Reference Library: Cubism
'Cubism' is an important and influential art movement; it 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 re-assembled in an abstracted form — instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to present the piece in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no reasonable sense of depth. The background and object (or figure) planes interpenetrate one another creating the ambiguous shallow space characteristic of cubism. It was a complete and clearly defined aesthetic.
Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, then residents of the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France are the movement's main innovators. They began working on the development of Cubism in 1908. They met in 1907, and worked closely together until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
French art critic Louis Vauxcelles first used the term "cubism", or "bizarre cubiques", in 1908. This was after seeing a picture by Braque and describing it as 'full of little cubes' after which, the term was in wide use, but the two creators of cubism refrained from using it for quite some time.
The cubism movement 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. The Puteaux Group, an offshoot of the Cubist movement, to which artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger belonged, also became famous.
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, vorticism and expressionism.
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 "Analytic Cubism" (autumn 1909 to winter 1911/1912), a style in which densely patterned near-monochrome surfaces of incomplete directional lines and modeled forms constantly play against one another. Braque would later describe their relationship as being like 'two mountaineers roped together'.
Picasso's painting of the Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is, by many art historians, 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 Cubism".
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 unsuccessful 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 canvas 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.
Besides employing mixed media, Picasso and Braque varied their paint applications with decorative painting techniques such as combing, faux graining and adding sand for texture. They often drew objects and added shadows with graphite or charcoal, mixing drawing and painting techniques. Picasso especially made use of pointillism and dot patterns to suggest transparent planes and to differentiate space.
Settings in Music
A prime example of cubism in music was given by composer Igor Stravinsky in his Piano-Rag-Music, for solo piano. It was written during Stravinsky's stay in France around 1919 as a result of contact with American popular music (ragtime culminated, at that time) from the early '20s. Elements reassembled were rhythmic and harmonic segments from ragtime and polyrhythm, bitonality and melody from his Russian influence.
Cubism in Literature
Cubism also was adapted into literature, especially poetry, by the likes of Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude Stein and Pierre Reverdy. Such poets adopted a number of techniques which could be classed as close to Analytic Cubism (destruction of grammar, strange or absent punctuation, free verse, etc.) and also some others close to Synthetic Cubism, especially in the case of Guillaume Apollinaire (fusion of poetry and drawing in caligrammes; collages involving postcards, letters and the like; use of musical notation, etc.) It should be noted that Cubist poetry frequenty overlaps with Surrealism, Dadaism, Futurism or event more diverse movements such as Vicente Hudobro's Creationism.
External links and References:
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/Attributed_Works_of_Art.htm Russian and ukrainian cubists]
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/Exhibitions_and_Publications.htm 'Dmitriy Gorbachov', Ukrainian Avant-garde Art 1910-1930s, Mystetstvo, 1996, Kiev, Ukraine.]
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/works_for_rent.htm Exhibition 'Ukrainian modernism' NY, Chikago, 2006, USA]
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/p/a&u.htm 'Avantgarde and Ukraine', Exhibition of the Villa Stuck Munich, 1993, Germany.]
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/p/l'art.en.ukraine.htm Exhibition '''L'art en Ukraine''', Toulouse, France, 1993.]
*[http://users.iptelecom.net.ua/~keytoart/p/zagreb.htm Ukrainian Avant-garde of 1910s-1930s / Ukrajinska Avangarda 1910-1930. Zagreb, 1991, Croatia.]
*[http://uk.portalmundos.com/mundoarte/comments/cubist.htm The Cubist Rupture] Artistic comments in MundoArte
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cubism".