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: Cubism.
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 as Cubism.
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 anxiety.
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,
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.
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.
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.