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Cubism's Influence on Contemporary Abstractions

Artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque collaborated to create a new art movement. I believe this is one of the most amazing events in the history of art.  The idea that one would set out to create a new genre of art is fantastic, and it was not achieved before or since. Their experimentation with the revolutionary concept of presenting multiple views of objects in a single painting, “cubism,” would shape contemporary art forever.  Although the cubist movement only lasted a short time (1907-1911), so powerful was the concept that it is still one of abstract artists' valued tools for creating images.

The beginning of the cubist movement is known as early or analytic cubism, ranging from 1906 to 1908. The early development stages of cubism are considered largely inspired by Paul Cézanne's landscapes. The second phase, synthetic cubism lasted from 1912 to 1914. This was about the time when the surrealist movement was gaining popularity. The synthetic stage of cubism is more design-oriented, with the use of collage and materials to create textures. The English art historian Douglas Cooper referred to the ending stages of the movement as late cubism (1914-1921). The last phase of Cubism is the more radical avant-garde movement.

The principles and concepts that define cubist artworks are that objects/subjects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in abstracted forms.  Instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often plains or the geometry of objects intersect at seemingly random angles, removing any coherent sense of depth. The background and an object’s plains interpenetrate or overlap one another to create the shallow representation of depth or dimensional space.  This is a major characteristic of the cubist intention in creating images.

Following are examples of cubism artworks and abstract art using some of the principles of cubism. These paintings and drawings are by recognized masters as well as by various working artists today.


Pablo Picasso, Le guitarist, 1910. An example of Analytic Cubism.


Georges Braque, Woman with a Guitar, 1913. An example of Synthetic Cubism.


Picasso, Portrait of Wilhelm Uhde, 1910. Analytical Cubism.


Georges Braque, Woman with a Guitar, 1913. An example of Synthetic Cubism.


Juan Gris, The Sunblind, 1914.


Georges Braque, Woman with a Guitar, 1913. An example of Synthetic Cubism.


Wassily Kandinsky, Dominant Violet, 1934. Oil and sand on canvas.


Stuart Davis, Hot Still Scape for Six Colors--Seventh Avenue Style, 1940. Oil on canvas.


Gino Severini, The Run of the Tram, 1913. Modernism.


Roy Lichtenstein, Cubist Still Life, 1974.


Robert Rooney, After Colonial Cubism, 1993.


Jim TansleyAbstract acrylic paintings, pencil, charcoal drawings. New Cubism.

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