Was Cubism Revolutionary

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Was Cubism a revolutionary art; discuss with reference to the power of the primitive and Cubist Collage in the work of Picasso and Braque.

Word Count: 1,683
Introduction
Was Cubism revolutionary? To answer this question we must first look at Cubism as an avant-garde art movement. Here I will describe the elements that make a Cubist painting and discuss the artists behind the movement. Secondly we will look at Primitivism and its influence within Cubism. This is a way to tease out the conditions behind Cubism’s invention. Finally we will examine Cubist collage, a period in Cubism that changed how art was seen.

Cubism
Cubism was an avant-garde art movement of the early 20th century that revolutionised visual art of the time. Its pioneers, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, believed previous art movements did not paint realistic works, depicting the world from just one viewpoint. They stepped away from the principles that had been established since the Renaissance and began to paint representations of objects through multiple perspectives, aiding the visual form with ideological views. They redefined the notion of form and space, mixing the two to create works that resemble the subject, but urged the viewer to use their imagination to see the narrative.

. . . there was one drawback in this method of building up the image of an object. . . .It
can be done only with more or less familiar forms. Those who look at the picture must
know what. . . (the subject) . . . looks like to be able to relate the various fragments in
the picture to each other.
(Gombrich, 2010, p.574)

Figure 2 Les Grandes Baigneuses 1894-1905
Figure 2 Les Grandes Baigneuses 1894-1905
Picasso began the introduction of Cubism with a painting known as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907 (Figure 1). This painting highlighted Picasso’s interest in Primitivism (see chapter 2) and illustrated the influence of French artist Cezanne with his painting Les Grandes Baigneuses from 1894-1905 (Figure 2). Figure 1 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907

Figure 1 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907

Picasso’s interest in African art and his exploration of different ways of treating both space and solid forms has been seen as the breakthrough that opened the way to Cubism. (Gaiger, 2004, p.137)

Georges Braque, who worked with Picasso for the private art dealer Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, was intrigued by Picasso’s painting. Also influenced by Cezanne, whose paintings were the first to represent three dimensional forms, he created his own work called Houses at L’Estaque in 1908 (Figure 3). Both paintings are regarded as the catalysts of Cubism. They continued a period of Cubism known as ‘analytic Cubism’. Paintings from this period were an almost diagnostic interpretation of objects, a form of deconstruction followed by reconstruction. Later paintings by both men tethered on the very edge of abstract art, with the subjects in their paintings becoming harder to recognise. This was often referred to as ‘hermetic Cubism’. Paintings like The Portuguese, 1911, by Braque (Figure 4) and The Architect’s Table, 1912, by Picasso (Figure 5) used slight hints to reveal the objects in the paintings. This would later be linked to a theory at the time by linguist Ferdinand de Saussure called semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs, which many believe Picasso and Braque used in their paintings to convey ideas. Picasso and Braque continued working together through another period called ‘synthetic Cubism’. This was a way of piecing together an image using different materials. This new form of artwork, invented by Picasso, was known as collage (which we will look at in more detail later). Figure 5 The Architects Table, 1912

Figure 5 The Architects Table, 1912
Figure 4 The Portuguese, 1911
Figure 4 The Portuguese, 1911
Figure 3 Houses at L’Estaque, 1908
Figure 3 Houses at L’Estaque, 1908

With an art dealer sponsoring them, Picasso and Braque had no need to display their...
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