Independent Salon)
Cubism was indeed created by Picasso and Braque but was not limited to them only. There were people who joined the movement. For example:

Le Fauconnier, Abundance, 1910

Jean Metzinger, Le Gouter, 1911

Robert Delaunay, Le Tour Rouge, 1911

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