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Twentieth Century Art: Cubism
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Intro to Cubism

     Cubism was one of the most dominant art movements of the 20th century. It was started in 1907 by Georges Braque, a French painter, and Pablo Picasso, a Spanish painter. The term Cubism was coined by the French critic, Louis Vauxcelles after seeing L’Estaque, a landscape painting by Braque (the picture to the left) in 1908. The painting was described as a highly abstract work which gave the art style the name “cubism”. Other influences that came onto Cubism were linked to Primitivism and non-Western sources. Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modeling, and foreshortening. They wanted to emphasize the two dimensionality of the canvas by fracturing and reducing objects into geometric forms, and then realign these within a shallow space. This technique successfully allowed for the painting’s image to be simplified and for it to have a sharper effect. They also used multiple contrasting vantage points, so it would seem like the piece of art was being viewed from different angles all at once. Since Cubism was created early in the 20th century, there was a lot of time for the art form to evolve and branch off into different directions. Cubism branched off into such variations as Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. It was also the starting point for much abstract art including Constructivism and Neo-Plasticism.

How do you recognize Cubism?

     As stated before, Cubism is a painting style that emphasizes in two dimensionality of the canvas and reduces objects into geometric form then realigns it within a shallow space, as well as the use of multiple vantage points. The figures of cubism are analyzed in multitude of small pieces; the image is broken up and then put back together in their own unique way, using the original object as an example. Common themes and subjects of Cubism are letters, instruments, bottles and other containers, newspapers, and the human face/ figure.
     This later evolved into high Analytic Cubism, also known as “Hermetic” Cubism. This style lasted from 1910 to 1912. This involved breaking up a picture into many small pieces in order to analyze the subject much more clearly. Analytic Cubism is recognized by the heavy use of 45 degree angles and straight lines, and also the use of simple, monotone colors throughout. This variation of Cubism is also recognized because of the way dense, compacted shapes are used as the focal, and bigger, less detailed shapes for the background. An example of Analytic Cubism is Girl with a Mandolin by Picasso.
     The last of the variations of Cubism was called Synthetic Cubism, and it involved the combination of painting with other mediums such as wrappers and newspaper. These various scraps of paper were used in order to give more detail and texture to the painting, and they also helped to offer contrast to the painted areas. This style, dubbed the "collage technique", was emphasized during throughout this form of painting. An example of this style of painting is The Three Musicians by Picasso.

Painters that practiced this art style

     Over time, Cubism later became adopted and further developed by other painters of the century. Such painters were Fernand Léger, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Juan Gris, Roger de La Fresnaye, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and even Diego Rivera. Not only did Cubism reach other painters, but it also became popular with other forms of art as well. Many architects and sculptors took the ideals of cubism and used it in their own art.