The masters of the previous generation had already strongly shaken the firm bases of the European art up to the beginning of the 20th century – the time of Cubism’s birth. A traditional African sculpture was very popular in Europe at that time. It showed the example of a free handling with a form: a statue’s head could be bigger than a body; therefore, a figure looked very expressive.
Thus, a “pagan” culture was the basis of the Cubism concept which once had revived the antiquity art, and later had given new sprouts in the Renaissance epoch. It released art creativity from the showroom frothiness, returned it to the disclosing of the essence of things and phenomena, making art a knowledge tool corresponding to the tendency of the time. In its consecutive displays, the new trend, which conditionally received the name “Cubism”, showed the structures for viewers, as though baring the skeletons of subjects.
However, a direct push to the appearance of Cubism was made by two big exhibitions of Paul Cézanne in 1904 and 1906. His ideas about understanding of nature by means of a cylinder, a sphere, and a cone can be considered as a kind of an epigraph to all subsequent creative searches for a new direction.
Cubism (from the French word “cubism?”, “a cube”) is a direction in the French art in 1900-1910, the beginning to which was put by the joint creativity of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in a decade preceding the World War I. The flowering of Cubism was reached in 1911-1918.
Cubism is characterized by the presence of straight lines, sharp edges and cube-shaped forms. The term “Cubism” was applied for the first time by the critic Leon Vosel in 1908, describing the Braque’s works rejected by the autumn showroom of the same year.
As for the traditional distinction of the solid form and the space surrounding it, Cubism substituted a new fusion of the void and mass. In place of the earlier perspective systems which have determined the precise placement of discrete art objects in the illusory depth, Cubism has offered not stable structures of dismembered planes being in indeterminate spatial positions. Not assuming that the art was an illusion of the reality which lay beyond, Cubism has proposed that the work of art was a reality which represented the very single process by which the nature is being transformed into art. (Rosenblum 9)
Cubism represents a complex art phenomenon uniting painters and sculptors, musicians and poets. It is difficultly enough to give a simple formulation of the main objectives and principles of Cubism. It is possible to single out three phases of this direction which reflect different esthetic concepts in painting; they are: the Cézanne Cubism (1907-1909), the analytical Cubism (1909-1912) and the synthetic Cubism (1913-1914).
The Cezanne Cubism
The Cézanne Cubism is characterized by the tendency towards the abstraction and simplification of the objects’ forms. Cubism is the form absence response in impressionism. An artist’s aim is to create symbolic forms for ideas come true, but not simply imitate a changeable look of things.
Cubists aspired to reveal the elementary geometrical forms underlying subjects. In order to express the ideas of things to the fullest extent, they rejected a traditional prospect as an optical illusion and aspired to give their universal image by means of the form decomposition and combination of its several kinds within the limits of one painting. The heightened interest to the form problems led to the differentiation in the use of colors: warm – for prominent elements, cold – for remote.
The analytical Cubism
The analytical Cubism, the second phase of Cubism, is characterized by the disappearance of the images of subjects and a gradual fading of distinctions between a form and the space. There are the translucent crossed planes of iridescent colors in the paintings of this period; their position is not accurately defined.
Features of the synthetic Cubism
The synthetic Cubism radically changed the perception of movement in art. For the first time it was showed in the paintings of Juan Gris who had become an active adherent of Cubism since 1911. All art means had to serve the image of the form in the Cézanne and analytical Cubism; the synthetic Cubism was characterized by a color, a surface texture, a pattern and a line. They were used for designing the new objects. The paper fragments – starting from newspapers and notes and up to wall-papers – were pasted on canvas. Soon, however, cubists left the application technique because an artist’s imagination can create richer combinations of elements and textures, without being limited to the paper possibilities.
The founder of Cubism Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso is an outstanding master of painting and remains one of the legendary individuals among several generations of artists. Pablo Picasso’s art is the creation of an inquisitive spirit which finds out a beauty even in ugliness. Like all cubists, Picasso creates not what he was taught, but what he sees. He always worked for his contemporaries and never burdened himself with searches.
Picasso’s works are emotional; many of them are imbued with a passionate belief in life, despite some pessimistic tonality. Picasso splits subjects and figures up into the components, thus simplifying them to strict geometrical forms: cubes, cones, hemispheres and cylinders.
Picasso approached Cubism, however, primarily through his interest in analyzing and investigating the nature of solid forms.
The majority of the art trends which appeared at the beginning of the 20th century remained only short episodes in the rough biography of a century. Cubism was doomed to a long life. Moreover, it is possible to observe the results of its plastic experiments in the modern art.
The sensations of a viewer, who is facing the canvas of cubists, can be compared to the sensations of a person going to make a pleasant travel, but receives an invitation to participate in the building of new ways instead.