Cubism is an artistic movement that emerged in France in the early twentieth century. The cubist works sought to represent elements of nature through geometric forms , especially cubic ones. This article highlights some key Cubism Characteristics.

Thus, the Cubist style opposed the realism of images that were portrayed during the Renaissance, for example. The principles that define Cubist art are present in both the fine arts and literature.

To better understand the essence of this movement, check out some of its key features in art:

Appreciation of geometric and fragmented shapes

Girl with Mandolin (1910), Pablo Picasso
Girl with Mandolin (1910), Pablo Picasso

As the very name of the movement suggests, Cubism has as its main feature the use of geometry forms as a prominent component in the works.

The cubist artist seeks the simplification of the world in his paintings and, for this, appropriates cubes, cones, cylinders and other geometric shapes with straight and simple lines.

This geometrized figurativism should not be confused with abstract art, because unlike this, in cubist works forms have a certain level of identification.

In synthetic cubism, for example, figures are easily associated with objects or people, even if they are constructed from geometric shapes.

Use of “plastic rhymes”

The Fenêtre aux Collines (1923), Juan Gris
The Fenêtre aux Collines (1923), Juan Gris

The so-called “plastic rhyme” consists of a technique applied by some cubist artists, where each geometric shape gave continuity to another, creating a harmonious effect on the work.

This technique would have been created by the Spanish painter Juan Gris (1887 – 1927), one of Pablo Picasso’s great disciples, and precursor of the so-called Synthetic Cubism (name given to the second phase of the artistic movement).

Use of collage as image reconstruction technique

The Guitar (1913), Pablo Picasso
The Guitar (1913), Pablo Picasso

Contrary to the proposal of Analytical Cubism, which sought to fragment the real figures as much as possible, Synthetic Cubism sought to reconstruct the fragmented images, making them more recognizable.

For this, the technique of collage began to be applied as one of the most common methods in the composition of these works. The artist introduced clippings of newspapers, magazines and pieces of other materials (wood, glass, metal, etc.) into the painting, mixing textures and shapes for the production of his works.

The intention of the collage would be to transport the interaction between the observer and the work beyond the visual field, also arousing tactile sensations in people.

Resignation to perspective

Guernica (1937), Pablo Picasso
Guernica (1937), Pablo Picasso

Predominantly during the first phase of cubism (Analytic), artists sought to present the various angles and perspectives of the work at the same time and under the same plan.

The three-dimensional object was fragmented, represented in geometric shapes and superimposed to create the illusion of a three-dimensionality.

The construction of images from the overlapping junction of these fragments conveys to the artist the sensation of “sculpting” the painting. From this arises the concept of sculptural painting , which also defines various works of the Cubist movement.

Predominance of monochrome and opaque colors

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

Some of the leading names in Analytical Cubism, such as Pablo Picasso, for example, characterized their works by the use of dark and monochromatic colors such as brown, gray, black, green, ocher and beige.

The color palette was very limited , and in some works the difference was only between the different shades of the same color.

It is noteworthy that the inspiration for the use of this restricted selection of colors is in African art, which influenced the works of Cezanne and Picasso (the main precursors of Cubism).

As the movement progresses, warmer and more vivid colors are used in Cubist works. The main responsible for this change was Juan Gris, the “creator” of Synthetic Cubism.

Work as a “mental exercise”

Seated female nude (1910), Pablo Picasso
Seated female nude (1910), Pablo Picasso

Cubism, especially the analytic, is not limited to portraying the nature of the form that is presented in reality, but rather a conceptual abstract idea of ​​the objects that are inserted in it.

For this reason, cubist works can be considered a “mental exercise” for the observer, who needs to interpret the image that is fragmented and superimposed by different figures of geometry.

Primitive Retraction

The Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), Pablo Picasso
The Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Pablo Picasso

The precursor artists of Cubism were strongly inspired by African art, especially the idea of ​​the synthesis of the elements and the monochromatic use of some restricted colors.

Direct references to African masks and the concept of primitivism can be seen in several works by Paul Cezanne during the so-called “pre-analytic cubism” or “Czannian cubism”.

Another work that shows the essence of this characteristic for the Cubist movement is Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon . In the scene portrayed by the artist are women from a brothel in Barcelona, ​​some of whom appear wearing masks from African tribes.

Influenced by Relativity Theory

The Cubist movement emerged in the midst of a period of great scientific revolutions. In the early twentieth century, for example, the world was in awe of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1879-1955).

The physicist defended the idea of ​​the existence of a fourth dimension , the time-space, altering the traditional conception of three-dimensional universe that had been until then.

For Cubist artists, especially Pablo Picasso, their works were not tied to the conventional notion of space, and so saw in Einstein’s theories a great inspiration for the concept he applied in their work.

Learn more about Cubism

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