As we know that painting is a branch of fine art. Therefore, painting also includes a more complete development than drawing. In painting, there are various kinds of schools that have their own characteristics in drawing paintings. One such stream is the flow of Cubism. So, what is cubism, its characteristics, and who are the characters in it and its brief history. Below we will discuss this in more detail.
Definition of Cubism
The flow of Cubism is one of the fine arts that has a point of view from an object that is in one image. So that it will produce images that seem separate or fragmented. The fragmentation in the Cubism flow will form a geometric shape such as cubes, triangles, cylinders, circles, and others. That way, the flow of Cubism does not have to be cubic, but can also be geometric. A painting from the Cubist school has a front and side perspective that can be seen simultaneously in one painting object. So that it will produce artistic value.
History of Cubism
Cubism first appeared in 1907, when Picasso began using the style in his work entitled “Demoiselles D’Avignon”. The work is either a prototype or a work from pre-Cubism. In this work, various characteristics of the Cubist school have appeared, such as a radical distortion in the nose area, a split or fragmented background, and the position of the eyes that are a little odd but can give artistic expression. Georges Braque, who saw the painting in Picasso’s studio, felt interested and responded to the style used by Picasso by exploring a similar or similar style.
Examples of Cubist Works: Demoiselles D’avignon, by Pablo Picasso
Then, why is this flow called Cubism? The term cubism basically comes from a comment made by one of the art critics named Louis Vauxcelles when he saw several paintings by Georges Braque which were exhibited in Paris in 1908. He explained Braque’s paintings by simplifying the object into a geometric shape. So it looks to the cubes. That term eventually spread when the flow of Cubism increasingly gained the attention of the general public.
Cubism itself can be said to get influence and inspiration from the works of Paul Cezanne. Until one of its early phases was called Cezzanian Cubism. Cezanne’s work no longer pays attention to accurate perspectives. So that the work he makes does not have a consistent perspective. Even some objects look odd because there is no clear perspective. But that is one of the things that makes it look more interesting than with the classics which at that time had been considered too flat.
Pablo Picasso was also inspired by masks from African tribes. The style used to make the mask is very unrealistic and unnatural, full of distortion but still conveys a living human image. At that time Picasso had said: “The face consists of eyes, nose and mouth which can be distributed in any way according to your wishes”. That means, we can just draw or paint the mouth above the nose and the eyes under the nose, if we want. That is one of the views of Cubism that is important to understand.
Characteristics of Cubism
The following are some of the characteristics of the Cubism school that you need to know:
1. Only use geometric shapes
Paintings that have a Cubist style usually ignore the original form of the subject that exists in nature. Cubist artists deconstruct painted objects and carry out an analysis from various angles. That is one of the reasons the first type of Cubism was called Analytical Cubism. This is because the objects that have been analyzed are then painted in geometric arrangements, for example squares, triangles or cones.
2. Looks flat (flat) & minimal depth (sense of depth)
The parts in the subject are broken down and rearranged to make it look 2-dimensional and abstract in shape. This removes the illusion of depth from the painting itself. Cubist work also deliberately avoided using many traditional painting techniques. For example, perspective techniques, chiaroscuro (the use of dark and light colors to present a 3-dimensional impression), and foreshortening (shortening the subject to describe objects that are close to the observer).
3. Using multiple perspectives
The same subject can also be viewed from multiple angles simultaneously. For example, a cup that is broken into two parts. Where the left side will display the cup seen from the side, while the right side will depict the cup from above.
4. Consists of many fragments
Cubism flow itself is often referred to as a collection of broken glass by people who do not like it. When viewing paintings from this genre, observers need to piece together the pieces of the image. Then the painting is viewed as a whole to understand its meaning. Sometimes, painters break objects into parts so that they can be drawn from different perspectives. The backgrounds as well as the subjects of Cubist paintings often penetrate one another. In addition to the way of painting that uses multiple perspectives, this visual fragmentation makes works of Cubist style often difficult to understand.
Types of Cubism
Cubism developed through two distinct phases. The first phase is Analytic Cubism or Analytics Cubism and the second is Synthetic or Synthetic Cubism. However, this stage of Cubism is still debated and continues to be updated today. Various opinions from experts say that the flow of Cubism has three or even four phases. One phase before the Analytical phase and another after the Synthesis phase. So, to make it even more clear, below are the types of cubism that need to be understood:
Cezannian Cubism / Cezannian Cubism (1908 – 1909)
This was a phase of Cubism that was still rawly inspired by Cezanne’s works. A retrospective view of Cezanne has inspired many artists to take the positive side of their works. One of them is the freedom of perspective which can make a work more dynamic and not just imitating nature.
Analytic Cubism / Analytics Cubism (1910 – 1912)
Cubism in this phase developed in a fairly systematic way. Works based on observing objects in the context of their backgrounds and exploring them from various points of view. Picasso and Braque limited their subjects to the traditional portrait genre as well as still life. On top of that, they also limited the palette to earth tones as well as muted grays. It aims to reduce the clarity between fragmented figures and objects.
Synthesis Cubism (1912 – 1914)
In 1912, Picasso and Braque began to introduce foreign elements into their own compositions. Picasso added a wicker-like wallpaper to his work entitled: Still Life with Chair-Caning in 1912. Meanwhile, Braque stuck newspaper cuttings onto his canvas, then began to explore the collage movement. In essence, this phase is called Synthetic because they start composing and combining non-paint objects in their paintings.
Crystal Cubism (1915 – 1922)
Crystal cubism is a simplified form of various previous phases. In this phase, the flow of Cubism emphasized flat geometric planes that were stacked on top of each other. It was here that Cubism became close to formalistic abstraction, since geometric non-representative forms almost control all elements of works of art.
Artist Figures & Examples of Cubism Works
There were many artists involved in Cubism. This is because this flow can already be categorized into a fairly large sect. Below are some of the more influential Cubist artists and some examples of his work.
Georges Braque was at the forefront of the Cubist revolutionary art movement. Throughout his career, Braque’s works have always focused on living objects and how to see different perspectives through lines, colors, and textures. Braque has been called one of the main originators and developers of Cubism. Although Picasso introduced it to the public. Braque himself started his art movement as a member of Fauvism. He began to develop Cubism after meeting Pablo Picasso. Even within a phase, their paintings have many similarities in terms of style, theme, and color. However, Braque says that his work is not like Picasso. Where his work tends to be purely from space and also images. This is certainly different from Picasso who used figures and objects as iconic signs. Braque seeks a balance as well as harmony in his compositions. Especially through papier colles, a paper collage technique that was discovered along with his observations of Cubism in 1912.
Examples of Cubist Works: Bottle and Fishes (1910-12)
Braque has always painted a bottle and a fish throughout his painting career. The painting above is an example of Analytic Cubism, namely the initial phase of collaboration in developing Cubism with Picasso. The painting has a characteristic palette of light earth tones. So that it can produce a very soft image even though the objects being painted are messy and many. The dynamic texture of brush strokes fills various potential voids in the large and wide elements of the painting. A neat composition using vertical objects resting on horizontal supports helps balance the painting.
2. Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso is one of the most dominant and very influential artists of the first 20th century. Especially because of the emergence of Cubism that was promoted with Georges Braque. Picasso is also known as one of the founders of the collage technique and made a major contribution to Symbolism and Surrealism. Although his main work is painting, his sculpture is also quite influential and has successfully explored various types of media and other fields such as ceramics and printmaking. Picasso himself had a charismatic personality. So it’s easy for him to become more famous.
From the beginning, Picasso was influenced by Henri Rousseau and Paul Cezanne, to the prehistoric art and crafts of African tribes. Picasso borrowed a lot from structure and imagery. This influence led him towards Cubism. Where he deconstructs the established perspective conventions of the Renaissance tool. Then revolutionized the artist’s attitude towards the image of form as well as space.
Picasso’s deepening of Cubism eventually led him to the invention of the collage technique. Where he decided to leave the idea of the image as a window on the things that exist in the world. He also began to think of it as simply an arrangement of signs used in a different way. Sometimes, the object is just an Icon, sometimes it becomes a symbol. These ideas would be highly influential throughout the decades of the Cubist era.
Example of Pablo Picasso’s Work: Guernica
Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is one of the most famous paintings of all time. As with other famous works of art, the meaning of this painting is not very clear and is left free to interpret. Guernica itself is a small town in Northern Spain which became a means for bombing exercises by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War. By looking at Picasso’s habit of frequently using metaphorical signs, it is likely that the painting contains many symbols, such as a horse, a bull, and a man with a sword. The various objects and figures seem to depict scenes of bullfighting. One of these extreme sports is indirectly a symbol of Spain.
3. Juan Gris
Juan Gris is the only artist who is very talented in making Picasso feel threatened. His style of Cubism was built on the foundations of early Cubism, but he later moved towards new Cubism. As a member of a group of avant-garde artists in Paris, Gris adapted the experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Gris’s paintings tend to be unique, different from other artists. Because, his background is an illustrator. Therefore, Gris is used to playing with design elements that are generally used to create commercial images.
Unlike the case with other Cabbage, Gris’s main goal is to feast the eyes. As the artist puts it, ‘I prefer emotions fixing the rules’. Despite his radical treatment of space as well as objects, Gris’s composition remains balanced. Where the chosen palette is bright colors and the subject that is often used is an avant-garde theme. Like Picasso and Braque, Gris also began to paste newsprint and advertisements into his works. The distinctive feature of the collage technique is that it will leave larger pieces of advertisements or newspapers, as if it still wants to maintain the integrity of the original information.
Example of a Cubist Harlequin with a Guitar
The painting is the favorite work of Gris’s mentor, Picasso. Harlequin is a main character figure in the commedia dell’arte or masque that originated in Italy in the 16th century and a charlatan who had a tendency to act on his own. In addition, Harlequin is also a subject that is often raised in the arts. From here, the background shows in the subject’s cartoon-like mouth and eyes. The bright graphic lines tracing the figure as well as the costume also contribute to reinforcing the impression a commercial poster appears. In addition, there are warm tones and familiar subjects that create harmony.