Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon.
The Cubist Revolution
The art style Cubism is attributed to the artist Pablo Picasso. By the time Picasso began working in Paris around 1904, he undoubtedly had been exposed to many new influences in art. In 1906 he met Henri Matisse who had been consistently simplifying his style of painting by reducing form by using mainly color, shape and line.
Impressionism had reached its peak in Europe by that time and it was 1907 when Picasso shocked the art world with his Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon.
Art critics of the day perceived not only the subject to be in poor taste (prostitutes) but the treatment of the faces and the fractured angular shapes to their bodies shocking. This attitude by the art establishment did not seem to faze Picasso or slow him down in the least.
Picasso was constantly reinventing himself and no one art form could contain his creativity. About the time he was experimenting with his new visual language he had also developed a keen interest in sculpture and began to see African primitive sculpture for the first time. Many say the mask like faces of “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon” were influenced by African sculpture. You can see the body shapes are reduced to planar forms and line. Color and tone were becoming the principle elements he used to separate the forms into distinct areas.
To say that this style of painting is simplistic would be a false assumption, for Picasso had been classically trained in the arts since he was in his teens. He once mentioned that he spent most of his life tying to unlearn or simplify his approach to painting. With his keen bright eyes he seemed to observe and assimilate everything he was exposed to and so it seems only logical that he would take what others were doing and develop something new and uniquely his own.
Picasso never left his figurative roots to become an abstract painter for he felt that one must always begin with something. As his experiments progressed he began to limit the colors of his palate in order to accentuate the form of his subjects using blocks of color in contrasting values while using line and pattern to unify the work.
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, by Pablo Picasso
Once he had this initial concept he began to further deconstruct his images by creating the illusion of fragmented forms. He would push some forms back and pull others forward by using color values and shading. The building blocks of his works would become increasingly geometric which led an art critic to dub the term “cubic” or cubism as it was later called.
It was not long before other artists began to take note of this new visual style and begin to incorporate those ideas into their art as well. Cubism has been described as a deconstruction in order to depict more than one view or perspective at a time.
Georges Braque became acquainted with Picasso and they collaborated for a time producing many similar works using the cubist techniques. Eventually limited color palates of the early works were abandoned and artists began to create colorful compositions. Paper collage was introduced in their compositions and soon the representation three-dimensional space was not required. As art critics often do the cubist art was labeled and separated and categorized into sub-periods like Analytic and Synthetic but the new art form was out of the bag never to be subdued again by the critics of the day.
The Studio by Georges Braque
This new means of artistic expression was adopted and further developed by many painters, including Fernand Léger, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Metzinger and many others. Cubism influenced twentieth-century sculpture and architecture as well as the beginnings of Modern Art as we know it, called “Post-modern” today because the turn of the century was so different than any other time in art history up until that period it reserves the term Modern Art for it’s own.
Modern art was on the verge of becoming mainstream by the 1930’s and the impact of cubism would be felt and seen for years to come. There are references and books enough to spend countless hours researching but I will include my favorite place for art research. The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History is a fantastic place to start with many ways to explore and learn about art.
First Post! 03/15/2011
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