CUBISM A REVOLUTIONARY ART MOVEMENT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY. A STUDY OF THE PIONEERS AND FOUNDERS OF CUBISM PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973) AND GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963) PART 1

I am now returning to the beginning of the 20th Century , having dealt with Post Painterley abstraction. In this study of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque I will argue that their major influence in the development of Cubism was Paul Cezanne and Cubism was to lead eventually to the De Styll movement Of Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg the beginnings of Abstraction

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Cezanne had started to alter the picture plane by making his pictures flatter and introducing fragmentation for some of his landscapes. Picasso particularly was to pay homage to the way Cezanne altered and changed both the perspective and the picture plane . Charles Harrison notes this development ” The first is that Picasso responded to the strong plastic qualities of Cezanne’s figures by enhancing those aspects of his own that he read as primitive, the second is that he responded to the extra ordinary denseness of Cezanne’s late figure paintings by narrowing the space between the picture plane and background”.[1].

other commentators have showed again how important Cezanne was to the pioneer cubists Picasso and Braque. ” On the one hand this allows Picasso to satisfy Cezanne’s demand for simplified forms such as circles , ovals and squares and on the other hand it gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his new concept of space”. [2]. ” Never the less Picasso succeeded in maintaining the balance between two main ideas in art ie Naturalism and abstraction taking reality as the starting point but endeavouring to be autonomous as an artist”. [3].

Picasso started painting still life’s and concentrating on objects in his studio. ” In the following years Picasso depicted objects in an increasingly disjointed way . he concentrated above all on things in his studio”.[4].

Several commentators have suggested that Picasso and Braque represented Synthetic Cubism. Following on from Picasso and Braque were the Salon Cubists which I am not going to concentrate on. ” However synthetic cubism did not reach its climax in collages with their scraps of real life stuck together but in Picasso’s use of paint and brush.” [5],

I will deal later in more depth with Collage in a separate post. David Cottingham an art Historian argues that Alienation was an important contributory factor in  the development of Cubism .” Artists had engaged with and represented on  canvass a deepening culture of alienation from the social , moral and aesthetic conventions of modern capitalist society”. [6].

Cottingham supports my view that Cezanne’s importance was paramount in the development of Cubism.” He took his cue in this partly from Cezanne’s efforts to fashion a way of painting that would laid bare or at least open up for exploration by the viewer- the complex process of pictorial representation”. [7].

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Cottington  continue his comments by drawing out differences in style between Picasso and Braque which were never less important. Both Braque and Picasso worked together developing a Cubist stle from 1907-1914 the outbreak of the First World War. ” And as Braque  wrestled with the formal implications of the Demoiselles he found on the one hand that they showed the way beyond Cezanne to a radically self-referential kind of painting that could piece the conventions of pictorial illusion at the centre”. [8].

More and more Cubism is moving to altering any real pictorial semblance of the kind that Cezanne had developed , so in a way although registering their debt to Cezanne they changed everything that he believed in. ” Yet unlike Cezanne Braque pushes the juxtaposition of different perspectives to the point of contradiction and underscores it with a quite arbitrary distribution of light and shadow”. [9].

The exploration of spatial aspects in a painting was developed by both Braque and Picasso as several Art Historians have commented on.” Picasso has so emphasied  the juxtaposition of viewpoints- pulling the garden wall down and pushing the house up as if opening a pair of jaws-that the space between these features yawns wide”. [10].

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Using the grid as Cezanne had done showed that these two painters were also working out geometric measurements although to the viewer it appears disjointed and fragmented. ” Over the following year Braque refined his concept of the diagonal grid, capitalising on the ways in which it had signified a painting’s surface even as it conjured from it an image of depth and the manner in which it pulverised its subject to reconfigure it in terms of its own properties of flatness”. [11].

As Cottington  observes there was tension for both Braque and Picasso in one way were developing towards abstraction by at the same time wanted to include Naturalism and realism into their pictures. ” In works such as these Picasso took painting to the verge of abstraction, neither he nor Braque were interested in going further: theirs was an art of Realism not only because the question of representation of an external reality was at the centre of their exploration of the linguistic character of painting”.[12]. ” Such loosening and the ties between signifier and specific signified – between the painted mark and the object it denotes allows the imagery to be read on more than one level”. [13].

It as if Picasso and Braque are using little tricks of the brush to deceive us iinto what we are actually looking at. It at times becomes a puzzle on how to read the work and what does the artist want the viewer to observe.

As Cottington  observed ” Braque’s greater commitment to an overall low relief , space and his thicker handling of paint , as against Picasso’s enjoyment of abrupt spatial discontinuities  and his deftly -created play of overlapping transparent planes”. [14].

In Parts 2 and 3 I will discuss at greater length the Art Historical significance of Cubism.

FOOTNOTES

1) MODERNISM CHARLES HARRISON PG 46

2) PICASSO INGO F WALTHER  PG 40

3) DITTO PG 42

4) DITTO PG 43

5) DITTO PG 44

6) CUBISM DAVID COTTINGTON PG 14

7) DITTO PG 15

8) DITTO PG 22

9) DITTO PG 27

10) DITTO PG 22

11) DITTO PG 39

12)  DITTO PG 43

13)  DITTO PG 43

14)  DITTO PG 52

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