Pablo Picasso – Don Quixote (1955) (Analysis)

Don Quixote is a well-known sketch by Pablo Picasso created in 1955 by the request of a poet Louis Aragon for a French literary magazine. That issue of the magazine was entirely devoted to the work of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. Picasso took the characters for the picture from Miguel’s novel that bears the same title. They are Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza.

Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso
                    Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso

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By the way, the novel is regarded as one of the best novels ever written. Miguel de Cervantes created it as a satire of all chivalric romances the main hero of which, after reading too many romances of that kind, tired of dreaming, leaves everything that he has, abandons his home, and starts to travel the world.

Picasso’s drawing was published on the last page of the magazine. The graphic picture quickly became popular among those people who admired the art of the famous artist but the original sketch was lost.

The Analysis of Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso

The painting depicts Don Quixote on horseback, his friend Sancho Panza, sitting on a donkey, the sun, and several windmills. At first glance, Picasso’s strokes and lines look pretty careless, almost like scribbles, but if you take a look at it more attentively, you will realize that the author was extremely confident about what he was doing which makes a simple black and white picture unique and memorable.

                       A documentary “Pablo Picasso: The Legacy of A Genius” (1981)

Sitting on the donkey, Sancho-Panza looks at his friend from the bottom up, while the weary traveler Don Quixote looks thoughtfully into the distance. Although their postures do show strong fatigue, it doesn’t affect a noble bearing. Apparently, Don Quixote’s body was redrawn more than once, an unusual helmet hides the head, his thin neck is depicted with one long stroke, an eagle’s nose, a goatee beard. He holds the long spear is in one hand, and the round shield in the other.

Panza is drawn in the form of a silhouette that has a strange shape, in which you can see the outlines of a jacket. It’s obvious, that the artist definitely spent less time and effort depicting Panza than Don Quixote. The picture turned out to be memorable, very emotional and surprisingly precise. It does look very bright, full of movement, emotions, and clear lines. The sketch is depicted in black and white. With each stroke Picasso as if narrates us about his infinitely energetic, freedom-loving, and creative nature.

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Dark lines on a light background amaze with their clarity and simplicity, it is clear that the artist drew them with a firm, unwavering hand. Don Quixote and the mill which separates him and Sancho Panza, are depicted more clearly, noting their importance for the composition. We can say that Sancho Panza and other figures are hardly noticeable at all.

With the help of black lines, the artist showed us what exactly occupied the thoughts of Don Quixote, things that added mystics to the reality we are accustomed to. The main hero was contemplating about everything – about the horse, windmills, and the surrounding setting.

The Original Don Quixote – An Overwhelming Discovery

In 2010, the original drawing “Don Quixote” by Pablo Picasso was accidentally discovered in the Georgian family in Tbilisi by art critic Lali Lebanidze. According to the family member, the picture was sent to them by the relative from abroad. The most interesting thing is that the painting was always considered to be a copy.

After a long and careful examination, the Georgian art historian concluded that in his opinion, the find was the original Don Quixote painting by Pablo Picasso, not just a regular print like it was considered before. Nevertheless, it was never officially confirmed and the authenticity of the discovery remained doubtful. For real Picasso enthusiasts, I highly suggest considering this “Ultimate Picasso” hardcover or paperback.


Family of Saltimbanques (La Famille de Saltimbanques) by Pablo Picasso (1905)

The painting “Family of Saltimbanques” by Pablo Picasso belongs to the so-called Picasso’s “pink period” which replaced the sad and dark “blue period”. It also can sometimes be called “circus” as the main heroes of most of the paintings are wandering and roving artists. Circus actors at the time were regarded as the representatives of the lower class, a sort of underdogs of the society, but they were, nevertheless, free and independent.

Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso (1905)
  Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso (1905)           Check out the reproductions & prints here

The Prerequisite For The Family Of     Saltimbanques

It was this romanticized freedom that lured the avant-garde artists, who were looking forward to “throwing off” the shackles of an academic genre and following their imagination, despite the criticism and conservative society. So, as you can see, at that time the portrayal of circus performers was simply popular. That’s why Picasso also couldn’t leave it unnoticed.

                         Find out more about Pablo Picasso, his paintings, cubism, etc

The next conjecture would be the fact that during some period of time, Picasso lived in a Parisian dormitory where he was surrounded by friends who enjoyed the circus. In addition to that, the master liked to visit “Medrano” circus in Montmartre, Paris, from where he, supposedly, drew his inspiration. There is an assumption that all the characters of the painting really existed, and they are not the fruit of the author’s imagination.

The Analysis Of The Picasso’s Circus Family

The author placed the figures of comedians in the deserted landscape, devoid of vegetation. The blue sky in the background is covered with clouds. All 6 characters of the canvas psychologically alienated from each other – they do not communicate with each other, their views do not intersect, but nevertheless, they look harmoniously and united.

There is something common in their faces, eyes, and figures. Collective isolation conveys the sadness of the characters. The dominant color indicates the optimistic beginning, rather than the pessimistic ending. The brushwork, color shades give a feeling of melancholy. The heroes of the artwork are in a thoughtful, depressed mood. It conveys the emptiness of being and the state of unexpected waiting.

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The plot of the painting is also extremely sorrowful. It seems that this rather big family is going to move somewhere once again, but everyone is waiting for a pale-faced woman who is sitting closer to the viewer, looking sadly into the distance, and for some reason, not in a hurry to leave this place.

We can also suppose that the painting shows the parting of close friends. The nature of their activity can be traced through the clothes, however, the relationship to the creative environment also demonstrate their feet – they are in specific dance positions.

Harlequin with a scarf around his neck sadly looks at the plump man that stands opposite him. Most likely, the scarf symbolizes a restriction. Probably, the actor is within some limits that oppress him. His checked costume which used to entertain the audience so often, on the contrary, makes the image dull.

The girl sadly looks at her feet. It seems that it’s hard for her to experience these moments. The black wings darken her image and sort of limit freedom. Perhaps, a very high price was paid for it.

The figures of young acrobats are slightly turned to the side. They look at the beautiful lady, kind of detached from the parting. A stout man in the red suit and a fool’s cap is most likely the head of the clan. His figure symbolizes success and satisfaction with life. He talks to the Harlequin. The circus actors froze as if waiting for some command or order to move on.

Family of Saltimbanques (Sketch)
                   The Family of Saltimbanques (Sketch)

As for the technical side of the painting, the author worked here in the usual for the “rose period” coloring – warm, ocherous, golden, silver and pink range of colors. Picasso paid much greater attention to the composition – recent X-ray studies have shown that the master was rewriting the arrangement of figures on the canvas several times until the desired result was achieved.

 The Meaning Of The Picasso’s Painting

There is a guess that the painting “Family of Saltimbanques” tells about the personal feelings and the experience of the artist. Thus, Pablo Picasso shows his attitude towards art in general. He painted himself in the image of the sad harlequin with a girl by the hand who symbolizes his muse. He turns around, says goodbye and walks away from the self-sufficient and contented life. The scarf around his neck squeezes his throat and limits the will.

He doesn’t need this material well-being, prosperity, and beautiful women anymore. He wants to live for the sake of art, by his own rules. The artist does not want the audience, success and the money from sold works. These bounds are limiting his freedom. It’s unbearable for the creator.

Of course, it is very sad to say goodbye to all, but the artist just can’t do it another way. This picture conveys an uneasy inner world of an artist. Most of the works of Picasso’s “rose period” are permeated with the spirit of the tragic loneliness and deprivation. Like many other Picasso’s works, the “Family of Saltimbanques” (Circus Family) is currently located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.


The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso (1937) (Analysis)

Pablo Picasso always amazed people by his unique manner of drawing pictures. Many of his canvases consistently became masterpieces. Well, of course, there were some more extravagant painters such as, for example, Salvador Dali but Picasso always had his own kind of vision of the world. The painting “Weeping Woman” is a very vivid example of it.

weeping woman pablo picasso
             Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

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Despite the bright colors used by the artist, the painting is extremely sad. It’s very interesting how he managed to empathize the woman and use such colors at the same time. Anyone looking at the weeping woman by Pablo Picasso feels and understands the indescribable grief that can be seen in her eyes.

After the very first look at the picture, you immediately start to contemplate what happened to her. This great pain and suffering make us unwittingly sympathize with her. Maybe she lost a loved one, and her heart is torn apart. It’s well known that Picasso had a great ability to convey emotions.

The Main Idea Of The Painting By Picasso

It has always been extremely difficult to be able to understand the main idea of the work of art, but we must admit, that it becomes even harder when we are we’re dealing with the paintings of Pablo Picasso. That’s why we can only guess what was the true reason for such deep sorrow and unhappy facial expression of this woman. In this particular painting, the whole face of the woman is extremely distorted by despair.

It’s not possible to recognize it. Many women claimed that they posed a talented artist but it could not be proved. But how could one verify whether it was the truth or a lie? The author didn’t leave a single opportunity to do it. He veiled the woman’s image beyond recognition.

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It’s commonly supposed that the painting depicts Dora Maar – a professional photographer, the daughter of a Croatian architect with whom the artist was in a close relationship for nine years from 1936 to 1945. Dora was taking pictures of the crippled, the blind, the homeless, combining the beauty and ugliness, luxury and poverty into the mysterious and spooky surrealism. Dora’s art was bold and avant-garde. Critics called her style “tragic Baroque” and “aesthetic disaster”.

Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar
                   Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar

Maar became some sort of intellectual distraction for Picasso, who at the moment of acquaintance with her experienced a creative crisis. It was she who pushed him to the avant-garde movement and political themes. Maar taught Picasso photography and took up painting under his influence. Together they were producing kind of “photoengravings” on the glass with the help of which, as if from huge negatives, were making prints on photo paper. Dora was the main model of Picasso for all 9 years. (Check out his bio here)

Dora Maar (Picasso's lover)
                                                    Dora Maar

The Analysis Of The Picasso’s Weeping Woman

In the canvas “The Weeping Woman” the author slightly opened the bright mask, literally cut the face of the beloved into pieces, revealing the pale insides of the true grief, showing the real emotions of the woman. He depicts this sad truth with gray, pale colors. The mouth is distorted by suffering. The clenched teeth convulsively tear the crumpled handkerchief, which she presses to her face.

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The woman tries to hold back her tears as hard as she can but they are rolling down her cheeks without asking the permission. The hands are also seen in the painting. Weeping, we almost always press the face with hands, wipe the tears. The hands that constantly reach for the face were extremely authentically depicted by the master. Her eyes are like two buttons sewn crosswise – dead plastic crosses instead of pupils negate life in the weeping look.

“The Weeping Woman” by Pablo Picasso is a collective image of all grieving women who lost in the war their husbands and sons. Tears of fear and despair, seeing the appeared ghost of death, seize the humanity on the threshold of a global catastrophe of the Second World War. In this painting, Picasso by showing the fate of one man, shows the same destructive power of the demon of death, flying over people, splitting people apart and turning them into ghosts.


Pablo Picasso’s African Period (Paul Cezanne Cubism)

African period was a short period that preceded extremely monochrome and fragmented analytical cubism plus, obviously, bright and colorful synthetic stage, and lasted around 1907-1908.

It can be sometimes called “Cezanne Cubism” because at that time Picasso was greatly influenced by Cezanne’s method of simplifying the image, not forgetting the fact that in the basis of any, even very complicated shape, lies a simple geometry – a sphere, a cylinder, a cone.

But even more often this period is called the “African”, “Black” or “Negro”, as at that point Picasso discovered the archaic art of Africa and felt the need to change his own creative method under its influence.

Pablo Picasso - Frienship (1908) (African Period) (Paul Cezanne Cubism)
         Pablo Picasso – Friendship (1908)

Picasso’s Acquaintance with African Art

He became acquainted with the African art at the ethnographic exhibition at the Museum of the Trocadero (Paris) in the spring of 1907. It was a real discovery for him – such simple, even primitive forms of ancient sculpture as idols, statuettes and masks carried a huge artistic charge. They conveyed an image or vision of reality with much more power than modern European art, embodied the mighty forces of nature, from which primitive man was not distancing himself.

                    Read more interesting articles dedicated to cubism and cubist artists

In ancient times – a rough simplicity and extraordinary power, in our time – a pictorial beauty and a scenic swarming in detail. Ancient people exempted a form from any detail, that’s why that form was able to convey the essence of the subject and the magic of an image hidden in that form much more effectively. Picasso placed art above all else in his life, that’s why his ideology coincided with a powerful concept of those images.

Picasso - three figures under a tree (African Period)
    Three figures under a tree by Pablo Picasso                                          (1907-1908)

Ancient wooden idols, rough stone statuettes, and archaic masks served not as decorations of life but carried the symbols of obscure and dreadful forces of nature which controlled the life on earth, full of danger. The art was a magical mean of a spell of forces that were hostile to a human.

It played a much more important role than now. In the course of history, it has become just a makeweight to life that only puts a beautiful gloss on our human existence. Pablo Picasso, who always took his occupation as the most important in the world, realized how to breathe the spirit of the primitive force in it.

We can say that the great cubist followed the path that was suggested by savages or barbarians. During the African period, Picasso was applying the methods of the ancient artists by consistently simplifying the shape of the depicted objects, making them more monumental and expressive, turning the characters into some sort of wooden idols, distorting their faces and turning them into masks.

Picasso Pablo - Dance of the Veils (African Period)
         Picasso Pablo – Dance of the Veils

He uses rough hatching that simulates notches on wooden African sculptures. He dims down the color, integrates space and characters. Such a syncretic view of reality was peculiar to the ancient consciousness.

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On the Picasso’s canvases, it looks as if the characters and the background – a curtain or trees, mountains in the back, or even the air space itself – all is tangible, all “made” from a single “material”, the background looks as tangible as the figure.

Everything consists of single blocks or “cubes”, as derisively described by contemporaries because a primitive man did not separate or distance themselves from nature. The surface of his paintings started to be perceived as a sculptural bas-relief, the image looks like a three-dimensional, as if carved from a single piece of wood or cut down from the whole rock.

The First African Period Artwork by Picasso

The first work by Picasso, in which “African influence” can be clearly seen, is considered to be the painting called “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” created in 1907. Pablo was looking for a new shaping, and something that he achieved in this artwork, he thought to be extremely radical even himself. He was working on this picture for more than six months, repeatedly reshaping the composition and altering the images of women.

In this artwork, he broke off with any kind of conventionality, refused from all the prettiness with which a female body was typically portrayed. He was endlessly repainting the characters by distorting and simplifying their form and finally transformed the faces of the two characters (especially those on the right) in real African ritual masks.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) (Picasso African Period)
                Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)

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As you can see, this work of art possesses all the necessary characteristics to be doubtlessly related to the African period (or Paul Cezanne cubism). By the way, the deformation of figures and schematic representation of faces was considered as the act of misogyny by some critics.

No wonder, that the first reaction of the artistic community was a rejection. But Picasso realized that he discovered a new method which he was consistently developing and experimenting with it during the following two years. He aims to create the illusion of three-dimensional space, populated by deformed creatures, at a two-dimensional plane of the canvas.

Other Picasso’s African Period Paintings

Major works, which are usually referred to the “African” period, were made in the second half of 1907, when he was creating some kind of “supplements” to the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – numerous characters with faces similar to African masks, for example, “Three figures under a tree” (winter 1907-1908) or “Nude with drapery” (summer 1907).

In 1908, in Rue-des-Bois, he painted such typical works as “A Driade” (Nude in the forest), “Trois femmes” (Three Women), “Friendship”. In 1909 he spent the summer at Horta de Ebro, where the examples of “pure”, “high” or “Analytical” cubism appear. But as we already know, these works are usually referred to the next period of his work.


Types of Cubism: What is Synthetic Cubism by Picasso & Braque

Synthetic cubism begins approximately in the spring of 1912 with a color change of monochrome refined cubist compositions of the previous two years of the analytical type, phase, stage or period, and about one year of Picasso’s African Period, otherwise known as Cezanne cubism.

In April 1912, Picasso gets back from a small journey and brings his new work named “Souvenir from Havre” with him. That painting differed from his other works and Braque instantly noticed it by saying that it was a real change of “weapons”.

Pablo Picasso - Souvenir du Havre (1912) (synthetic cubism)
   Pablo Picasso – Souvenir du Havre (1912)

Return of Color and the Use of Objects in Synthetic Cubism

The reason for saying that was the first time appearance of color in cubism, which since that time, becomes much more cheerful and concrete. Not only the color but also the texture of the materials were added to the old abstract compositions.

Braque inserts a jug, a mug and a perfectly realistic image of the nail in his semi-abstract cubist composition. From that point, they began to actively enliven their works with new recognizable details, distinctive signs which were quite definitely implying and suggesting the viewer the real objects.

The founders of cubism didn’t want to make their paintings abstract, that’s why these concrete and recognizable objects appear in their canvases more and more – a piece of a curtain hints at the window, a key, sticking out from the chest, alludes to a chest of drawers.

Other “talking” parts included a slice of lemon, a tube, a bottle, a glass. Soon the letters and the whole words appear on the canvas – the name of wine, magazine, tavern, the name of the beloved. Finally, Picasso pastes into a picture a real postage stamp. It’s pretty obvious that synthetic cubism was highly influenced by the collage art technique.

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Through the use of large color surfaces, cut out of the paper, the color returned to the paintings in the form of colored patches, which greatly differed from the color created purely by pictorial means and the touch of the brush.

The color was long held in reserve during all the period of analytical cubism, which was characterized by its deficiency. But now the color had to come back – not to display the lighting or the relief surface of the object, but for the pleasure of feeling the color itself.

The Card Player by Picasso (Synthetic Cubism)
         The Card Player by Picasso (1913-1914)

In the big Picasso’s painting “The Card-Player”, written in the winter of 1913-1914, old methods of analytical cubism revived because the breakdown of the surface started to be performed by large, color-filled areas, each of which was given a special spatial significance in relation to adjacent one.

All of them were securely mounted into a complete three-dimensional composition. The arabesque of decorative motifs borrowed from the wallpaper was painted with imitations of wood and marble. Soon Braque’s and Picasso’s canvases transformed into some sort of decorative collages.

Examples of Most Famous Synthetic Cubism Paintings

In 1912, Picasso creates the work called “Still-Life with Chair Caning”. He inserts an oilcloth with a pattern that simulates bars of the chair in the oval composition of the painting, the oval itself being bordered by a thick twine – it’s a “frame” of the picture. The prototype of all ready-made experiments of the 20th century was created.

In the same year, during their joint visit to Sorgue (France), Braque invents a so-called paper collage – the three-dimensional picture, spatial composition, original and peculiar sculptures out of paper. Picasso immediately responds to this invention with great enthusiasm and also creates a huge amount of paper compositions.

Still-Life With Chair Caning by Picasso (1912) (synthetic-cubism)
                   Still-Life With Chair Caning by Picasso (1912)

His series called “Guitars” is the most popular one. He uses a newspaper, music sheets,  wallpaper, fabric, cardboard. Besides that, he works on the textured surface pattern by adding to the paint sand and sawdust. By trying to achieve a complete image, he uses charcoal, a pencil, an oil, wax, wood and other ready-made foreign objects such as teaspoons in a single composition.

By doing it, he connects the things that were incompatible in painting before. This period of cubism was called synthetic not by accident. By creating their own miniature collages, cubist artists as if “synthesize” artistic reality from the symbols of the present reality.

The Guitar By Pablo Picasso (synthetic cubism)
             The Guitar By Pablo Picasso (1913)

       Techniques of Synthetic Cubism

While the preference was given to the most simple things, sometimes cubist artists were using some extremely unexpected materials in their works. The magic lies in giving the value to any object which is usually neglected. However, a transition from the analytical to the synthetic cubism was not so sudden and abrupt.

Already in 1912, in the “glued papers” that were created in Sorgue, a clearly preferred use of large flat surfaces can be seen, but paintings of that period also include objects that are treated analytically.

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Over the next year, there was created a great number of works, in which both styles peacefully coexist side by side. At the same time, a sensual pleasure delivered by a tangible surface of the texture started to be valued higher.

The use of sand stuck on the canvas as if invites us to touch the rough, brightly colored surfaces and enjoy the very fact of their existence, not taking into account some of their deeper and representative meaning. Moreover, thanks to a special method of the refraction of light, rough surfaces form wonderful priming for paint, which is being slightly applied by a brush.

A cubist painting from Picasso's Guitar period (synthetic cubism)
A cubist painting from Picasso’s Guitar     period

There is a significant difference between the analytical and synthetic stages of cubism from a pictorial space point of view. The analytical cubism retains some sort of depth – painted surface functions like a window through which we still perceive the remains of the familiar perspective of Renaissance space.

This space, although fragmented and recomposed, lies behind the plane of the picture and does not have the visible limits. Potentially, there may be some things that are invisible to our eyes. In synthetic cubism, it’s the other way around – the space of the picture is in front of the plane.

Space is not created with the help of such illusionistic techniques as modeling or perspective image but by the actual use of several layers of glued materials. The integrity of space is not being disrupted without the perspective.

For example, in the work “Le Courrier” by Georges  Braque (1914), overlaying the shadows in some parts stresses the thickness of the materials, their separation from each other. As you can see, in synthetic cubism, the first time since Masaccio, we deal with a completely new space model which is a real landmark in the history of painting.

Le Courrier by Georges Braque (1913-1914) (Synthetic Cubism)
          Le Courrier by Georges Braque (1913-1914)

Soon Picasso and Braque realized that new pictorial space can be saved without the use of glued materials – by writing on the canvas in the same manner as they did collages. However, the outbreak of World War II put an end to cooperation between the two artists and interrupted the further development of synthetic cubism, which reached its peak in the next decade.

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Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso (1910) (Analysis)

Ambroise Vollard was a pretty well-known person among most of the European artists of the early 20th century. He was a merchant, businessman, entrepreneur. His range of business interests was not connected with cubist portraits, but primarily with the works of arts in general.

He had the ability to find talented painters, buy their paintings wholesale, advertise the “genius” in the best galleries and salons, and then sell the works triple the price. Nevertheless, many outstanding artists including Gauguin, Cezanne, and van Gogh were grateful to him for his financial and moral support.

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso
      Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso             High-Quality Prints & Reproductions

Vollard’s Reaction to Cubism and His Cubist Portrait

Artists depended on the mood of their investor: dreamed of being noticed by him, did their best to be helpful to him. The reputable Spanish cubist Pablo Picasso was one of Vollard’s favorite painters, especially during his “blue” and “rose” periods. But as soon as the great master started experimenting and including some innovations in his work, Vollard immediately lost his interest in Picasso, because he could not be sure that the new work will bring profit.

They were too unusual and revolutionary. Investors, in general, have always been distinguished by great caution, not speaking about such specific things as cubist portraits.

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It all started with a portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Picasso painted the businessman in his new manner. The word cubism or word-combination cubist portraits had not yet become known among the art critics and the society treated new artists with great doubt and concern. The portrait was criticized by Vollard, but he did take it as a present and a few years later, this work was bought by the famous Russian patron and collector Shchukin for a quite big sum of money.

    The Analysis Of The Cubist Portrait

This cubist painting was created in the unique and remarkable style of analytical cubism. In this portrait, you can guess the incredibly detailed image of Vollard. A great scrupulousness can be felt in his clothes: snow-white handkerchief peeking out of his pocket. It is known that Vollard was really incredibly elegant.

The viewer sees Vollard as if reflected in a broken mirror. Each fragment represents the part of the whole image, and at the same time shows this image in a new way. The fragments are separated from each other and are fancily dispersed over the space of the whole canvas.

In this work, the viewer does not have to understand two or three grounds like in regular painting, but tens of absolutely different grounds – near and far, each of which is important. In this picture, we don’t see a refined connoisseur and lover of the arts. On the contrary, we do see a resourceful and stubborn fighter who is not accustomed to conceding and knows exactly what he wants from life.

Ambroise Vollard
                              Ambroise Vollard

The whole picture is subject to a strict rhythm. The color scheme is pretty monochrome. It does not distract from the main thing – from the model itself, its mood, the internal mood, and energy. Pretty dark tones dominate the general background. Contrasts are virtually none. This work is dominated by structure, which is deliberately complicated. The face of the hero is incredibly dramatic.

                        A documentary “Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism” (2007)

In this cubist painting, there can be traced some features of abstractionism. The viewer can also be amazed by the unusual angle of view, which opens even a neck of the character without stopping of demonstrating his face. After a short period of time, this painting became a certain standard for all cubist artists.

Many people say that Picasso’s cubist painting of Ambroise Vollard was more successful than his other portrayals by numerous artists in the usual style of realism. All the people who personally knew Vollard admitted that Picasso was able not only to achieve a striking resemblance but also to convey such subtle nuances as character and habits.

Portrait of Ambroise vollard (realistic pencil sketch)
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (realistic pencil sketch)

Vollard resumed his cooperation with Picasso when Cubism and cubist paintings became a respected and sought-after area of art. However, now he had to be content with a very small profit because the purchase price had changed dramatically. Soon after the creation, the portrait was bought by a merchant Sergei Shchukin and brought to Russia.

Today the painting is at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. This painting is considered to be the masterpiece of analytical cubism and one of the best cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso. If you’re a real fan of this brilliant artist, you definitely need to see this great hardcover.


Definition of Analytic Cubism by Picasso & Braque (1909-1912)

Analytical cubism – a short period in the work of the legendary painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist Pablo Picasso that changed the direction of the development of the whole 20th-century world art and lasted only 2-2.5 years.

The best examples of the style were created in 1910 and 1911, although some works were written in 1909, at the end of the so-called Cezanne or African period, and even later, in 1912, at the beginning of the colorful and concrete synthetic cubism period. Picasso believed that art is capable of more than just showing the things that our eye sees. He thought that there must be a way to show the world as it is “in reality”.

The Reservoir by Picasso (1909) (analytical cubism)
             The Reservoir by Picasso (1909)

Main Characteristics of Analytical Cubism

We should not paint something that we see, but something that we know, try to show things and phenomena that are not visible but exist. Not the things themselves but their Platonic ideas so to say. But how can we do that? First of all, we need to get rid of color, the “coloring” of the world.

The fact that the world is colorful is just an optical illusion. One of the most distinguishing features of the paintings painted during the period of analytical cubism – monochrome. “Color weakens!” – stated Picasso, while watching Matisse’s experiments in painting and focusing mostly on the form and the size of subjects.

The second thing that we need to refuse from is accentuality, severalty of objects, their differences in texture and material. Careful depiction of dust, hairs, silks, and velvet by painters of the past is no longer relevant. All these differences only seem but the reality is one and the same.

The “substance of the world”, from which all these things are “made”, is also the same. In the picture “Girl with a Mandolin”, you will not distinguish the “material” out of which a girl or a mandolin is “made”. Moreover, the table in “The Architect’s Table” is made from the same substance.

                            Other posts about cubism art, cubist artists & paintings, etc

And the third thing is that any perspective fully disappears in analytical cubism. If the goal is to portray the concept of the subject itself, where exactly it is located, far or near, it is irrelevant. As a result, in cubist paintings we can see a very strange, fantastic, flickering monochrome image which creates the illusion of metaphysical space, bulging with its edges of the canvas plane.

A subject and the background surrounding it – are one and the same. The separate items in this unified structure of the reality do not have clearly defined borders. All sort of figurativeness disappears. We just see incomprehensible, icy, fragmented, homogeneous mass which has no texture, no internal differences. We can guess what is depicted only with the help of specific details, hints that Picasso called “attributes”.

The Accordionist by Picasso (1911) (analytical cubism)
        The Accordionist by Picasso (1911)

Analytic Cubism & The Theory of Relativity

Sometimes it may seem that a hand, a mustache, a key or a neck of the guitar is visible but they are “made” of one and the same conditional “substance”. Sometimes in the jumble of broken planes, you can manage to catch the shoulder line, a hint or the outline of the bottle. But these are only the signs and the symbols of those objects, not the objects themselves. Cubism thus set itself not a pictorial but a philosophical task. Obviously, it’s way easier to draw some particular thing than the very notion of this thing or, in the words of Picasso, “the knowing” of this thing.

The Book Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica

Try not to picture a room filled with objects, but the very “fullness”, that very “materiality”. Some art critics make hypotheses that one of the roots of cubism could be the interest of contemporary artists in the natural-scientific picture of the world, which was forming just at that period of time. It is known that Picasso and Braque were keenly interested in the theory of relativity. And here, in particular, could stem their search of methods which imagine the things that lie beneath the visible world.

Houses on the Hill Horta de Ebro by Picasso (1909) (analytical cubism)
           Houses on the Hill Horta de Ebro by Picasso (1909)

They wanted to find out, to “analyze” (hence – “Analytical Cubism”) the way the world is really “made” or organized, not the way it looks. They tried to “open” the external, previously veiled with the gloss of traditional realistic painting, a form of the subject, gut it, turn it inside out, show what’s inside.

And all these objects, landscapes, people in their paintings appear as an abstract “matter” taken to pieces. These pieces were also called “cubes” by some arrogant critics. As you can see, the artists are also looking for the fundamental principles of a human being. Perhaps this is the way cubism interprets the primeval chaos, hidden under the surface of habitual things.

    The Founders of Analytical Cubism

It is believed that the founder of the cubism art movement was not only Picasso but also his friend and colleague Georges Braque, who managed to estimate the value of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – most essential Picasso’s cubist work. Since 1907, he joined Picasso’s artistic search and later became an equal partner in their creative union. It was a real co-creation – continuous meetings, discussions, sharing their findings and experience.

So it can be said that they began to create their artworks almost as one person. The early works of analytical cubism include landscapes, still made by Picasso in Horta de Ebro – Factory, the Reservoir, Houses on the hill (1909). Later in 1910, he painted several portraits of his art dealers – Wilhelm Uhde, merchant, businessman, entrepreneur Ambroise Vollard, and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

Daniel Henry Kahnweiler by Picasso (1910) (analytical cubism)
   Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler by Picasso (1910)

The Most Famous Painting of This Period of Cubism

The portrait of Henry Kahnweiler is considered to be one of the best examples of this stage of cubism. A great desire to penetrate into the inner nature of the three-dimensional object, to comprehend the essence of space which it occupies, as well as that space, within limits of which it is situated, brought a closer analysis to life, making all the familiar surface contours of an object deprive of their usual opacity.

Learn How To Draw Realistic Pencil Portraits Like A Master Now!

An impenetrable screen of appearance was forced to undergo crystallization, which gave it more transparency. Each facet is set on the edge in order to allow us to assess the volumes lying beneath its surface. We don’t need to caress with our look, a smooth external rind – the shell of the phenomena. Instead, a transparent structure similar to a cell appears right before our eyes, in which both surface and depth are equally accessible to vision.

A portrait of Wilhelm Unde by Picasso (1910) (Analytical Cubism)
   A portrait of Wilhelm Unde by Picasso (1910)

Then Picasso creates the masterpieces of the cubism style, the samples of “high”, refined cubism – The Poet, Accordionist, Clarinet, Still Life with Bottle of Rum. Finally, in 1912, the last artworks of analytical cubism period appear – A Man with A Guitar, Ma Jolie (1911-1912). After this, the cubist compositions are becoming more colorful and decorative – a period of synthetic cubism starts.

If you’re a real fan of cubism and want to discover it even deeper, I recommend you take a look at this wonderful book.


Cubist Artist Pablo Picasso – The Inventor of Collage Art?

                         What is Collage?

Collage – a special method of creating artistic compositions. Its main principle consists of compiling some kind of a mosaic out of materials that have diverse shapes and texture.

Pieces of cloth, scraps of newspaper or book pages, buttons, broken glass, nails, and wood shavings – everything that can be found, all the objects that express the author’s intention are being fixed on the canvas, cardboard or any other basis with the help of glue, wire, thread and form an integral picture.

Collages may include three-dimensional elements and whole objects, such as a doll, mitten, scissors and so on.

An example of a collage by Picasso, 1912
       An example of a collage by Picasso, 1912

There can be plenty of different variants. Contrast combination of materials, for example, technological or artificial, such as plastic, foam plastic on the one hand, and natural, such as bark, ceramic fragments, pieces of linen on the other, makes it possible to create an unusual, bold, controversial and even shocking works.

Combining of similar elements, on the contrary, gives a sense of internal unity, stylistic consistency. In case the natural materials are being used, the work is very likely to be extremely harmonious and will possess some sort of inner equilibrium.

              The Appearance Of Collage

The first evidence of the use of collage techniques dates back to the 2nd century BC and corresponds approximately to the time of the invention of paper in China. Until the 10th century, the use of collage was extremely rare.

Since the 10th century, Japanese calligraphers began to use specially treated and glued small pieces of paper in their works. As concerns Europe, we can say that the history of such a phenomenon as collage begins here in the 13th century.

A National Geographic TV series “Genius: Picasso” 

Elements of gilded sheets began to be used in the decoration of Gothic cathedrals around the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Precious stones and metals started to be used to decorate the sacred images and their frames.

Despite the use of artistic methods that can resemble collage way before the 20th century, some critics still say that the collage, as a separate form of art, appeared only after 1900, with the first phase of modernism.

Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper', 1913 (Picasso's Collage)
        Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’, 1913

Art collage concepts associated with the beginning of modernism and cubism, in particular, include much more than just the idea of the composition of heterogeneous elements. Paper glued to the Braque’s and Picasso’s paintings offers a new look at the picture.

Three-dimensional parts of the collage collide with the planar surface of the painting. From this perspective, collage technique can be defined as the manifestation of art between a painting and a sculpture.

This new way of the composition provided a new look at the creation of both sculptures and paintings. With time, the collage method evolved into an extremely popular and influential form of art. The history of collage technique can be traced back hundreds of years, but it was only in the early twentieth century when it appeared as entirely new art.

We can say that collage technique started to be widely used in the early twentieth century for creating avant-garde works, mostly by such representatives of cubism as a Spanish painter Pablo Picasso and a French painter and collagist Georges Braque.

Artists of the early 20th century were passionate about the experiments, the search for a new artistic language. One after another, there appeared modernist schools and trends which set a goal – to change conventional ideas about painting.

Cubists in their works used unusual techniques, and materials. One of the discoveries of that era was the collage. They decomposed objects into geometric shapes and constructed paintings by using simple geometric forms as elements of the composition. An image created in such a way was a kind of mosaic compiled from elements-symbols.

in their works, cubist artists strived to reproduce the spirit of modern times. They supplemented the paintings with such signs of civilization as scraps of papers, labels, signage letters.

                      Collage In Paintings

The appearance of such “strange” materials in paintings can be considered the beginning of the collage technique. Pablo Picasso became the creator of the first integral collage compositions.

He embedded in his compositions fragments of wallpaper, posters, newspaper cuttings, sand, wire. By doing it, the master transferred the reality to the context of the picture, destroying all stereotypes about the painting.

A glass and a bottle of Suze by Picasso,1912 (collage)
   A glass and a bottle of Suze by Picasso,1912

The collage method was intended to rebuild the man’s mentality, to make him see that the world is unpredictable and changeable, and the properties of things are impermanent. The reality in the compositions of Picasso was created and constructed according to the will of the artist, not copied or reflected.

In the following years, a whole generation of futurists, surrealists, and other artists shared his fascination for this kind of art. Each element of the composition was extracted from its context and included in an alien environment, thus gaining a whole new meaning. It was this transformation of the material, violation of traditional ties, the unusual role of the usual things that attracted artists.

In the middle of the 1940s, there was a time of intensive experiments. Louise Berliawsky Nevelson created sculptural (three-dimensional) collages from found wooden debris, pieces of furniture, interior items, wooden boxes, barrels, as well as architectural remains, stair railings, wooden panels.

The Age of Collage: Contemporary Collage in Modern Art

Rectangular, very large in size, painted in black, they resemble gigantic paintings, which sometimes can be seen from different angles, or even be transparent. Many compositions from wood are much smaller in scale.

They do usually include pieces of wood, wood shavings or waste collected on the plane, paper, canvas, or on a wooden board. Such framed, like a photograph, three-dimensional collages offer the artist an opportunity to use such inherent properties of wood as depth, natural color, textural variety.

The collage technique with the inclusion of wood can be also used in combination with painting, graphics and other means in a single work of art. The collage was also used by many surrealist painters.

A collage by Louise-Nevelson
                   A collage by Louise-Nevelson

One of the techniques of collage, used mainly by representatives of cubism, cutting the image into squares which were then collected back in random order or with some slight rearrangements.

According to many critics, John Heartfield (German graphic artist, one of the founders of a photomontage), was the first who translated the technique of collage creation into an art form and presented it to the public in 1924.

He used collage as a satirical weapon against Hitler and Nazism, applying it basically for combining the pictures. George Gross recalled that when John Heartfield invented photomontage in his office at five o’clock in the morning in May 1916, no one had any idea of its enormous potential, as it often happens in life, they stumbled upon a gold mine without even knowing it.

A satirical collage by John Heartfield
      A satirical collage by John Heartfield

The collage technique was also used by the Italian futurists and many other artists in the history of the twentieth century, including Robert Rauschenberg, who is considered to be one of the leading masters of this technique.

The new realism exhibition in the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris is known for the international debut of the artists who founded what became known as pop art in Europe and the United States. Many of these artists used collage techniques in their work.

        Contemporary Types Of Collage


Specially prepared elements cut from paper, leather, cloth, and other plant materials are glued to the basis.


A technique of creating the compositions from the elements that constitute the associative array using one or several characteristics.


A technique of creating artworks, design and decor elements of any natural or man-made materials that can not be combined with the usual representation.


The art of decorating objects by gluing different in color, texture and size pieces of paper in combination with special paint effects, varnish, and other coatings. Typically, the surface of the object is completely hidden under the decoration and has the form of incrustation.

     Photo Collage And Photomontage

With the development of photography, a new type of collage appears. It was named a photo collage. Initially, it was making compositions with the help of background pictures, memorable or just beautiful places using different techniques, drawing, creating models of different objects. Later a hole for the face appeared, and the degree of naturalness started to be determined by the skill of the artist who created the image.

                          Make sure you read other posts about cubism art movement

The increased quality of the photos made it possible to create a new subtype of a collage called photomontage. This is a real combination of two or more images into one, which requires many different skills and deep knowledge. The photomontage is very complex and painstaking work which takes many hours of hard work.

Technically, the montage is created in several steps – a selection of images according to the degree and angle of lighting and their general quality, creating applications or printing using a mask, further retouching, removal of image borders, working with shadows, giving natural effect to lightning and then printing the final result.

                A Modern Photo Collage

Today digital photography and advanced software allow creating photo collages of very high quality, visually indistinguishable from the original pictures. Professional use of modern means of digital image processing will help you to find yourself among the favorite movie or historical characters, in the paintings of famous artists, on another planet or in a completely different historical period.

It is also possible to remove or add various elements to the final image, from the text and vignettes to individuals. In addition to the compositions on a single sheet, collages from multiple images of different sizes and decorative elements also gain popularity.

An Example of Photo Collage (Picasso)
                               An Example of Photo Collage

Photos can be designed in the same style and in the same frames. As an alternative – a photo can be stylized according to different periods of time – black and white with a carved edge, sepia, color, digital. Frames can also be of different styles – from simple wooden to modern – plastic and metallic.

Despite the fact that it may seem pretty easy, the modern photo collage is a serious and difficult work, which in addition to vocational skills, requires special knowledge of composition, a theory of light (lighting), the combination and compatibility of colors and simple artistic taste.

If you’re a beginning artist or just want to know more about the collage art technique, I suggest that you have a look at this fabulous book.


Cubism in Architecture. A Short Amusement Of The Past

Classical modernist architecture was not created at the very first attempt. Its appearance was preceded by several failed experiments. The largest of them – cubist. Cubism was one of the numerous artistic movements of the early 20th century, but its creators had larger ambitions.

They thought that cubism was a new style of the era, which meant that this style was universal and could be common or applicable to all the arts. They almost succeeded in creating cubist architecture. Perhaps they were also thinking about the possibility of creating cubist music but, obviously, this project was not so successful.

A cubist house in Prague, 1914 (cubist architecture)
              A cubist house in Prague, 1914

Must own book for the lovers of cubism by Leonard A. Lauder

In their theoretical rules, cubist architects expressed the need for dynamism, which would prevail over the essence and peace contained in it through a creative idea, in order the result to cause a sense of expressive plasticity.

This should be achieved through the shapes obtained from pyramids, cubes and prisms, positioning and comparison of sloping surfaces, mainly triangular, sculptural facades in crystal-like protruding elements, similar to the so-called diamond faceting or even cells that resemble late gothic architecture.

Thus, all surfaces of the facades, including pediments and attic windows, have their form. Grills, as well as other architectural ornaments, acquire three-dimensional shapes. Besides this, new forms of windows and doors, for example, hexagonal windows were created.

       The Birth Of Cubist Architecture

Cubist architecture had a pretty spectacular start. At the autumn Parisian salon in 1912, a group of authors exhibited a large, 10 by 3 meters, model of a cubist house. The facades were designed by a French sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon, room interiors (they could be seen from the other side of the model) were designed by several people, among whom the main person was a French painter and designer Andre Mare.

The rooms were fully furnished and small cubist paintings hung on the walls. After Paris, “Cubist House” was shown at the Armory Show in New York. Shortly after this event, the first erections of cubist architects appeared. But they were not in Paris. Original cubist architecture is extremely rare. There is only one country in the world where cubism really applied to architecture. This country was called Bohemia (now Czech Republic), especially its capital Prague.

The model of a cubist house (Maison Cubiste), 1912 (cubist architecture)
                The model of a cubist house (Maison Cubiste), 1912

Czech architects Josef Crest, Josef Gočár, Pavel Janák, Otakar Novotný were the first and only ones in the world who ever designed the original buildings in the style of cubism. Moreover, during these three years, Czech architects have created a lot of cubist furniture and interior items.

Cubist architecture flourished mostly in the 1910-1914 years, but the buildings in the cubist style, or at least, under its influence, were also built after the First World War. After the war, an architectural style called “rondo cubism” developed in Prague. It was a combination of cubist architecture and round shapes.

The most famous cubist house building is considered to be the House of the Black Madonna which is situated in the historic old town of Prague. It was built in 1912 by Josef Gočár and it houses the only Cubist café in the world called Grand Cafe Orient. In 1912-1914, Vlastislav Hofman built entrance pavilions of Ďáblice cemetery.

Joseph Crest designed several residential buildings under Vysehrad fort. Not far from Wenceslas Square, there are some preserved cubist lights designed by Emil Králíček in 1912, who approximately in 1913, also built the Diamant House in New Town Prague.

Cubist architecture is avant-garde and amazingly traditional at the same time. It uses the same symmetrical facades, gables, lucarnes, portals which can be found in the previously built houses but only subjected to a characteristic triangular pixelation.

It’s like art nouveau mansions, seen through the eyes of Robert Delaunay. Cubist architecture did not totally deny the experience of the past. It only decorated the facades of buildings with new ornaments but the structure remained the same.

Grand Café Orient in Prague (cubist architecture)
                                    Grand Café Orient in Prague

Czech cubism was pretty short. After the First World War, the same architects, now citizens of the independent Czechoslovak Republic, returned to the profession but their buildings were not the same. After playing around with triangles, in the 1920s, they became fascinated with half circles and cylinders. This architecture is called “rondo cubism” and it’s quite different from their pre-war constructions. We can say that the story of cubist architecture ends here.

     The Traces Of Cubist Architecture

It was all kept within the three pre-war years, but its individual motifs can be often found in buildings constructed in the following decades. It is known that cubist artists greatly influenced the formation of the Art Deco style. Well, actually, they were the authors of this style.

Shortly after the war, the author of the cubist house interior, André Mare, became pretty successful at designing Art Deco furniture. In 1925, together with a French designer and architect Louis Süe, he designed two pavilions at the famous Parisian exhibition.


The most famous French art deco interior – the interior of the house of Jacques Doucet in Neuilly-sur-Seine (1929) – was created by the entire team of cubist artists. The Art Deco style was not only limited to the cubist motifs. It drew inspiration from many other sources. In addition, the cubist painting also underwent some changes. Analytical cubism of the 1920s was different from the paintings that could be seen at the pre-war art exhibitions.

The reality was not subjected to the monotonous triangular deconstruction to such a degree like it was before. At the same time, it’s pretty surprising, that in the Art Deco architecture, the motifs of pre-war angular cubism can be found. We can see it in the built-in Oviatt shop ceiling lamps in Los Angeles (1928, architect – Frenchman Ferdinand Shan), in the ceilings of a “Paramount” theater in Oakland (1931, architect Timothy Pflueger), and so on.

Oviatt shop ceiling lamps in L.A (cubist architecture)
                                Oviatt shop ceiling lamps in L.A

Numerous trends in 1920s painting, contending with each other for the right to be the successor of cubism, almost all, one way or another, used its methods and techniques. Its shattered, crystalline forms were the common heritage of all of the avant-garde paintings of that time.

These motives can also be found in the paintings of expressionists, as well as in the buildings which were built by German expressionist architects. From a formal point of view, some of these buildings (for example, a Mendelsohn factory in Luckenwalde, a Sommerfeld house in Berlin, the unpreserved masterpiece of the young Bauhaus professors) can rightly be called cubist.

                         In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art

However, the Sommerfeld house was also strongly influenced by Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright himself, though stayed away from the European avant-garde, from time to time borrowed some techniques from it.

Wright was also a lover of the diagonal and acute angle, but in some of his 1950s buildings, for example, in the Unitarian Church meeting house in Madison, gas station in Cloquet – diagonal plan loses its regularity, and the planes puff up as in the buildings of Cubists and Expressionists.

Mendelsohn factory in Luckenwalde, Germany (cubist architecture)
                Mendelsohn factory in Luckenwalde, Germany

Milanese architects of the second half of the 20th century also felt pretty confined within the frames of a modernist canon and they all somehow violated it. The most famous architect of Northern Italy, Gio Ponti (he began in the 1920s as a moderate classic) in his late buildings suddenly turns to cubism, which did not interest him before.

In his Venezuelan Planchart villa in Caracas, cornices and facades are broken up, their pieces crawl each other like ice floes, and in some places, you can take a look at the thin as a sheet facade plane from its end face. It looks as if the villa was frozen, and then someone hit it with a hammer, splitting it.

In the church of San Francesco d’Assisi al Fopponino and the cathedral in Taranto, Ponti recalled the experience of German Expressionists who subjected gothic motifs to cubist geometrization.

The church of San Francesco d’Assisi al Fopponino in Milan, Italy (cubist architecture)
The church of San Francesco d’Assisi al Fopponino in Milan, Italy

     The End of Cubism In Architecture

In general, the cubist architecture was a failed, might-have-been project, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. In the mid-1920s, the founders of the “modern movement” developed new principles of architecture, invented it anew, from scratch. In the early 1910s, cubists only figured out how to decorate or diversify it in a new way.

Modernists were building a new, unprecedented world, paradise on earth, and were pretty serious about it. The social ambitions of cubists were mostly limited to the dream of wealthy collectors. Cubists were reforming the art and didn’t crave for more, but modernists were twisting the world inside out.

                Check out the HD documentary “Pablo Picasso: The Legacy of A Genius”

It’s obvious, that this task was much more interesting and absorbing. That’s why the majority of German expressionist architects and all Czech Cubists, in the middle of the 1920s, quickly forgot about their previous experience, and with great enthusiasm started building white houses with flat roofs. This trend prevailed in the architecture for about thirty years, spread to the entire planet and shaped the environment in which still lives the majority of mankind.

But all this time it was accompanied by a ghost of the cubist architecture, hiding in the shadows, in the folds of history, peeping out from time to time, as if trying to live the life which ended too early.


Cubist Artist Georges Braque. The Second Founder of Cubism

The Early Life and Career of Georges Braque

Georges Braque (1882-1963) was a renowned French painter, sculptor, graphic artist, decorator. Together with a legendary cubist, colleague, and friend Pablo Picasso is considered to be one of the founders of an unusual but extremely captivating cubism art movement.

The author of numerous decorative visual arts compositions. He was born in 1882 in a small French town Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris. His father decorated interiors and even had his own workshop.

No wonder that his family wanted Braque to continue the tradition and he almost did, but soon got interested in visual arts. In 1902-1904 he visited classes at the fine arts school in Paris, where he got acquainted with many interesting people who shared the same beliefs.

A cubist Georges-Braque, founder of cubism
                     A cubist Georges Braque

It was the place where Braque got fascinated with the most popular artistic tendencies of that time. In 1906, together with Othon Friesz and Raoul Dufy, a future cubist artist started moving towards Fauvism.

He once said that at that time he was inspired mostly by such painters like Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. He creates series of sceneries that are saturated with the strength of the southern sun and bright colors of the Provence geographical region.

In those landscapes, there is a traditional image of nature motif, but the explosive power of color and the plastic expression add some sort of unreal and almost unearthly character to the painting.


A distinctive feature of his works during that period was not only a unique decorative beauty but also much more vivid than that of other artists, constructiveness of the composition. Unlike other Fauvist painters, Braque paid attention not only to the position of the color elements on the plane of the picture but also to building space.

Even at that time, he was inspired by Cezanne more, than by Van Gogh. Braque became pretty successful at selling his fauvist paintings, but soon everything had changed because Picasso came to Paris.

Braque - Viaduct at L'Estaque, 1908 (cubism)
  Georges Braque – Viaduct at L’Estaque, 1908

Changes In Style & The Road Towards Cubism

There were two things that completely turned the consciousness of Braque as a fauvist: a large exhibition of Cezanne in 1907 and acquaintance with Pablo Picasso. Cezanne exhibition was a real revelation for many artists of that time.

We can say that Cezanne returned space and volume to the contemporary art of that period. Picasso, however, showed some new ways of development of the new art. Influence of Cezanne and Picasso’s works leads to a radical change in the style of Braque.

One of his most famous works of that period – the painting called “Houses at L’Estaque”. A concrete motif here is turned into some sort of a model of the universe. What we actually see in this painting, is not a view of a city, but the image of the world of creation.

Instead of the fluid forms that could be seen in his previous works, powerful geometrized volumes appear, a great diversity of colors is replaced by an ascetic range of muted yellowish, greenish and blue-gray tones, which are typical of Cezanne works. Dynamism is combined with unflinching statics.

Some people say that it was this particular work that made Matisse and then some other critics mention the word “cube” when describing it. We all know that this word soon gave birth to a completely new movement, which played such a huge role in the 20th-century art.

The creation of cubism, which is considered to be the greatest revolution in art since the Renaissance, was not a result of a laboratory or structural work. Picasso and Braque had no specific plans or ideas.

They just had a great desire to experiment and do something different from the things that had already been done before. They wanted to do it their own way – the way nobody was doing it at that time. Picasso once stated that when they started to paint cubist paintings, their intention was not to invent cubism.

They just wanted to express themselves. Their friends, colleagues, poets and other critics were quite skeptical about it. Poets are mentioned here because they also did participate in the discussions about the future of a modern art.

Houses at L’Estaque by Braque, 1908 (cubism)
          Houses at L’Estaque by Braque, 1908

The Meeting of Two Legends & The Beginning of Cubism

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso got acquainted when a French poet, writer, and critic Guillaume Apollinaire brought Braque to Picasso’s studio, where stood almost finished “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” The first reaction of the future second originator of cubism to this painting was pretty straightforward – this guy is mad! He said that Picasso paints his pictures in such a way as if he doesn’t respect his viewers at all.

However, he pondered a little bit and soon realized how innovative this work was, and what opportunities it could open. They became friends and soon started their fruitful collaboration in the stage of analytic cubism. Braque starts to paint mainly still life paintings in which the “cubes” begin to break into small faces that fill the entire surface of the canvas.

These faces have their own color and direction, seem obtrusive or hollow, bright or dark, soft beautiful strokes are combined with sharp contours. Details of objects arise from abstract forms, but, in accordance with the doctrine of Cubism, the artist doesn’t depict the object. He strives to pass the sum of plastic sensations and main ideas about it.

Learn How To Draw Realistic Pencil Portraits Like A Master Now!

In front of the viewer, there were some extremely abstract, coloristic and rhythmic surfaces enclosed in rectangular or oval frames. The periods of his creative work completely coincided with the phases of the development of cubism. Well, because he shaped them. Together with Picasso, of course. During the stage of synthetic cubism, Braque, like Picasso fully breaks up with the traditional “nature”.

The picture is no longer “analog” of an object, but some kind of a new reality. On a clean surface of the canvas, there was a free game of brightly painted color planes, realistic contour sketches of different objects, inscriptions, and elements of the mounted in the composition live nature – in the form of a collage or painting imitation of pieces of newspaper, wallpaper, labels and so on.

With the help of these techniques, the cubism artist achieves new decorative effects and creates a general sense of the life of a modern city, with its rhythms and signs of documentaries – and sometimes even a kind of musical images. (Aria de Bach)

Aria de Bach By Braque, 1913 (cubism)
                 Aria de Bach By Braque, 1913

The Difference Between Picasso’s & Braque’s Cubism

Before the First World War, when Picasso and Braque were very close friends, very often their works were pretty much alike, and sometimes were almost indistinguishable. The founders of cubism used to even joke about it.

One master could sign the work of the other one and that’s why they made a little mess in the attribution of some of their paintings. Well, maybe, the Braque’s cubism is kinda more rational, and Picasso’s is slightly more insane.

Georges Braque was a Frenchman, and for him, cubism was something more stable, balanced, methodical, a kind of formula, unlike Picasso, for whom it was something crazy and delusional, some sort of a durability test of reality, something that was extremely intuitive, expressive and emotional.

We should also remember that Braque was a Fauvist before. That’s why he had to restrain his usage of color. And what concerns Picasso, he disciplined himself on the line usage because he was a born skillful painter.

Still Life Paintings by Cubist Georges Braque

After this, there was a First World War and Braque was drafted into the army. In 1915 he was wounded in the head, underwent a long medical treatment, didn’t come back to the front, but eventually, after 2 years, returned to art. By that time cubism was already pretty much depleted. The former cubist artist didn’t want to witness the caricatures of his own ideas in the works of other contemporary artists.

Since the 1920s, Braque uses only a few stylistic elements and techniques of cubism and renounces its abstract tendencies. But, like Picasso and many other modern masters, he relies on that previously found freedom of depicting not only the visible but also conceivable.

Since then his art somehow balances between the nature and the inner world of the artist and becomes some sort of “objectified” poetry. The paintings became imbued with a special spirituality. They strived to convey not so much the look but the inner essence of phenomena. A leading genre in the works of Braque during the 1920s is still life.

He creates mostly series of compositions with numerous objects, such as fireplaces, roundtables and so on. In these visual images, he tries to combine different facets and aspects of reality and uses a variety of means of expression. As a result, a sense of the almost baroque abundance of life, the interconnectedness and interconversion of things is transmitted with the help of a local image.

"The table" still life, 1928 (Georges Braque) (cubism)
                    “The table” still life, 1928 (Georges Braque)

His 1920s still life works are characterized by special “Jazz” syncopated rhythms and sharpness of the lines that blend in with the general plasticity of the whole. But perhaps the main distinguishing feature of his works is elegant and austere coloring, the unique harmony of deep and rich in shades yellow and brown, black and green tones, supplemented with white, red or blue.

The paintings became imbued with a special spirituality. They strived to convey not so much the look but the inner essence of phenomena. A leading genre in the works of Braque during the 1920s is still life. He creates mostly series of compositions with numerous objects, such as fireplaces, roundtables and so on.

In these visual images, he tries to combine different facets and aspects of reality and uses a variety of means of expression. As a result, a sense of the almost baroque abundance of life, the interconnectedness and interconversion of things is transmitted with the help of a local image.

His 1920s still life works are characterized by special “Jazz” syncopated rhythms and sharpness of the lines that blend in with the general plasticity of the whole. But perhaps the main distinguishing feature of his works is elegant and austere coloring, the unique harmony of deep and rich in shades yellow and brown, black and green tones, supplemented with white, red or blue.

Lemons by Braque, 1929 (cubism)
                              Lemons by Georges Braque, 1929

George Braque’s Other Works & Activities Besides Cubism

Along with still life pictures, he also painted series of nude portraits that fascinate the viewer with its powerful plasticity, the breadth of the rhythm and beauty of color. Almost at the same time with these female images some ancient characters called “Canephora” appear in his works – girls with the sacred gifts in the form of fruits and flowers. They look monumental and pretty light at the same time.

Mythologized figures live freely in the space of the artist’s paintings. Later, he repeatedly returned to the ancient themes (the cycle of illustrations for Theogony by Hesiod, numerous lithographs, etchings and plastic works with images of Greek gods and so on). Braque’s style of painting with its range of golden, brown and black tones and refined linearity has something in common with the archaic vase painting.

Big trees at Estaque by Braque (cubism)
               Big trees at Estaque by Braque

In the early 1930s, Braque experienced a short influence of surrealism. His paintings acquire a new poetic and spatial breadth, a special coloristic and linear refinement, become be filled with light. In Normandy, he creates series of marine sceneries, then paints the interiors, which place tables with still life or thoughtful women with a combined face and a profile, outlined by the winding “Baroque” contour.


In the 1950s, he paints the lamp shades of the Etruscan hall in Louvre with lapidary images of birds and creates lots of graphics of similar kind. The image of a flying bird in his art turns into the personification of nature, a symbol of freedom and spiritual flight of creativity. He is also famous for his pictures of fish (especially impressive is the work called “The Black Fish”, 1942).

His creative work is not limited to painting and drawing. He created stained-glass windows, refined and expressive sculptures that resemble Greek archaic period, worked as a scenic designer at the theater (decoration of “Diaghilev’s” Ballets in the 20s), as a master of applied arts. Georges Braque is also the author of highly artistic, modern and stylish jewelry, but it is obvious, that most people know him as one of the most famous cubist artists of all time.