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The most famous cubist artist is Pablo Picasso. Actually, he is the founder of this avant-garde trend in art. His “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, which was painted in 1907, became the first painting in the cubist style.
This iconic work owes its appearance to Picasso’s fascination with African sculpture, as well as to the influence of Paul Cézanne’s creativity, which found expression in an attempt to take a fresh look at painting, experimenting and looking for new dimensions. The significant features of the canvas were the contoured images of female figures coarsened and laid out on a plane, completely devoid of perspective or chiaroscuro elements. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” became a challenge to the traditions of realism.
However, the very concept of cubism was formed a little later. It is also associated with the name of another artist, Georges Braque, who actively collaborated with Picasso until the beginning of the First World War. The term appeared in 1908 courtesy of the critic Louis Vauxcelles: the Braque’s series of pictures, in which he depicted mountains and trees in the form of pyramids and cubes, was critically qualified as “bizarreries cubiques” (cubic oddities). And soon, mainly thanks to a series of these cubist paintings, the term took its root.
Another iconic canvas, identified with early cubist painting, attributed by art critics to the analytical period of the trend, was the “Mandora” by Braque, 1909—1910. This picture appeared as a consequence of the artist’s decision to abandon the landscapes and continue his creative search in still lifes.
A little later, since 1912, paintings in the cubist style acquired a new element of expressiveness: individual letters, words in typographic fonts, and then stickers appeared on the canvases. These elements often did not correspond to the content; rather, they served as guidelines for the public, allowing to understand the artist’s intention.
As artists saw cubism: features of the style and its stages
Cubism paintings are a conscious departure to elementary motives and simple forms, as well as to the asceticism of colour. However, these features are most colourfully manifested at the early stage of the art movement, which is called the Cézannesque cubism. The canvases “Plate and Fruit Dish” and “Musical instruments” by Georges Braque, as well as Pablo Picasso’s still life “Fruit Dish” can be considered vivid representations of this stage of cubism.
The next stage of cubism is called analytical: the shape of the object seems to be divided into small blocks, planes and sections that can be easily separated from each other, spreading out on the plane of the canvas and erasing the barriers to the habitual vision of space. One of the best examples of a cubist painting of the analytical stage is the “Portrait of Kahnweiler”, which Picasso painted in 1910.
The last, synthetic stage of cubism is characterized by greater decorativeness, colours and shades become more vivid and vibrant. And the collage becomes the main method of structuring the contents of the canvas: objects are as if synthesized from various elements, which, inter alia, were pieces of newspapers and wallpaper with an ornament. A vivid example of the stage is considered to be the “Newspaper, Bottle, Packet of Tobacco” by Braque.