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Cubism - An Overview
Posted by Graphica on 10/22/2008 3:39:15 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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The original founders of Cubism were Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Leger, Henri Matisse, Andre Derain and Robert Delaunay, who was the inventor of Orphic Cubism. Cubism was born out these artists' desires to replace Impressionism's theory of strictly visual effects with a theory that was based more on an intellectual conception of color and form. There were three phases of Cubism: the first is called the "Cezanne" phase and lasted from 1906-1909; the second is called "High" or "Analytical" Cubism and went from 1909-1912; and the third is called "Late" or "Synthetic" Cubism and was in style from 1912 until 1914.

In the first period, the artists took the ideas of Cezanne and developed them further than Cezanne had done. Unifying the two-dimensional surface of a picture was the aim of the artists, as well as the consideration of forms and how the forms relate to each other. Negro sculpture was a jumping off point for the Cubists, as was Iberian sculpture that Picasso had seen. He desired to get away from pattern-making that had been propounded by the Fauvists. Picasso is considered to be the "father" of Cubism, and even though the other artists mentioned above also subscribed and had something to do with the origins of Cubism. It was Picasso who first started putting his beliefs into his art. In 1907, he completed his painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", that is now located in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The right-hand section of this painting is dramatically simple, being just sketched without the chiaroscuro that was normally used. This painting is considered to be the very first Cubist piece of art. Picasso soon met George Braque, who was infatuated with the ideas and methods used by Picasso. Hebegan began incorporating them immediately into his work. In the fall of 1907, the gallery that was destined to become the home of Cubism was opened by Kahnweiler in Rue Vignon, Paris.

The following year, Picasso was joined by the writer and painter Max Jacob and the painter Juan Gris in forming the Bateau-Lavoir or "boat-house" group, that got its name from a tenement in Montmartre where the three lived. The French poet Apollinaire, the art critics Salmon and Raynal, the writers Gertrude and Leo Stein and others were soon included in this group. Braque, who had been experimenting with Fauvism and Impressionism, started to introduce color into his work with strict form, and he was followed by Picasso, who also started to put color into his works. Together Braque and Picasso studied the age-old problem of painting: representing three-dimensional forms on a two-dimensional surface. The solutions that they derived became turning points in the history of Cubism.

The group changed in 1910. Braque, for instance, stopped painting landscapes and began painting still lifes and figures; in Braque's own opinion, he had to move from strictly visual space forward to tactile and manual space. Picasso moved the group to live on the Boulevard de Clichy, that is also in Montmartre and began painting heads and portraits. The second phase of Cubism began; Juan Gris described it as analytical, because the forms were broken down and simultaneity began. Simultaneity showed different views of the same object. The object seems to be distorted and fragmented because of the display of its characteristics from all angles and from the inside out. Artists from Van Eyck to Manet had been concerned by the problem of being able to show varied views other than by reflection in a mirror. Because of the intense analyzing and experimenting during this second period of Cubism, Picasso and Braque were aware of the inherent difficulty in Cubism. They began to remedy the situation by different materials such as glass, newspaper and cloth in order to make collages. It was also during this second period that the definitive work on Cubism "Du Cubisme" or "On Cubism" (1912) was written and published by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger. During this stage Cubism spawned Orphism and the Section d'Or, that were forerunners to abstraction and Purism.

1913 was the year that Apollinaire wrote "Les Peintres Cubistes" or "The Cubist Painters". Part of this work was about conceptual painting. Juan Gris, in 1911, had started to change the object in the painting by breaking it down; however, in 1913, Gris stopped using this technique after staying with Braque and Picasso at Ceret. Multiple representation of an object made it less understandable and changed its rhythm in spite of the fact that the object was still being represented. This break with the naturalists' idea of representation was finally complete and the third stage of Cubism, "Synthetic" Cubism, began. In this stage of Cubism, the processes of imitating were used. Like a metaphor in poetry, the use of plastics as "signs" began. Rather than continuing to be a point of view, Cubism turned into an aesthetic belief where the ordering of the world was done in an object's essence instead of in how that object looked.

Technology had been created at that point by science and thought, and the use of plastics without any boundaries was started by the Cubists. World War I created an environment that broke up the Cubist movement as each artist had to go out on their own.

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