In this my final part of my discussion of Cubism I will be considering some theoretical questions posed by art historians on the influence of Cubism and its impact on the movement referred to as MODERNISM which emerged later in the century.
Jason Gaiger an Art historian at the Open University puts forward a number of different views of Cubism and its main task of creating plenty of dimensional space. ” The very space in which the coherent representation of three-dimensional objects might be depicted becomes increasingly shallow” . He further describes the role of Analytic Cubism . “The term analytic cubism is frequently used to describe Braque’s work of this period suggesting a process where forms and objects are fragmented and then reconstructed on the surface of the canvass” . Both Picasso and Braque are taking Cezanne’s advice to first theoretically construct the Grid in your mind before committing it to the canvass.
Contrasting reality and empirical data Gaiger suggests several routes in which you can approach a Cubist painting. ” The heightened tension between empirical and observed reality and the independent reality of the marks on the surface of the canvass , that is so characteristic of Cezanne’s mature painting gives way to a series of compositions in which only small visual clues allow us to reconstruct the subject of the painting” .
The development of collage is now considered by Gaiger. ” Beginning in May 1912 first Picasso and then Braque starting pasting fragments of oil cloth, newspaper , calling cards thereby establishing the technique that is termed ‘Collage’ as a significant resource for Modern art” .
The Dadaists in Berlin also applied and used Collage to great effect. I will be discussing their role in a later post. ” In particular synethic cubism is applied to the flat geometrically simplified works of 1912-14 with their clear , linear contours and bright colours”. .
Many viewers had problems identifying what Cubist paintings represented and its first step on the road to abstraction. ” On the more prosaic level Cubism was seen as incorporating both multiple perspectives and the duration of experience”. .
Proving that it was truly a theoretical exercise Gaiger argues that applied Geometry and mathematics were used by both Picasso and Braque. ” Cubism was linked to the non-perceptual reality uncovered by the latest innovations in Mathematics and Physics”. . ” the basic argument is that Braque and Picasso were the first to realise that visual signs too stand in an arbitrary rather than a necessary relation to the things they represent”. .
Steve Edwards a Marxist Art historian in a discussion of Cubism poses the dialectical relationship between High and low culture. ” Historically High Culture- the canon of books , pictures music, plays etc- was associated with the ruling classes and social elites in the Aristocracy and the Bourgeois” .
Edwards stressing the importance of Cubism to both these terms. ” Cubism is infused with references to popular culture and mass entertainment”. .
Edwards now suggests that Cubism represented Low culture. “Picasso and Braque often adopted methods from areas not normally associated with High culture. so in both content and technique these collages seem to exist as a hybrid form of high and low culture”. .
” Thomas Crow ( An American Marxist Art Historian) has shown that far from rejecting Kitsch avant garde artists from the time of Gustave Courbet on have made art works in a dialogue with the arte facts of commercial culture”. .
The term Kitsch is used to denote Low culture or art for the masses. Acording to critics like Clement Greenberg it was a method to portray Art that did not have the basic merits of Modernism as Inferior and not really art. I will deal with Greenberg and others in a major article on whether their argument stand the test of time. ” Cubist collage is such a hybrid form that mixes the techniques of autonomous art (is there such a thing) with the irreverent pleasure of mass entertainment”. .
Edwards suggests that Collage used by Picasso and Braque had the element of the Circus and music hall. It was influenced by the masses and what we refer to as Kitsch. ” Picasso and Braque were clearly attracted by the energy and irrevance of this kind od entertainment”. .
As Picasso and Braque showed so many times in their Cubist work aspects of games and hidden jokes were involved in their attempt to hide their little practical jokes embedded in their Cubist work.
” Cubism is in one important sense a game of wit , dumb jokes and bad puns”. .
” Crow has suggested that Cubism’s interweaving of high and low culture was a last ditch attempt to fend off the recognition that art could not harmonise modern experience”. .
David Cottington suggests the importance of Braque in his discussion of Cubism in the Movements of Modern art series. ” 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”. .
When the first Imperialist war occurred Picasso and Braque split up never to see one another again. ” I never saw them again said Picasso of Braque and Derain after he had said goodbye to them at Avignon Station in August 1914 on the eve of War”. .
Cubism without a doubt led to the Geometric art of Mondrian and Van Doesburg and Abstraction. “within a year of each other , on the eve of war ,painters across Europe -Piet Mondrian -in the Netherlands Wassily Kandinsky in Germany Kasimir Malevich in Russia among others crossing the threshold of abstraction”. .
Cottington sums up the achievements and the enduring legacy of Cubism in the 20th and 21st Centuries. ” When that conjuncture ended (Cubism and Modernism) and with it the exchange between revolutionary politics and the potential revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism, the achievements of the latter were fundamental in the arts, a lexicon for a Modernism that would represent and mediate the social life of the 20th Century”. .
This concludes my article on the influence and importance of Cubism which would be the forerunner of Abstraction in the 20th Century. The most important artist in the 20th Century would be Pablo Picasso who would shape the different revolutionary aspects of Art in the 20th Century. Like Gustave Courbet and Jacques Louis David, Picasso would prove his revolutionary credentials by joining the Communist Party and fighting the Spectre of Fascism. To me he rightly belongs as probably the greatest artist of the 20th Century.
1)ART OF THE AVANT GARDES ASPECTS OF CUBISM JASON GAIGER PG 138-9.
2) DITTO PG 139
3) DITTO PG 142
4) DITTO PG 142
5) DITTO PG 143-4
6) DITTO PG 150
7) DITTO PG 150
8) DITTO PG 151
9) ART OF THE AVANT GARDES CUBIST COLLAGE STEVE EDWARDS PG 200
10) DITTO PG 202
11) DITTO PG 202
12) DITTO PG 207
13) DITTO PG 207
14) DITTO PG 208
15) DITTO PG 212
16) DITTO PG 217
17) CUBISM MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART DAVID COTTINGTON PG 56
18) DITTO PG 73
19) DITTO PG 74
20) DITTO PG75