What is cubism?

Juan Gris

work by Juan Gris, image by maksim

During the early 20th century the art world was taken by storm with cubism. With all the technological advances arriving at a frantic pace, artists felt they needed a new way to see this new world. Established by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque during their Paris years, it started with their mutual appreciation for fellow artist Paul Cézanne.

Cubism reflected exotic influences and believed that traditional perspectives or subjects should be renounced. Items appeared “broken,” distilled down to pure geometric shapes and then reconstructed. To complete the picture, artists would often employ multiple perspectives. So just what made this artistic genre extraordinary? Discover as we answer the question: what is cubism?

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

The development of Cubism

During the developmental stages of this movement, the subject matter could usually be identified, despite their abstraction. Letters were often incorporated into the painting. Common motifs during this time included musical instruments (the guitar in particular), bottles, glasses, cards, and the human form. Picasso expanded the cubist concept by adhering found paper products to the canvas. The paper was often cut or modified to represent their subject matter.

Heidi Weber Museum

Le Corbusier cubist work

Most experts separate the genre into two distinct phases: analytic and synthetic. Analytic cubism is the original form of the movement. While the two co-founding artists steered clear of complete abstraction, many artists embraced the total detachment of painting from subject. Synthetic or “high cubism” occurred later in the mid-1900s, ushering in more stylistic advancements. During this time many artists returned to traditional subject matters, in an attempt to escape the incoming realities of war.

Beyond Picasso and Braque many artists furthered Cubism, inspired by its renegade style: Juan Gris, Marcel Duchamp, and Roger de la Fresnaye (to name a few). Its influence extended beyond the frame, including architecture and sculpture. Le Corbusier used the interplay between planes and materials to create extraordinary spaces that echoed the Cubist ideals. The movement went on to influence Dada and Surrealism and it continues to have international appeal.


Cause A Frockus would like to thank their tremendous resources: The Met Museum, Arty Factory, and Wikipedia.

For our readers: Do you love cubism or do you find the mix of perspectives tough to decipher?


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