What is Cubism Movement in Art?

Posted by Robert Lange on

Cubism, an influential art movement of the early 20th century, revolutionized European painting and sculpture. Initiated by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris around 1907-1914, cubism broke away from traditional perspectives, presenting subjects in fragmented forms to illustrate multiple viewpoints simultaneously. What do you need to know about cubism to understand it fully? Or, at least, as much as possible? Treat this article as your guide – we'll help you go through it, from history, representatives, and crucial key goals or key characteristics.

Table of Contents

Key Characteristics

Let's start easy! Here are 5 distinguishing characteristics of the cubism movement you should know:

  1. Objects are reduced to geometric forms like cubes, spheres, and cones. Hence the movement's name.
  2. Rather than depicting subjects from a single viewpoint, Cubism shows multiple angles at once, providing a more complete, however surprising it wouldn't be, representation.
  3. Subjects are deconstructed and reassembled in abstracted forms, emphasizing the two-dimensional canvas.
  4. Early Cubism, known as Analytical Cubism, often used a limited palette of browns, grays, and ochres to focus on form and structure rather than color.
  5. Later Cubism, on the other hand, also known as Synthetic Cubism, introduced brighter colors, textures, and the use of mixed media and collage elements.

cubism definition


How It All Started? Georges Braque's Influence

Georges Braque (1882-1963) was a pioneering French painter, wonderful collagist, printmaker, and sculptor known primarily as a leading figure in the development of Cubism alongside Pablo Picasso. His work and influence are fundamental in the evolution of modern art.

Early Life and Career

Braque was born in Argenteuil, France. He later studied at the Académie Humbert in Paris. Initially influenced by the Fauvist movement, Braque's early works were bold, full of colors and expressive brushstrokes, inspired by artists like Henri Matisse and André Derain.

Development of Cubism

Around 1907, Braque met Picasso, and the two artists began an intense period of collaboration and experimentation. Their partnership led to the birth of Cubism. Braque's works during this period, such as "Violin and Palette" (1909) and "The Portuguese" (1911), showcase the breakdown of objects into geometric forms and the usage of a very limited color palette, while focusing on the structure and multiple perspectives.

Transitioning around 1912, Braque began incorporating brighter colors, simpler shapes, and collage elements. Works like "Fruit Dish and Glass" (1912) reflect these changes, marking the Synthetic Cubism phase.

Techniques and Innovations Braque Brought to the World Art

  • Braque, alongside Picasso, pioneered the use of collage (papier collé), integrating newspaper clippings, wallpaper, and other materials into their paintings, challenging the traditional boundaries of fine art.
  • He also experimented with texture, incorporating sand, sawdust, and other materials into his paint to create tactile surfaces.
  • Braque's emphasis on form, structure, and perspective was central to the development of Cubism, influencing countless artists and subsequent movements.

Post-World War I, Braque continued to evolve, moving towards more naturalistic styles and themes but always maintaining his innovative approach to composition and space.

What is Cubism? Everything You Need to Know

Phases of Cubism

Apart from proto-cubism (or pre-cubism), we can distinguish two phases of cubism:

  1. Analytical Cubism (1907-1912). Characterized by a detailed analysis of subjects, breaking them down into overlapping planes and monochromatic color schemes.
  2. Synthetic Cubism (1912-1914). Introduced simpler shapes, brighter colors, and collage techniques, synthesizing rather than analyzing forms.

Major Artists

  • Pablo Picasso. His works like "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907) marked the beginning of Cubism.
  • Georges Braque. Braque collaborated closely with Picasso, contributing significantly to the development of Cubist techniques.
  • Juan Gris. Known for bringing a more orderly and colorful approach to Cubism.

Influence and Legacy of Cubism

Cubism influenced numerous other movements such as Futurism, Constructivism, and Surrealism.

Its exploration of abstraction and multiple perspectives paved the way for modern and contemporary art, challenging artists to rethink representation and the nature of visual reality.

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