What is cubism?

We explain what cubism is, the characteristics and artists of this movement. In addition, analytical, synthetic cubism and some works.

  1. What is cubism?

Cubism is known as an artistic movement of the twentieth century that broke into the European art scene in 1907, setting a strong distance from traditional painting and setting a vital precedent for the emergence of artistic avant-garde.

His characteristic style explores a new geometric perspective of reality , looking at objects from all possible points of view, which was a break with pictorial models in force since the Renaissance .

The term “cubism”, however, was not proposed by the painters themselves, but by the critic Louis Vauxcelles , who at the time named Fauvism, who after attending an exhibition by Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963) He said that his works “reduced the landscape and the human body to tasteless cubes,” and then proceeded to talk about Cubism. In this regard, the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, considered the greatest exponent of the movement, would affirm that “When we did cubism, we had no intention of doing cubism, but only of expressing what we had inside.”

  1. Cubism Characteristics

Cubist paintings suppress most of the details of the objects they represent.

Despite what its name may suggest, cubism does not consist of painting through cubes . On the contrary, Cubism recognizes and embraces the two-dimensional nature of the canvas and renounces three-dimensionality, trying rather to represent in its paintings all possible points of view of an object, simultaneously. In doing so, he revolutionized the precepts in force in painting since ancient times, which is why Cubism is considered the first of the artistic avant-gardes.

Cubist paintings, thus, lack depth, offer multiple points of view (instead of a single one), and suppress most of the details of the objects they represent, often reducing them to the same feature: violins, for example, They are recognized only by their tails.

At the same time, the genre of cubism paintings could not be more conventional: still lifes, landscapes, portraits. But unlike Impressionism and Fauvism, they are painted with muted colors : gray, green and brown, especially in their early days.

The difficulty involved in interpreting certain cubist paintings, given their break with all forms of naturalness, caused that it was necessary to accompany the work with an explanatory text or a critical nature, a gesture that would later become common in avant-garde works of art .

  1. Cubism Artists

The greatest exponent of Cubism was the Spanish Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) , who is assumed to be the founder of aesthetics and the first cultivator of his style. However, other artists recognized for their cubist work were the French Georges Braque (1882-1963), Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) and Robert Delanay (1885-1945), and the Spanish Juan Gris (1887-1927) and María Blanchard (1881-1932).

  1. Analytical Cubism (1909-1912)

analytical cubism
Many works of analytical cubism became practically abstract.

Analytical cubism or hermetic cubism was the initial stage of the movement, whose paintings were almost all monochrome and gray , focused on the point of view and not on chromaticity. This approach was such that in many cases the works became practically abstract, since the plans became unrecognizable and independent of the volume of the painted object. This caused the new style to receive much rejection from the traditionalist sectors of painting, at the same time as the enthusiasm of avant-garde artists and cultural personalities such as Guillaume Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein, who wrote critical pieces about the importance of Cubism nascent.

By 1911, however, the Madrid painter Juan Gris began to be interested in light , incorporating it into his cubist works in a naturalistic way. But the following year he had joined the trend towards Picasso and Braque’s collage , incorporating diverse materials such as wood and upholstery into his paintings.

  1. Synthetic Cubism (1912-1914)

Synthetic cubism
Synthetic cubism adds color to the cubist trend hitherto monochrome.

The second period of Cubism was born as a result of Braque’s tendency to incorporate, as of 1912, numbers and words in his paintings , as well as the use of wood, bleached papers and other materials.

That same year Picasso made his first collage, and this incorporation of other elements adds color to the cubist trend hitherto monochrome. Cubist paintings then become more figurative and therefore easier to interpret, more docile, and in them objects are reduced to their elementary characteristics, rather than to superimposed volumes and planes.

This is considered the most imaginative stage of Cubism , especially in the work of Juan Gris, who was awarded greater quotas of freedom and color. However, World War I ended the movement, as many painters were called to the front, and in the postwar period only Juan Gris remained faithful to Cubism, although in a much simpler and more austere style.

  1. Cubism works

Some of the most representative paintings of Cubism are:

  • Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso.
  • The ladies of Avignon (1907) by Pablo Picasso.
  • Violin and palette (1909) by Georges Braque.
  • The bottle of anise (1914) by Juan Gris.
  • Woman reading on the beach (1937) by Pablo Picasso.
  1. Literary cubism

Literary cubism is an adaptation fruit of the ingenuity of Frenchman Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) , a renowned poet and essayist. In this trend, he tried to mix images and concepts more or less randomly, thus venturing into calligrams: poems that formed a particular image on the page, due to its distribution on the blank paper.

This trend is maximized by Apollinaire in his Calligrams . Poems of peace and war (1918), where he broke the syntactic and logical structure of the poem, prefiguring what the surrealists would later do.

  1. Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso - Cubism

Pablo Picasso was a pacifist and communist militant.

Picasso was not only the central figure of Cubism, but an internationally renowned painter and sculptor , considered one of the most influential artists of numerous artistic movements, as well as a cultivator of other art forms such as drawing , engraving, illustration of books, the design of scenery and costumes for theatrical productions, and even had a very short literary work.

Picasso was also a pacifist and communist militant , a member of both the Communist Party of Spain and the French, until his death in 1973. The indisputable nature of his work contrasts, in addition, with his personal and loving life, of a notorious promiscuity and misogyny, about to consider women as “machines of suffering.

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