What is Cubism: Cubism art is a European avant-garde artistic movement, which emerged in France in the early twentieth century and is characterized by the use of geometric shapes to portray nature .

Cubism was founded in Paris through the renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) and the French Georges Braque (1882 – 1963).

“Les demoisellers d'Avignon” (or “The Misses of Avignon”), by Picasso
“Les demoisellers d’Avignon” (or “The Misses of Avignon”), by Picasso

The 1907 painting “Les demoisellers d’Avignon” (or “The Misses of Avignon”), by Picasso, is considered the starting point of this innovative movement.

In general, cubism is marked by the representation of figures of nature through the use of geometric shapes, promoting the fragmentation and decomposition of planes and perspectives. The Cubist artist is no longer committed to using the real appearance of things, as happened during the Renaissance.

Cubist art is considered a “mental art”, where each aspect of the work must be analyzed and studied individually.

Cubes, cylinders and spheres are some of the usual forms in cubism, which is distinguished from abstract art by the concrete use of all forms.

Besides Picasso and Braque, other artists who have been immortalized as icons of this avant-garde are Juan Gris (1887 – 1927) and Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955).

Phases of Cubism Art

The Cubist movement was marked by three phases: Cezannian Cubism (1907 – 1909), Analytical Cubism (1910 – 1912) and Synthetic Cubism (1913 – 1914).

Cezannian Cubism or Pre-Analytic Cubism (1907 – 1909)

Also known as “pre-analytic cubism”, this is considered the early phase of the Cubist movement (1907 – 1909), where the main basis was the work of Cezanne, with a strong influence of African art and due to the use of simplified forms.

Paul Cézanne’s works (1839 – 1906) served as inspiration for the consolidation of cubism. Although they did not yet have all the defining characteristics of the artistic movement, some concepts adopted by Cezanne in their work were fundamental for Picasso and other artists to build the Cubist style.

Example of work by Cezannian cubism

Autorretrato (1907), Pablo Picasso
Autorretrato (1907), Pablo Picasso

Analytical Cubism (1909 – 1912)

It is considered as the “pure cubism” and difficult to interpret, where the figures are decomposed, through the use of various geometric shapes.

With a strong influence on African art, the works in this period permeate the monochromatic tones, with predominance of green, brown and gray. In addition, there is also a need to express nature in a simplified manner, with straight and uniform lines.

Analytical Cubism Work Example

Violin and Candlestick (1910), Georges Braque
Violin and Candlestick (1910), Georges Braque

Synthetic Cubism (1913 – 1914)

The great feature of this phase was the introduction of the collage technique to reconstruct the images that were once decomposed. Therefore, this period is also known as “collage cubism” .

Unlike analytic cubism, at this stage the images keep their physiognomy, but in a small way, presenting only what is essential for its recognition.

The main precursor of synthetic cubism was Juan Gris (1887 – 1927), who also used a more vivid and intense color palette in his works.

Examples of Synthetic Cubism Works

Guitar (1913), Pablo Picasso
Guitar (1913), Pablo Picasso
Landscape at Ceret (1913), Juan Gris
Landscape at Ceret (1913), Juan Gris

Cubism Features

Among some of the main characteristics of cubism art, we highlight:

  • Use of geometric shapes and volumes;
  • Decomposition of images into geometric shapes;
  • Image reconstruction through the use of collages;
  • Renunciation of the use of perspectives, especially three-dimensional;
  • Closed colors (predominance of white, black, gray, brown and ocher);
  • Sculptural painting.

Learn more about the main features of Cubism.

In Brazil, the first manifestations of cubism appeared after the Modern Art Week of 1922, but the movement did not have the same strength as it had in Europe.

No Brazilian artist used the pure and crude essence of European cubism, however, some of the characteristics of this movement were adopted by Tarsila do Amaral (1886 – 1973), Anita Malfatti (1889 – 1964), Rego Monteiro (1899 – 1970) and Di Cavalcanti (1897 – 1976).

But, the importance that cubism had in the conception of other artistic movements in the beginning of the twentieth century, which had great repercussion in Brazil, such as Concretism , stands out.

Sao Paulo (1924), Tarsila do Amaral
Sao Paulo (1924), Tarsila do Amaral

Cubism in literature

The Cubist avant-garde also reached other artistic branches, such as literature.

In this case, literary cubism focused on the idea of “destroying” syntax . The verses were fragmented and discontinuous, that is, there is no linearity in the narrated story.

One of the main names of this literary movement was the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918).

Learn more about the meaning of Modern Art and Optical Illusion.

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