Cubists wanted to challenge the idea of space and perception, and so they created images that present form in new ways. Showing all side of an object in one image or using mixed media and Pure abstraction to represent it. This challenged the art of the period, giving a new meaning to what reality was and what it is that we are actually seeing. Often the artworks presented their new vision in geometric shapes or forms that were given depth and texture. These forms are what inspired the name Cubism as sometimes the forms would resemble small cubes.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was one of the most dominant young artists in the early twentieth century. He was undoubtedly an artistic genius founding Cubism, inventing collage and laying the path for symbolism and surrealism. Picasso became friends with another important artist for Cubism, called George Braque. It is said that the two were inseparable as they worked to develop Cubism and establish their shared vision. They wanted to present a new way of seeing and expressing themselves that also reflected the world around them as they saw it. They also used collage on their canvases which really defined them as cutting edge artists of the period.
They worked together through abstract and fragmented shapes and images. Often using objects or figures for inspiration, Picasso and Brague worked tirelessly to shape their movement. They expanded into sculpture and as they experimented Cubism developed in 2 stages; Analytic Cubism which focused on form and also shape whilst synthetic Cubism with focused on form mixed media and texture. Interestingly Picasso actually rejected the term cubist and especially the phases that critics had used to define it. He saw his work as one continuation, but the abrupt shifts in styles are clear to everyone else. From the blue period to surrealism, Picasso was an experimental artist that was a multiskilled genius. We will read more about him later let’s learn more about Cubism.
10 Facts And Characteristics And Ideas Of The Cubist Style
- The founder of Cubism was Pablo Picasso, and it was developed together with George Braque. However, it is said that Henri Matisse (expressionist and post-impressionist painter) coined the term ‘Cubism’ when describing Braque's painting ‘Houses at l’estaque’ as little cubes.
- Cubism was a modern art movement that challenges the idea of perspective, depth and space.
- Cubists turned away from modelling subjects within the work in traditional ways. Realistic reproductions were not accepted as Cubism.
- Cubism experimented with figures and objects; showing how space flowed freely through them. The foreground and background blended together, showing the same object from different angles.
- Cubism was a movement that developed and evolved to address different ideas and inspirations. There are two branches of the movement; Analytic Cubism and Synthetic cubism.
- The primary phase of cubism, which began in 1909 - 1912, was called Analytic Cubism it focused on reproducing geometric forms from the subject. In sharp angular and flat areas, often monochrome and lacking colour. An example of this is ‘The Woman On A Guitar’ by George Braque. It was inspired by the artist Cezanne style of painting.
- The secondary phase of Cubism, which began in 1912 - 1920, was called synthetic cubism. It focused on simple shapes that created a flatter depth of field which built into each other. As well as adding new materials, collage, mixed media, bright colours and new textures. An example of this is ‘Still Life With Chair Caning’ by Picasso.
- In Synthetic Cubism, Picasso was the first person to use collage, text, cuttings in fine art paintings.
- Cubism is said to be inspired by primitive art and African art, items that look very similar to African masks show up regularly in Picassos work.
- Cubism was created to break old ideas about art, changing the vision and meaning of what art can be. It wanted to challenge how things were seen, instead of giving you a single point of view it gave you multiple points of view, making all of the sides of an object visible at the same time.
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The Most Well Known Cubist Artists
Pablo Picasso was born in Spain to a creative family, his father, who was a painter taught him when he saw that his son had talent. They nurtured his talent and paid for the best art school education they could afford as well as feeding his knowledge with visits to museums and galleries to see the works of the old masters.
He often travelled from Paris to Madrid and became familiar with other artists of his time such as Edvard Munch (Expressionist and symbolist painter) and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ( post-impressionist painter). He began making sculpture and paintings which is said to be his blue period as he used a dominance of blue and grey in his palette.
After this in what is categorised as his rose period because he used a dominant red and pink palette. He focused on performers and circus figures. After this, his palette again darkens, and he began to make the path towards Cubism. It may be that Picasso's palette indicated the mood of the time.
Top Artworks: The soup (1902/03), Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1905), Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Bull's head (1942), Girl before a mirror (1932), Le Reve (1932), Chicago Picasso (1967), The Old Guitarist (1903)
Birthplace: Malaga, Spain
Lifeline: 1881 - 1973
Art Style: Cubism, Symbolism, Surrealism
Art Forms: Painter, printmaker and sculptor
George Brague was born in Argenteuil to a creative family, his father was a decorative painter and encouraged his talent from a young age. After a period of working with his father as a decorator, he moved to Paris to pursue his art full time. He met Henri Matisse (Fauvist, expressionist and post-impressionist painter) and liked his Fauvist style and painted like that for a while using bold colour. However shortly afterwards he saw Pablo Picassos work the painting ‘ Les Demoiselles d’Avigon’, he was so moved by it that they met and hit it off. Becoming close friends and together were the pioneers of Cubism.
Top Artworks: Houses of L’Estaque (1908), Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on the mantlepiece (1911)
Lifeline: 1882 - 1963
Art Style: Fauvism, Cubism
Art Forms: Painter, printmaker and sculptor
A Well Known Piece Of Cubist Art
A first look at this large painting and you might not know where to look. It is a huge piece, which is the first thing that might strike you. Next, you will notice it is a monochrome piece, lacking colours others than black, white and grey.
Guernica is one of Picasso's most famous pieces of art that tells a story about the Spanish civil war. In 1937 the Spanish nationalist government had their allies the Nazis bomb a small town called Guernica in northern Spain. The town was seen as the centre of the Republican resistance movement.
Picasso was in France at the time of the bombing and was being commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to do a mural for the Paris exhibition 1937. His original idea was scrapped so that he could address what had happened, in his most important political piece of painting.
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Some Symbolism Within Guernica:
From The Left To Right
- The shocked bull - Symbolises the continued brutality and darkness
- The woman holding a dead child - Meant to be representative of the virgin and child as affected by war
- The light bulb - This is shaped like an eye and has multiple meanings; gods eye as he looks down on what has happened, The Spanish word for the light bulb (bombilla) and bomb (bomba) are very similar it hovers above the painting like a falling bomb.
- The war horse - is a fallen horse which is made up of many images, one of which is a human skull.
When the work was completed, this piece was sent around the world, which most importantly brought attention and understanding to the Spanish civil war. It is a masterpiece in cubist - symbolism and a powerful anti-war message.
Date Painted: 1937
Size: 350cm x 780cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Other Well-Known Pieces:
- Les Demoiselles d'Avignon By Pablo Picasso
- House at L’Estaque by Georges Braque
- I and the Village by Marc Chagall
- Portrait of Pablo Picasso by Juan Gris
- Nude descending by Marcel Duchamp
- Portrait of Dora Maar By Pablo Picasso
- L’oiseau bleu by Jean Metzinger
- The city by Fernand Leger
- Deer in the forest by Franz Marc
- The sunblind by Juan Gris
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The Cubism art movement was lead by a true visionary and paved the path for other kinds of modern art such as futurism, constructivism, Art deco design etc. It spread quickly through Europe, and many important artists tried or incorporated cubism as they developed their own styles.
Whether you like it or not Cubism was important for breaking down the old foundations of traditional art. Changing the path of artistic movements and pushing art to places it had never been before.