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Cubism

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

Vase, Palette, and Mandolin, 1944
19101930

"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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The Basket of Apples

The Basket of Apples

Paul Cézanne1890-1894
Réunion à la campagne

Réunion à la campagne

Marie Laurencin1909
Woman with Phlox

Woman with Phlox

Albert Gleizes1910
Woman in an Armchair

Woman in an Armchair

Pablo Picasso1909-1910
Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne.

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne.

Marie Laurencin1910
Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Young Woman Reading (Ines)

Umberto Boccioni1909-1910
Girl with a Mandolin (Fally Tellier)

Girl with a Mandolin (Fally Tellier)

Pablo Picasso1910
Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Portrait de Jacques Nayral

Albert Gleizes1911
I and the Village

I and the Village

Marc Chagall1911
Tea Time

Tea Time

Jean Metzinger1911
Gray Tree

Gray Tree

Piet Mondrian1911
Nude

Nude

Piet Mondrian1911-1912
Dancer in a Café

Dancer in a Café

Jean Metzinger1912
The Smokers

The Smokers

Fernand Henri Léger1911-1912
Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Portrait of Albert Gleizes

Jean Metzinger1912
Plastic Synthesis Of Movements Of A Woman

Plastic Synthesis Of Movements Of A Woman

Luigi Russolo1912
Dancer

Dancer

Gino Severini1912
Self-Portrait with Straw Boater

Self-Portrait with Straw Boater

Gino Severini1912
Harvest Threshing

Harvest Threshing

Albert Gleizes1912

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 Gleizes, Jean Metzinger1912
Man on a Balcony

Man on a Balcony

Albert Gleizes1912
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
The Rider

The Rider

Jean Metzinger1911-1912
Woman with a Fan - 1912

Woman with a Fan - 1912

Jean Metzinger1912
The Passage from Virgin to Bride

The Passage from Virgin to Bride

Marcel Duchamp1912
Female Figure

Female Figure

Piet Mondrian1911-1912
La Plume Jaune

La Plume Jaune

Jean Metzinger1912

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

Cubism — a Diatribe

Natalia Goncharova1912
The Knife Grinder or 'Principle of Glittering'

The Knife Grinder or 'Principle of Glittering'

Kazimir Malevich1912-1913
Peasants Gathering Grapes

Peasants Gathering Grapes

Natalia Goncharova1913
Man in a Hammock

Man in a Hammock

Albert Gleizes1913
Composition with Figures

Composition with Figures

Liubov Popova1913
Composition in Grey Blue

Composition in Grey Blue

Piet Mondrian1912-1913
Woman with a Fan

Woman with a Fan

Jean Metzinger1913
The Cyclist

The Cyclist

Natalia Goncharova1913
Composition No. 3

Composition No. 3

Piet Mondrian1912-1913
House + Light + Sky Movement

House + Light + Sky Movement

Luigi Russolo1913
Football Players

Football Players

Albert Gleizes1912-1913
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

Umberto Boccioni1913
Man with a Pipe

Man with a Pipe

Jean Metzinger1913
Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Olga Rozanova1913
Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Illustration for Souz Molodyozhi

Olga Rozanova1913
Nude Model in the Studio

Nude Model in the Studio

Fernand Henri Léger1912-1913
Women Sitting by a Window

Women Sitting by a Window

Jean Metzinger1914
Interventionist Demonstration

Interventionist Demonstration

Carlo Carrà1914
Pier and Ocean

Pier and Ocean

Piet Mondrian1914
The City

The City

Olga Rozanova1914
Cards and Dice

Cards and Dice

Georges Braque1914
Visual Synthesis of the Idea: "War"

Visual Synthesis of the Idea: "War"

Gino Severini1914
Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Paysage Cubiste (Landscape, Baum und Fluss)

Albert Gleizes1914
The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk)

Marc Chagall1914
Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Femmes assises à une fenêtre

Albert Gleizes1914
Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act

Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act

Natalia Goncharova1914
Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or'

Set design for 'Le Coq d'Or'

Natalia Goncharova1914
Stillleben mit Gitarre

Stillleben mit Gitarre

Liubov Popova1914-1915
Traveling Woman

Traveling Woman

Liubov Popova1915
Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Pier and Ocean (Composition No. 10)

Piet Mondrian1915
Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Olga Rozanova1912-1915
Queen of Spades

Queen of Spades

Olga Rozanova1914-1915
King of Clubs

King of Clubs

Olga Rozanova1912-1915
Berlin Series No. 49

Berlin Series No. 49

Marsden Hartley1914-1915
Untitled

Untitled

Liubov Popova1915
On a Sailboat

On a Sailboat

Albert Gleizes1916
Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer

Albert Gleizes1916
Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Fruit and a Jug on a Table

Jean Metzinger1916
New York

New York

Albert Gleizes1916
Soldier with a pipe

Soldier with a pipe

Fernand Henri Léger1916
Woman with a Fan

Woman with a Fan

María Blanchard1916
Summer

Summer

Jean Metzinger1916
Lovers in Pink

Lovers in Pink

Marc Chagall1916
Paysage des Bermudes

Paysage des Bermudes

Albert Gleizes1917
Woman Seated

Woman Seated

María Blanchard1917
Woman with Guitar

Woman with Guitar

María Blanchard1917
In Port

In Port

Albert Gleizes1917
Cubist Still Life

Cubist Still Life

María Blanchard1917
Still life with Green Lamp

Still life with Green Lamp

María Blanchard1916-1917
Cubist Composition

Cubist Composition

María Blanchard1918
Cubist Composition

Cubist Composition

María Blanchard1916-1919
Cubist Still Life

Cubist Still Life

María Blanchard1919
El Mecánico

El Mecánico

Fernand Henri Léger1920
Resurrection

Resurrection

Gaganendranath Tagore1920
Woman and Child

Woman and Child

Albert Gleizes1921
Mother and Child

Mother and Child

Fernand Henri Léger1922
Composition

Composition

Albert Gleizes1922
Two Figures (Nudes on a red background)

Two Figures (Nudes on a red background)

Fernand Henri Léger1923
Cubist Self-Portrait

Cubist Self-Portrait

Salvador Dalí1923
Still Life

Still Life

Salvador Dalí1923
Gypsy from Figueres

Gypsy from Figueres

Salvador Dalí1923
Liubov PopovaPortrait of Liubov Popova

Liubov Popova

We shall remake the world

1889-1924
Composition (Definitive State)

Composition (Definitive State)

Fernand Henri Léger1925
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
Seated Woman

Seated Woman

María Blanchard1928
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
María BlanchardPortrait of María Blanchard

María Blanchard

A crooked girl find expression in color

1881-1932
The Rhine at Duisburg

The Rhine at Duisburg

Paul Klee1937
Weeping Woman

Weeping Woman

Pablo Picasso1937
Nature Morte a la Guitare

Nature Morte a la Guitare

Georges Braque1938
Woman in an Armchair

Woman in an Armchair

Pablo Picasso1941
For contemplation

For contemplation

Albert Gleizes1942
The Patience

The Patience

Georges Braque1942
Marsden HartleyPortrait of Marsden Hartley

Marsden Hartley

Spirituality comes first, cult status second

1877-1943
The Leaf of the Artichoke is an Owl

The Leaf of the Artichoke is an Owl

Arshile Gorky1944
Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Vase, Palette, and Mandolin

Georges Braque1944
Aleksandra EksterPortrait of Aleksandra Ekster

Aleksandra Ekster

Rhythm and dynamic movement

1882-1949
Arabesque Brush

Arabesque Brush

Albert Gleizes1952
Mother and Child (Abstract)

Mother and Child (Abstract)

Tamara de Lempicka1953
Albert GleizesPortrait of Albert Gleizes

Albert Gleizes

The man who brought cubism to the masses

1881-1953
Untitled, 1955

Untitled, 1955

María Luisa Pacheco1955
Fernand Henri LégerPortrait of Fernand Henri Léger

Fernand Henri Léger

Cubism for the common man

1881-1955
Marie LaurencinPortrait of Marie Laurencin

Marie Laurencin

Cubist Feminist

1883-1956
Bird Returning to its Nest

Bird Returning to its Nest

Georges Braque1956
Jean MetzingerPortrait of Jean Metzinger

Jean Metzinger

The third cubist

1883-1956
Georges BraquePortrait of Georges Braque

Georges Braque

Picasso's better half

1882-1963
Gino SeveriniPortrait of Gino Severini

Gino Severini

A future of dancers instead of machines

1883-1966
Marcel DuchampPortrait of Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

Giving art a cheerful middle finger

1887-1968
Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

The man who ate the world's art

1881-1973

Next movement: SuprematismTaking refuge in the square.

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