Society & Culture & Entertainment History

Cubism Art History


    • Cubism found its place in art history in the abstract art of the twentieth-century. According to Lois Fichner-Rathus in "Understanding Art," cubism sought to break down an object into its most basic geometric shapes. The two artists most associated with this style are Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braque. While some of the pictorial elements in the works of these artists during this period remained recognizable, mostly the images were abstract representations of them.

    Time Frame

    • According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Picasso and Braques developed Cubism from 1907 to 1914 in Paris. From about 1907 to 1910, these objects retained the visual elements that allowed people to identify them despite being broken down into their basic geometric shapes. From 1910 to 1912, these works of art became increasingly abstract. Braques and Picasso reduced the objects they painted to a series of shapes painted in browns, grays and blacks. From 1912 on, Cubist art works very often became collages featuring bits of paper like newspaper and colored papers.


    • The Cubist movement in art did not spring up of its own volition. Rather, it stems from the art created in the Neoclassical era as well as the personal work of French artist Paul Cezanne. When Cezanne painted scenes in nature, he broke them down into their most basic geometric shapes. Additionally, Cezanne's pictures emphasized the two-dimensional nature of the canvas rather than trying to create the illusion of three-dimensional space, according to Fichner-Rathus. Additionally, besides being influenced by Cezanne, Picasso himself was also influenced by African art. Many of his early pre-Cubist works featured elements of African art like African masks.

    Les Demoiselle d'Avignon

    • One of the most ground-breaking works of art leading into the Cubist movement in art history was Picasso's painting, "Les Demoiselle d'Avignon." This work featured five women from the red-light district in Barcelona. While the color palette did not yet reflect the darker tones that came in later Cubist works, the beginnings of Cubism can be seen in this work. Picasso painted two of the women with African mask faces. Each woman's body as well as the curtains and the bowl of fruit that sits on the table in the foreground have a geometric quality about them. Depth perception is flattened as Picasso strove to emulate Cezanne's two-dimensional quality in the piece (see Resources for photo).

    Famous Works

    • Some of the most famous works of Cubist art include Braque's "Large Nude" and "Violin and Candlestick" as well as Picasso's "Portrait of Ambrose Vollard" and "Girl with Mandolin."

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