Picasso and Early Cubism with Braque
In the spring of 1907, Georges Braque visited the studio of Pablo
Picasso for the first time. In the years that followed, the two artists,
apparently so different in background, temperament, and possibly even
in aesthetic, became essential to each other. They forged a relationship
that was part intimate friendship, part rivalry, and part two-man
expedition into the unknown. The young men were constantly in each
others studio, scrutinizing each others work, challenging,
stimulating, and encouraging each other. They went off to paint in
different places and returned to compare results. They invented nicknames
for each other, shared jokes and pranks, dressed up in each others
clothes and took photographs. Along the way, they invented a new language
of painting that shattered time-honored conventions of representation:
The works of Paul Cézanne inspired Picasso and Braque in the
early 20th century. Particularly, they examined the fragmented space
of Cézannes paintings, the ambiguity of forms in space,
the ambiguity of foreground/background - of whether an object is in
from of or behind another object, objects that tended to dissolve,
leading to abstraction, and the simple forms of cubes, spheres, and
cones. African art was also influential. Picasso and Braque looked
at the simple geometric forms and masks. From these various types
and components of art, they developed the style that came to be known
Some important aspects of Cubism include facetted forms, a very limited
palette, and multiple views of the subject. In some of Picassos
portraits, you can see the frontal view and profile of the person.
The Cubist style emphasized the flat, two-dimensional surface of the
picture plane, rejecting the traditional techniques of perspective.
Foreshortening, modeling, and chiaroscuro (the arrangement of light
and dark elements in a pictorial work of art) were included, and time-honored
theories of art as the imitation of nature were refuted. Cubist painters
were not bound to copying form, texture, color, and space. Instead,
they presented a new reality in paintings that depicted radically
fragmented objects, whose several sides were seen simultaneously.
Picasso painted Les Demoiselles DAvignon in 1908. It was a radical
departure from the artistic ideas of the preceding ages and is now
considered the most significant work in the development of Cubism
and modern art. Its fragmented forms and unprecedented distortions
are apparently inspired by the work of Cézanne and African
art. The painting began as a narrative brothel scene, with five prostitutes
and two men a medical student and a sailor. But the painting
metamorphosed as he worked on it. Picasso painted over the clients,
leaving the five women to gaze out at the viewer with their terrifyingly
bold and apprehensive faces. There is a strong undercurrent of sexual
Picasso painted one of his several Self-portraits in 1907. The eyes
are staring at the audience full in the face. However, if you look
at the nose, the nose does not come down straight but appears to be
turned towards the right. This suggests a three-quarters view of the
face, which contradicts the full-face view suggested by the eyes.
Also, the eyes make such a strong impression because the left eye
has been turned round to look out full-face (in relation to the nose).
This makes a more arresting effect, not because it is arbitrary or
brutal but it is counterbalanced by the hair, head and ear being turned
round towards the front on the opposite, right-hand side.
In 1907, Picasso painted Vase, Bowl, and Lemon. Paul Cézannes
influence was evident in this piece. His doctrine of Cubism during
this time defined what Cubism was made of. "Everything in nature
takes its form from the sphere, cone or cylinder." Simple geometric
shapes were used. The background tends to dissolve and the shapes
on the left of the vase are indistinguishable. Picasso used darker
colors on the left side of the painting and he used warmer colors
on the right side.
In 1908, The Peasant Woman was created. The Cubist feature of geometric
shapes is found in this piece. It appears that the womans head
is facing downward and the top of her head faces the viewer. However,
after looking a bit more closely, the top of her head may actually
be her face. There is a shape in the middle of the head that could
be her nose and she could be wearing glasses. Her dress or skirt meets
at a point in the center and it seems that her knees and arms are
bent. The womans feet are rectangular and the toes are not distinct.
The background is a bit fuzzy and it is hard to tell whether the woman
is sitting on something or if she is standing. She does cast a shadow,
however, against the wall she is in front of.
House in a Garden (House with Trees) was painted in 1908. The painting
mostly consists of greens and cream colors. The leaves and grass are
fragmented. The trees branches have curves as well as sharp
angles. The house in the garden and the wall around the garden are
made of simple geometric figures.
Picasso painted Landscape with Bridge in the next year. He used many
different shades of brown. The pieces of rock are broken into fragments
and you can see the different textures of the rock by the variety
of brushstrokes he used. The land on top of the bridge is also made
of different pieces. The water under the bridge is hard to distinguish
from the rocks making up most of the picture. The straight stick-like
figure on the left appears to be a tree trunk.
Cubism is a highly influential visual arts style of the 20th century
that was created principally by the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges
Braque in Paris between 1907 and 1914. Cubism derived its name
from remarks that were made by the painter Henri Matisse and the critic
Louis Vauxcelles, who scornfully described Braque's 1908 work House
at L'Ebstaque as composed of cubes. In Braque's work, the volumes
of the houses, the cylindrical forms of the trees, and the tan-and-green
color scheme are reminiscent of Paul Cézanne's landscapes,
which deeply inspired the Cubists in their first stage of development,
until 1909. It was, however, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
in 1907 that forecast the new style. In this work, the forms of five
female nudes became fractured, angular shapes. As in Cézanne's
art, perspective was rendered by means of color, the warm reddish
browns advancing and the cool blues receding. The influences that
Cubism gave on the other forms of art and other artists are significant.
During the years when Picasso and Braque were developing Cubism, the
movement influenced the other artists. The movement also inspired
much of modern architecture, sculptures, clothes, and even literature.