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Cubism

1910 - 1930

"We only wanted to express what was in us..."

"When we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only wanted to express what was in us... The goal I proposed myself in making cubism? To paint and nothing more... with a method linked only to my thought... Neither the good nor the true; neither the useful nor the useless." - Pablo Picasso

Paul Cézanne said that painting was painful to him — that the intensity of the real world beat on his senses. And true to his word, Cézanne’s paintings often vibrate with color — a simple still life with apples look like they might shake themselves off the canvas.

In 1907, a year after Cézanne’s death, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque visited a posthumous retrospective of the impressionist giant at the Salon d'Automne. Cézanne’s simple and intense forms made a powerful impression on Picasso and Braque, and over the next three years they began a series of experiments to push their artwork even further. As usual, Picasso kicked things off with a bang, shocking his friends and compatriots with Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a portrait of five prostitutes in aggressive postures with bodies distorted to near abstraction. Braque countered with landscapes where pyramids and cubes replaced the trees. It was Braque’s landscapes that caught the eye of the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles — who describes the work as reducing the world to ‘geometric outlines, to cubes’ coining the now famous term. Braque and Picasso were officially ‘Cubists.’

Like many new ideas, cubism evolved very quickly at first. At first, Picasso and Braque’s explorations were figurative — it was still possible to discern the person or object that was being exploded into geometry. Other artists began to catch on, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and Piet Mondrian all contributed to the new movement.

But Picasso and Braque were in the zone, and as cubism grew in popularity the two artists pushed it to its conceptual limits. Living in the bohemian Paris neighborhood of Montmartre, Picasso and Braque worked so closely it’s still nearly impossible to distinguish one artist's work from the other. They explored cubism like scientists, reducing it to its essence, now referred to as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Muted fields of geometric shapes and shadow in browns and grays.

By 1913, Cubism was evolving again. In Russia, avant-garde painters Liobov Popova and Natalie Goncharova were pushing cubism toward new forms of expression: Suprematism and Rayonism. And Picasso and Braque were integrating collage, adding snippets of newspaper in simpler compositions that came to be called Synthetic Cubism.

Perhaps more than any movement before, cubism was a catalyst. The idea of using geometry to see an object from many angles at once forced artists to question how they saw their subjects, a question that drives artists to this day.

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Cubism: Artists

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Cubism: Writings

Cubism and the General Culture

Albert Gleizes — 1926

By eliminating everything superfluous to the technical means of their craft the Cubists finally reached the common ground where a general, synthetic culture becomes possible.

Excerpts from Du "Cubisme"

Albert Gleizes — Jean Metzinger — 1912

There is nothing real outside ourselves; there is nothing real except the coincidence of a sensation and an individual mental direction.

Cubism — a Diatribe

Natalia Goncharova — 1912

I condemn without hesitation the position of the Knave of Diamonds, which has replaced creative activity with theorizing.

Cubism: Artworks

The Basket of Apples

The Basket of Apples

Paul Cézanne,1890-1894
Réunion à la campagne

Réunion à la campagne

Marie Laurencin,1909
Woman with Phlox

Woman with Phlox

Albert Gleizes,1910
Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Umberto Boccioni,1909-1910
Gray Tree

Gray Tree

Piet Mondrian,1911
I and the Village

I and the Village

Marc Chagall,1911
Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Albert Gleizes,1911
Tea Time

Tea Time

Jean Metzinger,1911
La Plume Jaune

La Plume Jaune

Jean Metzinger,1912
Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

Piet Mondrian,1912
Dancer in a Café

Dancer in a Café

Jean Metzinger,1912
Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

Piet Mondrian,1912
Female Figure

Female Figure

Piet Mondrian,1911-1912
Nude

Nude

Piet Mondrian,1911-1912
Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Jean Metzinger,1912
Harvest Threshing

Harvest Threshing

Albert Gleizes,1912
Woman with a Fan - 1912

Woman with a Fan - 1912

Jean Metzinger,1912
The Rider

The Rider

Jean Metzinger,1911-1912
Plastic Synthesis Of Movements Of A Woman

Plastic Synthesis Of Movements Of A Woman

Luigi Russolo,1912
Man on a Balcony

Man on a Balcony

Albert Gleizes,1912
Woman with a Fan

Woman with a Fan

Jean Metzinger,1913
Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne.

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne.

Marie Laurencin,1913
Man in a Hammock

Man in a Hammock

Albert Gleizes,1913
Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Olga Rozanova,1913
Composition in Grey Blue

Composition in Grey Blue

Piet Mondrian,1912-1913
Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Olga Rozanova,1913
Football Players

Football Players

Albert Gleizes,1912-1913
Composition No. 3

Composition No. 3

Piet Mondrian,1912-1913
Peasants Gathering Grapes

Peasants Gathering Grapes

Natalia Goncharova,1913
The Cyclist

The Cyclist

Natalia Goncharova,1913
Man with a Pipe

Man with a Pipe

Jean Metzinger,1913
House + Light + Sky Movement

House + Light + Sky Movement

Luigi Russolo,1913
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Umberto Boccioni,1913
Composition with Figures

Composition with Figures

Liubov Popova,1913
The City

The City

Olga Rozanova,1914
The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

Marc Chagall,1914
Cards and Dice

Cards and Dice

Georges Braque,1914
Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act

Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act

Natalia Goncharova,1914
Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or'

Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or'

Natalia Goncharova,1914
Pier and Ocean

Pier and Ocean

Piet Mondrian,1914
Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Albert Gleizes,1914
Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Albert Gleizes,1914
Women Sitting by a Window

Women Sitting by a Window

Jean Metzinger,1914
Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Olga Rozanova,1912-1915
Queen of Spades

Queen of Spades

Olga Rozanova,1914-1915
King of Clubs

King of Clubs

Olga Rozanova,1912-1915
Untitled

Untitled

Liubov Popova,1915
Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Piet Mondrian,1915
Stillleben mit Gitarre

Stillleben mit Gitarre

Liubov Popova,1914-1915
Traveling Woman

Traveling Woman

Liubov Popova,1915
Lovers in Pink

Lovers in Pink

Marc Chagall,1916
On a Sailboat

On a Sailboat

Albert Gleizes,1916
Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Jean Metzinger,1916
Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer

Albert Gleizes,1916
New York

New York

Albert Gleizes,1916
Summer

Summer

Jean Metzinger,1916
Paysage des Bermudes

Paysage des Bermudes

Albert Gleizes,1917
In Port

In Port

Albert Gleizes,1917
Woman and Child

Woman and Child

Albert Gleizes,1921
Composition

Composition

Albert Gleizes,1922
La Roulette

La Roulette

Jean Metzinger,1926
Still Life le Jour

Still Life le Jour

Georges Braque,1929
The Crystal Vase

The Crystal Vase

Georges Braque,1929
Symphony in Violet

Symphony in Violet

Albert Gleizes,1930-1931
The Rhine at Duisburg

The Rhine at Duisburg

Paul Klee,1937
Nature Morte a la Guitare

Nature Morte a la Guitare

Georges Braque,1938
For contemplation

For contemplation

Albert Gleizes,1942
The Patience

The Patience

Georges Braque,1942
Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Georges Braque,1944
Arabesque Brush

Arabesque Brush

Albert Gleizes,1952
Bird Returning to its Nest

Bird Returning to its Nest

Georges Braque,1956

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