There is a very good short introduction to Cubism from Oxford art online I will post here :


Pablo Picasso: Three Musicians, oil on canvas, 2.01×2.23 m, 1921 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © 2007 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NYHeralded as one of the most original and influential artistic movements of the 20th century, Cubism aggressively challenged Western conceptions of pictorial representation. The exact date of the inception of Cubism is debated. Some scholars cite Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907, others Georges Braque’s Houses at L’Estaque of 1908 and still others the first organized group show by Cubists in Paris in 1911 with works by Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes. The term Cubism, however, was coined in 1908 by the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles when he described some of Georges Braque’s paintings as ‘geometric schemas and cubes’. These initial works of Braque and Picasso comprise what art historians usually refer to as the first phase of Cubism, or Analytic Cubism. The early Cubist works of Picasso and Braque assaulted Renaissance ideals of perspective and illusionism by breaking up the picture surface into a series of planes, signs and shifting viewpoints. Volume was rendered in flat planes instead of using tonal modeling and three-dimensionality was indicated by showing multiple viewpoints simultaneously.

Sometime in the spring of 1912 Picasso glued a piece of oilcloth printed with a tromp l’oeil chair-caning pattern to a small canvas and named it Still-life with Chair-caning. This was the first Cubist collage and initiated the second major phase of Cubism termed Synthetic Cubism. The artists used collage to further challenge the viewer’s understanding of reality and representation. By creating an image that is a synthesis of pictorial elements, both real and painted, Picasso and Braque challenged the deceptive and artificial nature of illusionistic representation. Although the term Cubism usually refers to these developments of Analytic and Synthetic Cubism in early 20th century France pioneered by Picasso, Braque and others, the impact of Cubist ideas and pictorial forms reverberated throughout Europe and abroad. Cubism profoundly affected the Russian avant-garde, the Italian Futurists and the British Vorticists among others. The Cubist destruction of the traditional Western pictorial system left the door open for radical artistic experimentation that continues today.

These are the two works that are mentioned as the start of Cubism:

F017219.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Houses at L’Estaque, oil on canvas, 730×595 mm, 1908



F017217.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, oil on canvas,

And the first cubist collage:

F017274.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Still-Life with Chair-caning, oil and painted oilcloth on canvas, 290×370 mm, c. spring 1912

Here are some further cubist works :

F017220.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Violin and Pitcher, oil on canvas, 117o×735 mm,…

F017273.thumbnailGeorges Braque: Portuguese Man, oil on canvas, 1172×813 mm, c. 1911–2

F019965.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Still-life with a Bottle of Rum, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 19 7/8 inches (61.3 x 50.5 cm), 1911

F017221.thumbnailPablo Picasso: Woman with Guitar (‘Ma Jolie’),

F018082.thumbnailFernand Léger: The Wedding, oil on canvas, 2.57×2.06 m, 1911

460px-Jean_Metzinger,_1911-12,_La_Femme_au_Cheval_-_The_RiderJean MetzingerLa Femme au Cheval, Woman with a horse, 1911-1912,

From Wikipedia:

“Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in musicliterature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century.”

Pablo_Picasso,_1910,_Girl_with_a_Mandolin_(Fanny_Tellier),_oil_on_canvas,_100.3_x_73.6_cm,_Museum_of_Modern_Art_New_York..jpgPablo Picasso, 1910, Girl with a Mandolin

A cubist still life by Pablo Picasso, a classical table top motive seen in an entirely new way:


Georges Braque , also a classical motive of musical instruments.Musical-Instruments-Georges-Braque-1908

Cubism challenged all conventional styles and forms of  representation, such rules like perspective , which had been the rule since the Renaissance. They developed a whole new way of seeing. By not using a 3 D perspective, but by combining multiple perspectives in the same picture they created a sense of totality in a uniquely modern way.

This was at a time when technology exploded and the boundaries of what was possible in ways of communication or travel were being pushed further than could have been imagined previously.

Cubism was the answer to a need of modernising art to match this development, to expand the boundaries of art to match modern times. It was the first abstract style of modern art. They simplified objects into its natural forms, spheres, cubes… Then adding multiple perspective.

All through the research , the influence of Paul Cezanne on still life in general, and on the cubists , has become apparent, so I will research his work next. And feel very tempted to try a cubist still life 🙂



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