By studying examples of Cubism, you can better understand why this 20th-century art movement was so explosive. Cubism was so named by a French art critic, who described the new and innovative technique as having been composed of many cubicles, but Cubist painters like Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris quickly began pushing those boundaries.
What is Cubism?
Cubism is an art form that was first developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, two artists in Paris who were heavily influenced by simple solid African sculpture, as well as exploratory paintings by Paul Cezanne and Georges Seurat. Cubist artists try to present a subject that has been pulled apart along geometric planes, studied and then reassembled to present a total picture on a shallow field using heavy fracturing techniques.
"Portrait of Ambroise Vollard," Pablo Picasso (1910)
This analytic Cubist painting demonstrates how the artist can divide the subject into a series of transparent geometric pieces without depth or contrast and then pull them all together in a fascinating completeness. The painting demonstrates early experiments in showing the viewer several different perspectives of one object.
"Still Life With Violin," Georges Braque (1911)
With the subject assembled from multiple geometric shapes and a monochrome color scheme of tan, gray, brown and black, this painting is a classic example of the methods that Cubist artists used to deconstruct the subject and focus more on the subject's substance rather than its shape. This painting is one of Braque's most recognizable Cubist works.
"Still Life With Chair Caning," Pablo Picasso (1912)
As a signature piece that bridged the periods of analytic Cubism and synthetic Cubism, this painting incorporated oilcloth as well as paint-a radical concept that ushered in a period in which artists included many objects and textures within a painting, known as collage.
"Still Life With Fruit Dish And Mandolin," Juan Gris (1919)
Exemplifying the refinement that the Cubism art movement took, this painting utilizes vibrant colors and fewer of the overlapping planes so characteristic of earlier Braque and Picasso paintings. Gris and other Cubist artists took the earlier techniques and explored new methods that would eventually develop into abstract art movements, particularly the Surrealism movement.