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Cubism

"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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Albert Gleizes

The man who brought cubism to the masses.

1881-1953

Georges Braque

Picasso's better half

1882-1963

Jean Metzinger

The third cubist

1883-1956

Marie Laurencin

Cubist Feminist

1883-1956

Gino Severini

A future of dancers instead of machines

1883-1966

Marcel Duchamp

Giving art a cheerful middle finger

1887-1968

Liubov Popova

We shall remake the world

1889-1924
Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Umberto Boccioni1909-1910
Woman with Phlox

Woman with Phlox

Albert Gleizes1910
Gray Tree

Gray Tree

Piet Mondrian1911
Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Albert Gleizes1911
Tea Time

Tea Time

Jean Metzinger1911
Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

Still Life with Ginger Jar 1

Piet Mondrian1912
Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

Still Life with Ginger Jar 2

Piet Mondrian1912
Female Figure

Female Figure

Piet Mondrian1911-1912
Nude

Nude

Piet Mondrian1911-1912
Man on a Balcony

Man on a Balcony

Albert Gleizes1912
Harvest Threshing

Harvest Threshing

Albert Gleizes1912
The Rider

The Rider

Jean Metzinger1911-1912
La Plume Jaune

La Plume Jaune

Jean Metzinger1912
Dancer in a Café

Dancer in a Café

Jean Metzinger1912
Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Jean Metzinger1912
Woman with a Fan - 1912

Woman with a Fan - 1912

Jean Metzinger1912

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

Excerpts from Du "Cubisme"

Albert GleizesJean Metzinger1912

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

Cubism — a Diatribe

Natalia Goncharova1912
Composition in Grey Blue

Composition in Grey Blue

Piet Mondrian1912-1913
Composition No. 3

Composition No. 3

Piet Mondrian1912-1913
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Umberto Boccioni1913
Football Players

Football Players

Albert Gleizes1912-1913
Man in a Hammock

Man in a Hammock

Albert Gleizes1913
Woman with a Fan

Woman with a Fan

Jean Metzinger1913
Man with a Pipe

Man with a Pipe

Jean Metzinger1913
Pier and Ocean

Pier and Ocean

Piet Mondrian1914
The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

Marc Chagall1914
Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Albert Gleizes1914
Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Albert Gleizes1914
Women Sitting by a Window

Women Sitting by a Window

Jean Metzinger1914
Cards and Dice

Cards and Dice

Georges Braque1914
Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Piet Mondrian1915
Lovers in Pink

Lovers in Pink

Marc Chagall1916
On a Sailboat

On a Sailboat

Albert Gleizes1916
Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer

Albert Gleizes1916
New York

New York

Albert Gleizes1916
Summer

Summer

Jean Metzinger1916
Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Jean Metzinger1916
In Port

In Port

Albert Gleizes1917
Paysage des Bermudes

Paysage des Bermudes

Albert Gleizes1917
Woman and Child

Woman and Child

Albert Gleizes1921
Composition

Composition

Albert Gleizes1922
La Roulette

La Roulette

Jean Metzinger1926

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.

Cubism and the General Culture

Albert Gleizes1926
Still Life le Jour

Still Life le Jour

Georges Braque1929
The Crystal Vase

The Crystal Vase

Georges Braque1929
Symphony in Violet

Symphony in Violet

Albert Gleizes1930-1931
Nature Morte a la Guitare

Nature Morte a la Guitare

Georges Braque1938
For contemplation

For contemplation

Albert Gleizes1942
The Patience

The Patience

Georges Braque1942
Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Georges Braque1944
Arabesque Brush

Arabesque Brush

Albert Gleizes1952
Bird Returning to its Nest

Bird Returning to its Nest

Georges Braque1956