Cubism was an art movement in which subjects were portrayed in ways in which they did not appear in nature. This highly stylized art form caught audiences off guard with its abstract sensibility and optical illusions.
This groundbreaking movement was created in Paris by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and is often called one of the most influential art styles of the twentieth century. The movement got its name from its highly geometric forms, called “cubes” by art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1908. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, with its heavy stylization and distortion, is credited as the beginning of Cubism in art. Cubist art’s major influences came from African art and primitivism art styles. Picasso and Braque never embraced total abstraction, an extreme form of the movement evident in Simultaneous Windows on the City by Robert Delaunay, 1912. A major concept of the movement is the rejection of typical artistic norms such as portraying forms as they appear in nature. The standard norm at the time was to copy how objects appeared in nature by following traditional methods of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening. A Cubist artist instead recreates an image in a fractured, stylized form from multiple vantage points. Early Cubist art was not as stylized, though by 1910, subjects became more abstracted and dissected. Favorite subjects of this period included common household items such as pitchers, bottles, and instruments. Faces were also a common topic, but the formerly popular landscape scenes were quite rare. Cubist art was not limited to painting. It soon spread to sculpture with the help of Picasso. Such works also featured highly stylized designs with crisp planes and warped replications of everyday sights. The first Cubist sculpture was Picasso’s Woman’s Head, 1909-1910. On a grander scale, the Cubist movement influenced architecture, inspiring the creation of stunning buildings that shunned the typical architectural styles of the time. These buildings became must-sees with their angled appearances. Famous Cubist buildings include Zurich’s Centre Le Corbusier and House of Black Madonna in Prague.
The movement continued to influence artists outside of the Salon with its unorthodox take on everyday situations. It influenced painters working in the dada, surrealism, and abstract art movements. Later cubist artists developed the art form and extended it into sculpture, literature and architecture.
- Seated Nude, Femme nue assise by Pablo Picasso, 1909 1910
- Portrait of Picasso by Juan Gris, 1912
- Girl at the Piano by Jacques Villon, 1912
- Violin and Candlestick by George Braque, 1910
- Woman with a Fan by Jean Metzinger, 1913
- The art movement influenced literature, as seen in the 1930’s novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
- Picasso first saw African art in Paris at the Ethnographic Museum of the Palais du Trocad ro.
- Analytic Cubism got its name from the process of “analyzing” or breaking down a subject’s space and form.