In one of the comments on my earlier #ArtKnowItAll posts, someone suggested that I feature Cubism next. I had a vague idea of the movement, associating it with abstract, geometrical art that seemed to almost resemble optical illusions. As always, I loved learning about the revolutionary art of the past… imagining the rebellious artists inventing new styles of art and defying tradition makes me slightly jealous that I missed out on all the excitement 😉 .
What is Cubism?
Cubism is an avant garde art movement that developed during the 1910s and 1920s, predominantly in Paris. This new, modern style of painting and sculpture both revolutionized European art and inspired the music, architecture and literature of the time. In fact, it is often regarded as the 20th century’s most influential art movement.
- For the first time in centuries, perspective with a single viewpoint was abandoned. Instead, cubist painters used numerous and sometimes contrasting vantage points, showing objects from different angles and interweaving the background and foreground of the painting.
- In fact, cubist artists turned away from depicting figures ‘realistically’, rejecting the idea that art should copy nature. Instead, they decided to emphasize the flat, two-demensionality of their canvases and reduce objects into geometric forms.
- The early phase of the movement was called Analytic Cubism, characterised by the pronounced use of geometric shapes and use of monochrome colours.
- The second phase was Synthetic Cubism, where artists experimented with ‘non-art’ materials such as newspaper.
Three Key Cubist Artists
- Pablo Picasso (1881 -1973) : Regardless of whether you’re interested in art or not, every one has heard of Picasso. The charismatic Spanish painter was a pioneer of Cubism, along with Geaorges Braque, and considered to be the most influential artist of the first half of the 20th century. He invented collage and was primarily a painter though he had an eclectic style and also worked with sculpture, printmaking and ceramics.
- Georges Braque (1882-1963) : After meeting Pablo Picasso, Braque went on to become another leader in the development of Cubism. He focused on depicting abstract still lifes, exploring different viewpoints, colours and textures to achieve dimension in his work.
- Jean Metzinger (1883 – 1956) : Though at first Metzinger was inspired by Fauvism and Impressionism, the french painter later turned to Cubism and became one of the principal theorists of the movement. In 1912, he created ‘Du Cubisme’, the first major treatise on Cubism, along with fellow french artist Albert Gleizes.
A revolutionary art movement
At first glance, Cubism may seem somewhat simplistic compared to more ‘classical’ art that strove to capture scenes completely realistically. But really, it’s just another way of representing the world around us and exploring different point of views. Plus, imagine living in a world where these abstract, geometrical paintings were virtually unheard of. Cubist artists weren’t just painters, they were innovators; inventing new styles of painting, as well as being acutely aware of and responding to current events (particularly World War I). Throughout Europe, offshoots of Cubism developed including Orphism, Futerism and Abstract Art. And that’s only a few!
There are so, so many art movements – old and new – left to explore, comment down below or tweet me with the hashtag #ArtKnowItAll to let me know what you want to see next month.
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I hope you enjoyed the third installment of my #ArtKnowItAll series. As usual, you can see my cubism-inspired artwork above, which I first sketched out in pencil and then coloured in digitally with the aid of my graphics tablet. What do you think?