A Brief History of Cubism

Of all the movements in 20th-century art history, Cubism may be the most influential. Cubism evolved during a time of great experimentation, when artists were looking beyond what paint and canvas could reproduce exactly. Instead of paintings reflecting the true nature of something, the Cubist painting attempted to portray more than just the formal appearance of a subject. Using multiple techniques designed to pull the subject apart and reassemble it in a new way, Cubism set the stage for contemporary art forms to dominate the 20th century.

Founders Of Cubism
Pablo Picasso, a Spanish artist, and Georges Braque, a French artist, were living in Paris and experimenting with breaking forms apart along geometric plains and recreating them as shapes. The heavy focus on structure made early pre-Cubist paintings highlight the form of the subject. Picasso and Braque gained inspiration from African and Oceanic sculptures and the works of earlier artists, who attempted to depict shapes in nature by solid lines and angles.

Analytic Cubism (1910-1912)
Challenging themselves to create three-dimensional sculptures on a two-dimensional medium, Picasso and Braque experimented with deconstructing forms, from still life and landscapes to human shapes. In analytical Cubism paintings, monochromatic color schemes and simple geometry highlighted the form of the subject, and paintings full of contrast and density emerged. The artists attempted to portray the subject from all angles, rather than the limits of regular vision.

Synthetic Cubism (1913-1914)
As the movement evolved, Cubism paintings reflected more use of color, moving away from the blue, gray, brown and beige of previous years. The greater use of concave and convex shapes created apparent movement in synthetic Cubist paintings. The collage form of art appeared, freeing painters to use other materials to create art beyond paint, including paper, cloth and newsprint.

Beyond 1914
As several artists around the world took up the avant-garde Cubist art movement, the art style gradually grew to become the forerunner to even more modern art, such as abstract expressionism and surrealism. Cubism was also reflected in sculpture, architecture and even literature, inspiring writers like Gertrude Stein and sculptors like Marcel Duchamp. The movement reached its peak around 1915 and by the 1920s had deferred to other evolving artistic forms.

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Thanks to Pablo Picasso, Cubism became one of the most powerful art movements. Unlike forms of art that reflected the world or were more naturalistic, Cubism encouraged audiences to see the world from a new perspective.

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