Gertude Stein and the Art of Cubism

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The Cubist painter renounced the work of artists who drew only what society wanted to view as art. Instead of painting for the appraisers of conventional art, Cubist painters assembled shapes and movement from different angles to create a completely innovative artistic perspective. Like the Cubist artist, Gertrude Stein, a modernist writer of the 20th century, rejected the expectations of a society that required writing to model the speech of the English language just as it required art to model the visions and still life images of everyday situations and experiences. Stein's writing is often compared to the visual art of modernist painting, such as Duchamp's work from the 1913 Armory Show, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, in which he uses Cubist techniques. Duchamp and Stein rely heavily on illusion to move audiences from the constraints of conventional art to a modernist mindset of viewing art for what it is instead of a representation of something else. These two artists accomplish this idea through the speed and rhythm contained in each work, unlikely associations made between the elements of each piece, and the creation of multiplicity and simultaneity within each work.

Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 maintains a constant speed through the illusion of movement. Duchamp used the technique of overlaying phases of the movement of a figure descending a staircase to create angles that do not present a still-life frame of a figure posed in one specific movement, but instead create a scene of constant movement that is not halted within the frame of the painting. Similarly, in Stein's "Tender Buttons," she creates a rhythm within the text by overlapping disconnected words and thoughts into separate sections. This technique maintains a stable pace for the reader, although it never moves out of the present moment. Stein's writing does not contain a past or a future; it maintains a tone and speed that do not move out of the present time. In the section...
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