Posted on

What is Cubism?

 See examples of Cubist work 
 Cubism was invented and pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Its most innovative period was from 1908 until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I. It influenced both painting and sculpture and stemmed from the work of Cezanne and his analysis of form. The 1907 retrospective of Cezanne’s work at The Salon D’Automne in Paris created a huge amount of interest in his paintings which simplified forms and reduced them to planes and facets. They displayed his interest in finding the underlying geometric shapes in objects. Picasso said Cezanne ‘was like the father of us all.’
It was an important 20th century movement because for the first time the motif was no longer the most important aspect of the artwork. It seeked to create autonomous works that did not necessarily seek to represent anything. Cubism was not about creating forms with solidity, but rather planes and lines which seem to slide over one another. Objects were broken down and them reassembled, often being shown from more than one viewpoint.
It was Picasso’s painting ‘Les Demoiselles D’Avignon‘ (1907) which influenced Braque and pushed him towards the formulation of a movement with Picasso. It was angular and aggressive and considered to be shocking. In the early stages of their work, both artists began to gradually reduce figures or landscapes into geometric shapes. This is visible in ‘Houses and Trees’ by Braque, and ‘Three Women’ by Picasso. They were joined in the movement most notably by Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon who exhibited together and became known as the ‘Salon’ Cubists.
There were two main phases of Cubism, Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. In Analytical Cubism, forms are further reduced, and are not necessarily in their correct positions, often distorted. This can be seen in Picasso’s ‘Female Nude’ (1910), and in the sculpture ‘Head of a Woman‘ (1909).
Picasso and Braque’s worries that in Analytical Cubism they had strayed too far from the motif led to the more representational Synthetic Cubism. In this phase images, such as ‘The Harlequin’ (1915) by Picasso, have been synthesised. They are formed by objects, painted planes, colours and shapes which themselves have no reference to the subject matter but which together create a representational image.
Cubism spread throughout Europe in the 1910s, and attracted artists such as Fernand Leger who adapted Cubism in a personal way, characterised by tubular, fractured forms and bright colours. Cubism also influenced artists to form the new movement ‘Orphic Cubism’ which focused on pure abstraction and was concerned with the expression and significance of sensation. Artists such as Robert Delaunay continued to use the fragmentation of Cubism, but added colours based on the composition of light. See ‘Windows Opening Simultaneously‘. He had been partially responsible, along with Frantisek Kupka and Sonia Delaunay, of reintroducing colour into Cubism during its monochromatic phase.
Cubism influenced Futurism with its use of planes and lines and gradual move away from the motif. Techniques inherited from Cubism became vital to the Futurist artists as ways of suggesting the dyanism of life. In particular the Cubist tendency to show multiple views of the same object, suggesting that the object is being seen at two different points in time.
Cubism was an important stage in the development towards abstract art, and the use of geometric shapes and interlocking planes was particularly influential to Piet Mondrian‘s personal progression to complete abstraction. These became crucial in his journey towards the entirely non-representational style for which he is now most famous, Neo-Plasticism.
Related Links – Cubism:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cover Image: Pablo Serrano “Entertainment with Picasso the Guitar and the Cubism 17 Bronze Sculpture 1984” by Aleseide Gallery
Posted on

What is Abstract Art?

What is Abstract Art?
Abstract art indicates a departure from reality in the depiction of imagery in art. Abstraction relies on the presence of the viewer to bring possibilites of meaning to its presentations of forms, colours, patterns, forms, shapes and textures. Abstract art demands the effort of imagination, a creative response. The departure from accurate representation can be only slight, partial, or it can be complete.

Abstract Art 2 The Bridge‘Abstract 2 The Bridge’ by Jan Rippingham

Western art, from the Renaissance until the middle of the 19th century, had been underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. From the early years of the twentieth century, painters and sculptors in the European traditions of art consciously sought radically new ways to represent their experience of the world. They set out to create an art that would reveal aspects of reality that seemed inaccessible to the techniques and conventions of figurative art, which was seen by many artists as a limitation on their capacity to represent the actualities of experience. New realities discovered by science, the new politics of social democracy, industrial technology, and advances in photography and film, all entailed rejection of those old forms of art which sought to imitate the appearance of things and invention of new forms that would reveal hidden revelations. The words ‘new’ and ‘modern’ were to become keywords. The Modernist The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction was “Make it new!.
There was no ‘abstract art movement’ as such, but many manifestations of a powerful trend in modern art away from the representation of recogniseable objects in pictoral space.
Expressionist painters explored the use of distortions, exaggerations, and intense colour, producing emotionally charged paintings that were reactions to contemporary experience, and included reactions to Impressionism and other more conservative directions of late 19th century painting. Expressionists sought to change the emphasis from subject matter to the portrayal of psychological states of being.
In the 20th century, it was Cubism, along with Fauvism, that directly opened the door to abstract art. Cubism had not set out to abolish representation, but was intent on reforming it. Pablo Picasso’s first Cubist paintings were based on Cézanne’s idea that all depictions of nature can be reduced to three solid forms: cube, sphere and cone.
The first major exhibition to survey the various international tendencies towards abstract art and the trend for abandoning traditional representation was put on at MOMA NY April 1936. The title given by the catalogue was ‘Cubist and Abstract Art’ with the description;
‘The pictoral conquest of the external visual world had been completed and refined many times and in different ways during the previous half millenium. The more adventurous and original artists had grown bored with the painting of facts’.
The selector and author of the catalogue was Alfred H Barr. Barr acknowledged that the term ‘abstract’ was inexact but possible alternatives were rejected. ‘Non-objective’ and ‘non-figurative’ were considered unacceptable on the grounds that the image of a square can be as much of an ‘object’ or ‘figure’ as the image of a face landscape. The work within the exhibition was not purely ‘abstract art’ but the intention was to demonstrate the various paths taken by painting towards abstraction.
The trends have continued, artistic movements ever since have experimented with the limits of pure representation, and the freedom of expression provided by abstract art is something that many artists have responded to. Arbitrary colour, vehement brushwork and exaggerated textures, collage and other disruptions of the surface, distortions of the figure and other forms are among the diverse devices adopted. In many cases, what would once have been regarded as preliminary techniques, or rough workings, has come to be regarded as artwork in its own right.
Ultimately it can be argued that abstraction has not superseded representational art but has taken its place alongside it, discovering new possibilites of vision.

Abstract Art Vaslui

‘Vaslui’ by Paul Chambers
Related Abstract Art Links:
MOMA | The Museum of Modern Art
Cover Image: Summer Landscape 3 by Jan Rippingham