Cubism: The Birth of Modern Art Feb02

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Cubism: The Birth of Modern Art

L'Estaque, 1908 Georges Braques (French, 1882-1963)

L’Estaque, 1908
Georges Braques (French, 1882-1963)

One of the most recognized art styles of the early 20th century, Cubism rejected the concept that art should copy nature and instead highlighted 2-dimensional, geometric forms in their art work. The subject matter (often recognizable), was fractured into multiple facets, and then reassembled to convey the same thing, but often times from different perspective views. The term Cubism was coined when Braque’s landscape art, L’Estaque (right), was first viewed by French art critic Louis Vauxcelles, calling the work “cubes”.

Still Life with a Bottle of Rum, 1911 Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)

Still Life with a Bottle of Rum, 1911
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)

But landscape painting was rare in Cubist art. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, perhaps the fathers of this creative, abstract  style, were best known for their representation of motifs such as bottles, musical instruments, playing cards and the human figure. Picasso’s Still Live with a Bottle of Rum (left), is a prime example of Analytic Cubism with his abstract view of a bottle of rum.

Exhausted with the traditions of Western art, Cubists were drawn to other cultures and drew much inspiration from the expressive nature of African art. Gaining insight from Paul Gauguin’s indigenous Tahitian themes, Picasso often used the traditional head masks of African art as reference for his work.

 Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar, 1924 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)


Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar, 1924
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

When the new technique of collage, pasting colored or printed paper into artwork became vogue, Synthetic Cubism evolved, removing any representational aspect of the piece and letting the cut-out shape allude to the subject matter. Picasso’s Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar (right) embraced this collage-style artwork.

Cubism revolutionized traditional art form, creating an avant-garde movement contending with the innovative technology of photography. It spread across most of Europe, planting the seeds for other emerging modern art styles such as Futurism, Constructivism and Expressionism. Although it has been argued that Cubism is not an actual style or movement, it is considered to be the most influential art of the 20th century.