Cubism – Concept, types, characteristics, artists and works

We explain what cubism is, the characteristics and artists of this movement. In addition, analytical and synthetic cubism and some works.

The characteristic style of cubism explores a new geometric perspective of reality.

What is Cubism?

It is known by the name of cubism to an artistic movement of the 20th century which burst onto the European art scene in 1907, marking a strong distancing from traditional painting and setting a vital precedent for the emergence of the artistic avant-gardes.

His signature style explore a new geometric perspective of reality, looking at the objects from all possible points of view, which was a break with current pictorial models since the Renaissance.

The term “cubism” however It was not proposed by the painters themselves, but by the critic Louis Vauxcelles, the same one who at the time gave Fauvism its name, who after attending an exhibition by Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963) affirmed that his works “reduced the landscape and the human body to insipid cubes”, and then proceeded to talk about cubism. In this regard, the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, considered the greatest exponent of the movement, would later affirm that “When we did cubism, we had no intention of doing cubism, but only to express what we had inside.”

Characteristics of cubism

Cubist paintings suppress most of the details in the objects they represent.

Despite what its name might suggest, cubism does not consist of painting through cubes. On the contrary, Cubism recognizes and embraces the two-dimensional nature of the canvas and renounces three-dimensionality, trying rather to represent in its paintings all possible points of view of an object, simultaneously. In doing so, he revolutionized the precepts in force in painting since ancient times, which is why cubism is considered the first of the artistic avant-gardes.

Cubist paintings, well, lack depth, offer multiple points of view (instead of a single one), and they suppress most of the details of the objects they represent, often reducing them to a single feature: violins, for example, are recognized only by their tails.

At the same time, the genre of Cubism paintings could not be more conventional: still lifes, landscapes, portraits. But unlike Impressionism and Fauvism, they are painted in muted colors: grays, greens, and browns, especially in their early days.

The difficulty of interpreting certain cubist paintings, given their rupture with all forms of naturalness, made it necessary to accompany the work with an explanatory text or of a critical nature, a gesture that would later become common in avant-garde works of art.

Cubism artists

The greatest exponent of Cubism was the Spanish Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), who is assumed to be the founder of aesthetics and the first cultist of his style. However, other artists recognized for their cubist work were the French Georges Braque (1882-1963), Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) and Robert Delanay (1885-1945), and the Spanish Juan Gris (1887-1927) and María Blanchard (1881-1932).

Analytical Cubism (1909-1912)

analytical cubism
Many works of Analytical Cubism became practically abstract.

Analytical Cubism or Hermetic Cubism was the initial stage of the movement, whose paintings were almost all monochrome and gray, focused on point of view and not chromaticity. This approach was such that in many cases the works became practically abstract, since the planes became unrecognizable and independent of the volume of the painted object. This caused the new style to receive much rejection from the traditionalist sectors of painting, at the same time as the enthusiasm of avant-garde artists and cultural personalities such as Guillaume Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein, who wrote critical pieces on the importance of cubism. nascent.

By 1911, however, the Madrid painter Juan Gris began to be interested in light, incorporating it into his cubist works in a naturalistic way. But the following year he had joined the trend towards collage by Picasso and Braque, incorporating various materials such as wood and upholstery into his paintings.

Synthetic Cubism (1912-1914)

Synthetic cubism
Synthetic Cubism adds color to the hitherto monochrome Cubist trend.

The second period of Cubism was born as a result of Braque’s tendency to incorporate, as of 1912, numbers and words in your pictures, as well as the use of wood, discolored papers and other materials.

That same year Picasso made his first collage, and this incorporation of other elements adds color to the previously monochrome cubist trend. Cubist paintings then become more figurative and therefore easier to interpret, more docile, and in them the objects are reduced to their elementary characteristics, instead of to superimposed volumes and planes.

Is It is considered the most imaginative stage of Cubism, especially in the work of Juan Gris, who was granted greater quotas of freedom and color. However, World War I put an end to the movement, as many painters were called to the fore, and in the postwar period only Juan Gris remained faithful to cubism, albeit in a much simpler and more austere style.

Cubism works

Some of the most representative paintings of cubism are:

  • Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso.
  • The Avignon ladies (1907) by Pablo Picasso.
  • Violin and paddle (1909) by Georges Braque.
  • The bottle of anise (1914) by Juan Gris.
  • Woman reading on the beach (1937) by Pablo Picasso.

Literary cubism

Literary Cubism is a adaptation fruit of the ingenuity of the French Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), renowned poet and essayist. In this trend, he tried to mix images and concepts in a more or less haphazard way, thus venturing into calligrams: poems that formed a specific image on the page, due to their distribution on the blank paper.

This trend is maximized by Apollinaire in his Calligrams. Poems of peace and war (1918), where he broke the syntactic and logical structure of the poem, foreshadowing what the surrealists would later do.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso - Cubism
Pablo Picasso was a pacifist and communist militant.

Picasso was not only the central figure of Cubism, but an internationally renowned painter and sculptor, considered one of the most influential artists of numerous artistic movements, as well as a cultist of other art forms such as drawing, engraving, book illustration, set design and costumes for theatrical productions, and even had a very brief literary work.

Picasso was also a pacifist and communist militant, a member of both the Communist Party of Spain and the French, until the day his death in 1973. The indisputability of his work also contrasts with his personal and love life, of a notorious promiscuity and misogyny, to the point of reaching consider women as “suffering machines.”