Cubism was founded in Paris by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907 and 1910. In 1907 Picasso exhibited his revolutionary piece Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, the first work of the movement. The artists used sharp lines, fragmenting the images to create unusual, abstract works. They took what they saw and changed it, making them appear flat and altering the angles. They also wanted to show entire scenes at once, from all the different angles. The movement was short lived, being mainly brought to an end with the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. Many key members had been called up for military duties. But perhaps its disbandment was inevitable anyway- the style had already been changing and moving forward for some time prior to war. But there were different phases involved in the movement, some of which still continued on after war.


The Cubists took fauvism a step further. Beginning  at the end of the 19th century, the Fauvists wanted to scrap everything and return back to basic, simple art. They used flat patterns, distorted images and bright blocks of colour. They were named Les Fauves (French for wild beasts) for their violent approach to their art. Cubism expanded on this idea on even more, using straight lines, cubes and patterns. They were also influenced by African art, in particular masks.

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

“Les Demoiselles D’Avignon”


In 1907 Picasso painted and exhibited Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. It was not just a radical turning point in Picassos art, but it is considered the first work of Modern Art. It is also the first Cubist work. Five nude prostitutes, partially draped in white sheets, stare openly out of the painting at the on looker. Their bodies have been flattened, making them sharp and angular. Besides the two figures in the middle, their faces look as if they are hidden behind masks, having been mutilated by the the bold blocks of colour and shading. I’m in two minds about how this painting makes me feel. Its sharpness creates a violent nature. But the flow of the white and blue material makes the scene feel a lot calmer. It attracted large amounts critisism and disgust at the time. Not only by the raw subject material, but the jagged, harsh unsettlingly aggressive manner in which it has been painted. It also caught the attention of Georges Braque, who went on to found Cubism with Picasso.

GEORGES BRAQUE (1882-1963)

“Grand NU”


He was involved in the Fauvism movement until he and Picasso started work on Cubism. In response to Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, Georges Braque painted Grand NU in 1908. It has clear reference to Picassos piece. Only one model is used, in a similar pose. The bluish sheet is also in the background, flowing down in a jagged form. Once again bold outlines and blocks of colour are used, with a similar colour sceme. 

Bottles and Fishes (1910)


This shows how far the Cubists took abstracting and distorting images. Some works became almost completely unrecognisable. The viewer has to concentrate harder to make out the composition. Its very striking and bold, with sharp shapes of colour.


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