Cubism: Both the Visible and the Invisible History of the Object

Cubism is a French art movement that has broken away from a representation-based understanding of art that occurred in the early years of the twentieth century and made a kind of revolution. We have compiled everything about Cubism for you:


Towards the Emergence of Cubism: The Artistic Evolution of Modernism

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The beginning of the modern period is considered to be the French Revolution (1789). After the revolution, artists use subjects intertwined with art such as mythology, religion, history and philosophy as a form of expression. Artists prefer to transfer their wishes to their productions and start to produce works in line with their own perspectives. Artists who want to change what they see and reflect what they feel on their works have sought to reshape their works.

The standardization that occurred in 18th-century economic life due to the capitalist system, coupled with the innovations brought by technology, changes the human task in public life. In the field of art and culture, on the other hand, there is a faster change compared to previous periods. It seems that towards the end of the 19th century, new currents appeared one after another.

The first of these emerging trends is the Impressionism art movement, which expresses the sense of change. Fauvism, one of the movements that emerged in 1905 after Impressionism, enters the art of painting with a style that expresses instincts and enthusiasm with bright colors. While Fauvism continues its influence, Expressionism emerges. Then, as a reaction to Expressionism, Cubism was born.


Artistic Revolution: Cubism Takes the Painting Scene

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Cubism made the greatest revolution of the 20th century in the formal aspect of art. Art reflects the external appearance of nature, comprehended by the senses, from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. Cubism destroys the usual traditional dominant view since the Renaissance and provides the viewer with images of objects from various angles at the same time. Cubist artists divide the volume into geometric parts, rearranging these parts in vertical and horizontal lines.


First Definition of Cubism: “Little Cubes”

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In 1908, Louis Vauxcelles uses the words “little cubes” to characterize Braque’s landscape paintings. These words of the art critic Vauxcelles are accepted as the first appearance of the term Cubism. In those years, many theoretical studies were made to define Cubism and to investigate its emergence, and the birth of Cubism was tried to be based on scientific foundations.

Stating that cubism is an art movement that deals with forms and forms, Picasso states the following: “Mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psychoanalysis, music, and more have all been put in place to make cubism easier to explain. All of these attempts, which blind people with theories and have bad results – I won’t say they are nonsense, but – are nothing but literature. Cubism keeps itself within the boundaries of painting and does not try to go any further.”


Cubism is Both the Visible and the Invisible Side of the Object.

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In Cubism, the form precedes the subject. Objects of the outside world are treated by cubist artists with all their sides, both visible and invisible. Objects and people drawn in cubic paintings are reflected not only by their external images, but also by their environment and what they think. When artists geometrize these objects, they transform their own dream worlds and thoughts into forms under the influence of the subconscious mind.

In other words, cubism benefits not only from geometric shapes but also from the artist’s entire experience. For Cubists, volume is the essence of objects after they have been stripped of their emotional qualities. It is the intellectual volume that is free from the senses that they want to give in their paintings. The most well-known representatives of Cubism are Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963).


Could Everything We See In Nature Be The Subject Of Cubism?

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Paul Cezanne inspired both Picasso and Braque in the development of Cubism, destroying the usual perspective in painting, thus becoming a pioneer in the geometric logic of Cubism. Cézanne, who is considered to have laid the stylistic foundation of the Cubism movement, gives importance to the volume of the object in his paintings and tries to reflect the geometric structure of the forms in nature. Cezanne says that what we see in nature can be described in a geometrical style, that is, it can be reduced to shapes such as triangles, rectangles and ovals.


‘This Must Be a Joke’: Women from Avignon

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The work that is considered the birth of Cubism is Pablo Picasso’s painting ‘Women of Avignon”, which is one of the most famous works. According to many art historians, Avignon Women are considered to be the pioneer work of Cubism, while according to some art historians, they are considered to represent a departure from the European painting tradition that began with the Renaissance and continued for five centuries.

This painting, which appeared between 1905 and 1906, depicts five women working in a brothel on Avignon street in Barcelona. Art friends who see Picasso’s work think it’s a joke!


A Modernist Attack on European Art

This work is known as one of the milestones of modern painting and Cubism and becomes one of the most ambitious and aggressive paintings of the twentieth century. Avignon Women are a picture that is ambitious with wild energy. The image of shattered or broken glass in the picture reveals the most important visual effect that reflects this wild energy.

Geometric forms dominate the whole picture. Inspiration from African masks is a modernist attack on the ideal ideas of European art. Picasso has successfully created a work that no one but himself has thought about to this day, in which creation and decimation are not radically combined in the same way as modernism and brutality.


Analytical Cubism: Objects Shattered

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Cubism has two subforms; Analytical Cubism (1909) and Synthetic (1912) Cubism. Analytical Cubism first divides the shape of the object in the mind and then combines those parts, but the resulting shape is not exactly like the object itself. The artist does not have to worry about making the shape look like an object, so he creates a new shape; geometric, simple, universal shapes…

Composition balance comes out of the object, that is, the concrete, and reaches the abstract. The reason it is called analytical is that an object is divided into parts and the parts are analyzed separately. Pablo Picasso’s The Guitarist (1910) is one of the best examples of Analytical Cubism to be given. The table literally has a puzzle image.


Synthetic Cubism: Could What You See Actually Be What You Can’t See?

Synthetic Cubism, unlike Analytical Cubism, transforms into form when combining different objects with geometric shapes. Collage has an important place in Synthetic Cubism, the subject is easier to understand. Different from Analytical Cubism, different objects and materials (wood, paper, metal, newspaper pages, etc.) are used. For example, letters and numbers are added to the picture in an abstract dimension by being completely free of their tangible existence.

Suspicious effects such as illusions and perception errors are reflected in the picture. When looking at Braque’s Tenor, the wood-like object looks like it was made with a brown paint, but a piece of wood is actually used in the painting!


Cubism in Turkey

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A Cubism understanding based on Cezanne is dominant in Turkey. Turkish artists reflect the concept of construction based on Cezanne, that is, on a geometric basis, in painting. (What is a construction? It is the whole of the elements that come together as a result of a building action and come together to form the structure.)
Although works such as Nurullah Berk, İskambil Kağıtlı Natürmort, Still Life with Cards (1933); Nurullah Berk, Ütü Yapan Kadın, The Ironing Woman (1950);Cemal Tollu, Manisa Dağları, Manisa Mountains (1941); Cemal Tollu, Çoban ve Tiftik Keçileri, The Shepherd and the Angora Goats (1955) stand out as important works in the context of construction, they also maintain their importance in the context of locality. While shape and form are important in Cubism, in Turkey the subject is as important as the form of the painting.

On the other hand, Turkish painters seek to create a Turkish art. Melih Cevdet Anday’s statement about Cubism in Turkey and the effort of painters to create original art explains this dilemma quite well, “None of the artists of this period is completely comfortable. Because they do not want to be content with what they learned in Paris, and on their return, they still seek to be themselves with a Western perspective. Of course, this search prowess will show a different formation in everyone. But the main concern is this: What should we do to avoid being an imitation of the West?”

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