Cubism can be defined as a modernist trend in European art (mostly in painting and sculpture) that appeared at the beginning of the 20th century (circa 1907) and existed till the early 1920s, mostly because of the fact, that at that particular point in time, the classical art faced a serious crisis.
Artists searched for some new ways of representing their feelings and emotions and this is exactly how a completely new movement in art, which enabled them to look at the whole art from a different perspective, was invented.
The First & Most Famous Cubist Painting
Like impressionism and surrealism, the appearance of cubism, helped people to rethink everything that was created before. The origins of cubism are closely connected with the name of the famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Somewhere around 1907-1908, he started to be interested in primitive African sculpture. Its chopped forms inspired Picasso to strive for more abstract forms and images.
The first picture in this style is considered to be “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (The brothel of Avignon). (Now this picture is located in the museum of modern art in New York). It was created in 1907 and contained grotesque, deformed and rough figures painted without any effects of light, shade or perspective. It was a combination of geometric forms, lines, and sharp angles. Starting from this work, Picasso stopped using optical realism features, refused nature, perspective, light, and shade.
The Appearance of Cubist Art
The birthday of cubism in art is considered to be the meeting of Pablo Picasso and a young French painter Georges Braque. It happened when a French poet Guillaume Apollinaire invited Braque to Picasso’s studio. Picasso and Braque became the founders of Cubism and worked in close cooperation until the 1st world war, creating the history of cubism. Later many other young Parisian painters and poets joined them and in 1908, they announced the appearance of a new movement in art.
The term “Cubism” was accidentally invented by a French painting critic Louis Vauxcelles, who tried to somehow name that weird group of painters, who were portraying the regular world with the help of combinations of such geometric forms and figures as a cube, a sphere, a cylinder, and a cone. To be more exact, the definition was invented when the critic was describing the painting by Braque, in which a house was portrayed as a cube, and a tree resembled a cylinder.
Cubist artists didn’t want to follow the old traditions of realistic art. They didn’t intend to make their works resemble real objects to such an extent like it was before. That’s why the objects in the pictures look rather abstract. Sometimes objects in the pictures don’t have almost anything in common with their real prototypes and turn into abstract symbols that can be understood only by the author of a picture. They didn’t want their works to be so lustrous and beautiful, like those that people could see in salons or at exhibitions.
Painters intentionally limited the use of color palettes. The canvases look pretty dull and faded because painters used mostly gray, black and brown tones. The painters thought that this might create a special and unique artistic effect. Thanks to its flat and two-dimensional look, the paintings are very easily recognized. The cubist works, in general, look very ascetic and simple, resemble African sculptures.
Instead of looking at the object from one possible angle, the painter divides the image into several parts, and after this puts all the fragments from different viewpoints together into one picture. It was an attempt to develop a new plastic language that was concordant with the epoch of urbanization and scientific-technical progress. Some cubist artists thought that machines and planes are the highest embodiment of beauty, not the human body.
The motives of the pictures are also very elementary. For example, a house, a tree, a utensil. It’s especially noticeable in the early stage of cubism which was greatly influenced by a French painter Paul Cezanne (his posthumous exhibition took place in Paris in 1907).
Cubism in paintings is not just a regular portrayal of an object. It’s a portrayal of an object that was mentally destructed and then was created anew in the mind of a painter. We can single out 3 stages of cubism: the early stage (also known as Cezanne period), analytical, synthetic.
The End of Cubism Art Movement
We can say that at the beginning of the 1920s cubism was almost over. No, it was not fully forgotten, because it continued to inspire and influence the development of world art. Kazimir Malevich mentioned in his book “From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism” that the cubist art served as a source of his creative work.
There is no doubt that cubism made a huge sensation in the whole world. It was cubism that opened the way to abstract creativity, gave the audience an opportunity to independently interpret symbols that appear in the works of the cubists.
An animation of inanimate objects and mechanisms has become a favorite technique of fine art, animation, and commercials of the 20th and 21st centuries. Cubism in painting prepared the mass consciousness of the audience and artists, serving as a basis for the development of such movements of abstract art as futurism, constructivism, and many others. The cubist plastic language elements are still being used by modern artists. For people who are seriously interested in cubist art, I advise reading this fascinating work.