Cubism is often credited as being one of the most avant-garde,
groundbreaking and revolutionary art movements.
But what exactly is Cubist art? And who were the Cubists?
The two most pivotal artists, referred to as the ‘inventors of Cubism’
are France’s Georges Braque, and Spain’s Pablo Picasso.
Back in the early 1900s,
these two pioneers started to represent and depict their subject matter
from multiple angles and viewpoints at the same time
rather than from a single fixed position, which had been the norm prior to that.
Despite the name of the iconic movement,
neither Braque or Picasso ever painted cubes
The term itself actually originated from a derogatory remark
made by an art critic in 1908
The critic had disparaged Braque by saying
the artist reduced everything ‘to geometric Schemas, to cubes’.
The term soon became widespread.
Cubism was born.
Cubist techniques were evident throughout all of Picasso’s work at this time.
‘Tête’ for instance is one of his most celebrated artworks
and the most abstract of all of his cubist collages
The half circle drawn in charcoal depicts the profile of a head.
The small circle and diagonal line with the arc represent an eye and nose.
The pasted on elements represent the face, hair, and neck.
Within a few years, both Braque and Picasso
began to incorporate letters into their Cubist works.
Braque’s ‘Le Bougeoir’ meaning ‘The Candlestick’ from 1911
is a very early example of one of his paintings to include lettering.
The purpose of this lettering was to question the relationship
between words, pictures, and the objects they represent.
Towards the top of the painting is a candle
which helps to identify the shape below as a candlestick.
A simple clay pipe, the kind Braque smoked, lies to the centre right,
简单的黏土烟斗 和布拉克使用的一样 出现在中间偏右的位置
and below that are a bobbin, and a pair of scissors.
Within a few years, a small group of artists based in Paris
including Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, and Sonia Delaunay
were following the lead of Braque and Picasso’s abstract art.
They wanted to emphasise the point that the painting is a flat surface
while the things they represented were three-dimensional.
So instead of a choosing a fixed perspective,
and presenting views as if seen through a window
they painted motifs as if seen from several different angles at once.
The Cubist style quickly spread across Europe and America
with particular popularity burgeoning in Russia
where the style corresponded and chimed with newly forming revolutionary ideals.
In Scotland the work of artists like William Crozier
also displayed a strong affinity with Cubism
as can be seen in this painting of Edinburgh from the late 1920s.
Cubism soon splintered and morphed into various different styles
across numerous different countries.
The Italians had Futurism, the British had Vorticism
the Russians had Suprematism and Constructivism
it also inspired and influenced movements around the world in different creative disciplines
such as architecture, music, and literature.
Given the far reach and impact of the movement
and its many exciting and important offshoots
the case can easily be made for Cubism as being the most
radical and influential art movement of the 20th century.
The Cubists constructed new realities –
moving away from traditional ideas of representation leading to abstraction.