Began in 1908 after the creation of the Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso, Cubism is characterised by its abandonment of classical perspective, fragmentation of forms and the independence of the foreground and background. The artist seeks to represent a three-dimensional object that can be observed from every angle on a two-dimensional surface.

1. Its origins lie in the work of Paul Cézanne…

In 1907, Picasso and Braque attended a retrospective of Cézanne’s work. His paintings gave them a whole new perspective, especially in regards to the treatment of space and form. Picasso abode by a sentence Cézanne once wrote when he recommended that nature be “treated by the cylinder, sphere and cone.”

cubism Cézanne Sainte Victoire KAZoART
Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire seen from the Bibemus Quarry, Baltimore Museum of Arts, 1897

2. …and African Art

At the end of the 19th century, European artists became enthralled with the so-called “primitive” arts. We now refer to these arts in a less derogatory manner for they’re simply African and Oceanic arts. Henri Matisse showed Picasso a few African masquerade masks that fascinated the young painter. His exposure to this sort of art had a particular influence on his treatment of faces and figures for years to come.

cubisme Masque africain KAZoART
Gabon Mask, ©Ji-Helle, License Creative Commons

3. It was only founded by 2 artists

Cubsim is one of the few major artistic trends to have been conceptualised by only two people: Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. However, they did not invent the name. Scholars debate as to whether Henri Matisse or art critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the term. Regardless, one thing is certain, they started a veritable pictorial revolution. These two young painters who were practically unknown at the time began experimenting with the use of geometric forms to represent figures. Sometimes, it only takes a few individuals to shape history…

4. There are 3 types of Cubism

Cubism developed in three phases: First there was the Cezanian Cubism, then came Analytical Cubism and finally there was Synthetic Cubism. Each phase had its own defining characteristics wherein the artists would study subjects in a reductive manner or in contrast, they would add new materials to the work to give it an element of depth and dimension.

cubisme Braque Violon et chandelier KAZoART
Georges Braque, Violin and chandelier, 1910, San Francisco MoMA, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris, 89.78

5. It stretched to sculpture and literature

Many artists such as Lipchitz, Archipemko, or Duchamp-Villon have followed the precepts and ideas of Cubsim and applied it to their sculptures. Therein, we can find the same fragmented geometric figures that we see in painting.

cubisme Duchamp Villon KAZoART
Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Cheval Majeur, 1914, Museum of Dallas, Wikimedia Commons

Taking it a step further, the movement even spread to literature. It was the French poet Guillaume Appollinaire in particular who created “calligrams” in the 1910’s. These poems’ graphic layouts form a drawing.

cubisme Calligramme Apollinaire KAZoART
Guillaume Apollinaire, Know yourself, 1915, Wikimedia Commons