Cubism is a style of painting and sculpture developed in early 20th century characterized by an emphasis on formal structure the reduction of natural forms to their geometrical equivalents and the organization of the plans of a represented object independently of representational requirements.


Basically cubism was divided into two movements:

Analytical cubism. This was the early stage in which only Picasso led the movement. [1907-1912]

Synthetic cubism. At this time a lot more people like Braque etc joined Picasso. [1912 – 1915]

Cubism was the movement developed by Pablo Picasso jointly with Georges Braque in France between 1908 end 1914 which offered a radically new way of looking at the world. These six years of cubism was divided into two parts between 1908-1911 and 1911-1914,which are discussed below:


Picasso had evolved a new form by examining the idiom that had prevailed in European art since the renaissance, dismantling its rules, and reapplying its mechanisms. In doing so he transcended that idiom and - logically –the principles underlying it. This was his declared aim and he succeeded in achieving it.
Since the renaissance, art had been of functional, content – oriented nature, serving to convey messages in visual form. The imitation of nature and illusionistic reproduction of the appearance of things was a way of making the world comprehensible. Paintings could tell the stories by showing narrative actions, representing emotions, and expressing the movements of the soul.
In 18th century this changed significantly. The frontiers of painting were defined a new and it was stripped of arts narrative side; now it could only represent. This was a fundamental change. Where once the content and form message had needed to harmonize, now became dominant, and cognition were to be considered inseparable, then the cognitive content of painting must logically enough be purely a matter of how the observer looked at it. Random changes of natural form and colour, such as the impressionists and fauves used in their different ways, were psychologically prompted, and aimed at establishing moods. The natural original, which the painting represented, remained unaffected. Deviations were merely shifts in expressive emphasis.


At this stage there was also the discovery of unfamiliar modes of expression – the contemporary enthusiasm for what was considered primitive or exotic art. We need only recall the influence Japanese woodcuts had on van Gogh and Toulouse – lautrec, and the interest in archaic art which Picasso himself had recently demonstrated. This all resulted from the quest for new ways of creating visual images, traditional methods no longer seeming adequate to the needs of the age.
Cubism became established, slowly but surely: the first major peak that it reached is generally known as ANALYTICAL CUBISM. Picasso’s famous portrait of art dealer ambroise vollard is an arresting example. Amidst the complex criss-cross of lines and overlapping colour zones were immediately struck by the head . it is done entirely in shades of yellow; and it also strikes us because ,unlike the composition as whole it clearly represents the outline , structure and features of human head. The oval broadens at the jowls. About the middle there are lines to denote eyebrows and the bridge of the nose.
Picasso’s paintings fulfill the requirements of a portrait: it represents the outer appearance of a certain individual in a recognizable way. The lines are continued at the random , no longer restricted to define an available form. They have the life of their own. So do the colours :lighter and darker shades, with little regard for the subject, obey the curious rules of the composition instead. The subject is dissected, as it were, or analyzed. And hence this kind of cubism has become known as ANALYTICAL CUBISM.
Now the perspective has been exploded, so that various points of view are at work in the same composition. The light and shade are not juxtaposed in a spatial relation; yet spaces and areas derived from the construction of form evolve a spatial presence.
At this time, a young French painter Braque had arrived at the similar position. During two stays in southern France in summer 1908, painting the landscape near L’Estaque, Braque deconstr4ucted the representational and spatial values.
At first glance the motifs look like cubes - which is why the term “cubism” was coined in the first place. in autumn 1908 , Braque unsuccessfully submitted his new work for the Paris autumn salon.
Matisse, who was a member of the jury, observed to the critic Louis Vauxcelles that the pictures consisted of lots of little cubes.Vauxcelles adopted the phrase in a review he wrote in the magazine “Gil blas” when Braque showed the paintings at the gallery in November. And thus a misunderstanding produced a label; and by 1911 everyone was using the term “cubism”.
The most conspicuous stylistic feature in this movement came the spatial extension of lines to include the figures in a veritable scaffolding of major diagonals and the curves that dominated the entire picture. Picasso also bunched the lines together, and made visible progress in the deconstruction of form. The motifs and directional movements assembled into geometrical figures- trapeziums, rhombuses – which, taken individually, had already become completely non representational. Light and shadow like wise acquired a life of there own, appearing in contrastive shades of lighter and darker.
It is the characteristic of Picasso, that he never saw cubism purely in the terms of painting. He tackled spatial values and planes in various media, using various motifs. Braque at that time restricted himself to relatively few kinds of picture, preferring those such as landscapes or still life’s that were conducive to abstracted formal games, and in his work he experimented with the manifold opportunities that monochrome painting afforded. Picasso for his part, stuck to his usual repertoire of subjects. He tried to introduce them into his experiments and did not flinch from strong colour contrasts
Cubism entered a somewhat different phase in 1911 and led the following year to new visual forms different in structure and principle. Braque, who had already used single letters of the alphabet in cubist paintings of 1909, now took to using entire words. It was not anew idea; but in painting it had been restricted to producing the illusion of real lettering actually before the beholder.

From 1908 to 1911, together with Braque, he developed cubism, and moved on to the frontiers of abstraction. Cubism was no longer the property of experts, a style hidden away in a handful of galleries, but rather the new sensational talking point among all who had an interest in contemporary art.
The most important artists of cubist group were Albert Gleizes , Jean Metzinger, Henri le Fauconnier, Robert Delaunay, rRoger de la Fresnaye and Fernard Leger. If we compare their works with what Picasso and Braque had just been doing, the fuss is difficult to understand. The cubism that caught the eyes of the public was by no means revolutionary, innovative art. Almost all the pictures on show can be seen pleasing variants on what the two revolutionaries had been painting earlier, around 1908 – 1909. Only Delaney and Leger had ideas of their own about abstraction from the representational.
In 1912 Braque was continually trying to adapt craft techniques to cubism, to put it on anew footing. He tested materials and methods familiar to the house decorator but new to art. Along with templates and other illusionist tricks, he mixed his paint with sand or plaster to create a new rough, textured surface like that of a relief. In place of the two- dimensional, surface mimesis on canvas or panel. Braque now used material textures of various kinds as an expressive value in itself. The next step was to redefine the visual function of technique and of the material’s used.
In early 1912 when Braque showed Picasso his new work, it was three-dimensional. He had been cutting sculptural objects together, using paper and cardboard, and then painting or drawing over them. He then applied the same techniques to the two dimensional work, retaining paper and cardboard as materials; and a new kind of work, papiers colles, was born. Subsequently he varied the textural effects and tried out further ways of developing them. In particular he used pre – formed printed, coloured and structured pieces of paper.this provided the occasion to extend cubism visual systems. Paintings such as “Ma Jolie”, personal in the allusive range, were the result. In these works, Picasso used letters and words as graphic, indeed iconic signs. The conventional meaning remain, since the letters can still be read, but the statement is puzzling. Thus in “Ma Jolie” the guitar, the make - believe music, the pipe, glass, playing card, dice, and the word “bass”, implying drink, all provide ready associations with the cafe interior.
In 1912 Picasso produced a number of striking economy of means, one of the finest of them being the “violin”. Two scraps of newspaper, a few lines and charcoal hatchings – and picture is finished. It is one of the loveliest and most intelligent examples of cubist pictures.
In this period Picasso also used other patterned materials such as wallpaper, advertisements, cloth and packaging, to good visual effect. Though unfamiliar materials were being introduced into the pictures, the iconic quality of presentation remained. During this phase of cubism, using new materials and techniques, Picasso was exploring the problem of spatial values in the illusion established by pictures. Many of his works therefore started from three – dimensional work. But inappropriate materials are used too, and spatial values subverted. The lid, bottom and sidewalls of cardboard boxes in the guitar painting are flattened to equal status. The basic cubist rule of combining the representational and the random applies to these works too. But in contrast to analytical cubism, which dissected objects, here they are re- assembled. And for this reason a different term called synthetic cubism came into picture.
Following this line, Picasso devised another new form, the assemblage. Basically it transposes the methods and effects of collage into three dimensions. Two still-life works from 1913 are good examples: “guitar and the bottle of bass”, and the “ mandolin and clarinet”. The vehicle structurally and visually, is wood. Picasso uses its tactile and visual properties, such as the graining and colour. By adding extra colour and drawing, he intensifies the effect, levels out spatial qualities, covers textures – but also contrasts his materials and techniques.
All that really matters, in terms of the principles of synthetic cubism, is the contrast between conventionally faithful representation and the cubist methods. In all the paintings this contrast is observed. The various paintings merely served purposes of accentuation.
Thus the processes underlying the art of illusion are excellently displayed in the assemblages and sculptures of synthetic cubism.

Thus, cubism was a determining factor for many different kinds of modernist art, as model and catalyst. Encouraged by cubism, wassily kandinsky – precursor of total abstraction in art – was able to pursue his course. Yet cubism did not directly initiate all of modernism’s artistic styles; abstract art in a particular drew upon a complex variety of sources, including the decorative style of art nouveau.
Although Cubism was never itself an abstract style, but the many varieties of nonobjective art it helped usher in throughout Europe ,but the legacy of this movement was not exhausted in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Its lingering influence can be felt in much art after world war 2, in works of Willem de Kooning, the works of David Smith, the multimedia constructions of Robert Rauschenberg, photographs of David Hockney, and architecture of Frank Gehry.
Cubism altered forever the renaissance conception of painting as a window into a world where three-dimensional space is projected onto the flat picture plane by a way of illusionistic drawing and one point perspective.
Cubists concluded that reality has many definitions, and that their fore objects in space-and indeed, space itself-have no fixed or absolute form. The English critic Roger Fry once said about the cubists “they do not seek to imitate form, but to create form, not to imitate life but to find an equivalent for life”.

Cubism forged a vital link between avant –garde practices in early 20th century painting and architecture. It examines historical, theoretical and sociopolitical relationships between architecture, paintings and other cultural forms.
The motifs in the cubist paintings looked like cubes, which were in turn used in architecture later. These can be seen in the works of Frank O. Gehry , Charles Correa , Frank Lloyd Wright , in there early works in 20th century and even later.
Picasso started his paintings from form and form alone and this was the case in the structures in the early 20th century , basically the structures were mostly in the geometrical form. Famous example of using the geometrical form is the “aerospace museum of California” by Frank O. Gehry.
At first the forms used in buildings were mostly cubes but later the forms changed into other geometrical forms like rhombuses, curves, lines, bunching of lines together, trapeziums. With these forms the architects also started playing with the shades, light and shadows, which was practiced in the middle of the movement of cubism. Now the architects started playing with spaces and also the colours, textures, finishes which was done in the later, to be more appropriate in synthetic cubism.
Nowadays we see all the buildings are having geometrical forms, but we can’t say that now also they have some influence of cubism. But the influence of the great movement cannot be denied which made many architects to alter their thinking criteria along with the movement.


The aesthetic movements of the early 20th century were frequently and closely connected
with new ideas in architecture. Futurism, the Dutch group De Stijl, the purist manifesto of
Le Corbusier and Ozenfant, Suprematism and Constructivism in Russia, and
Expressionist German painting resonated with the development of modernist ideas and
forms in architecture. However, the question of the relationship of Cubist painting and
sculpture to architecture is not straightforward. Rather, Cubism was a point of departure,
contributing to the development of new concepts in Modern art.
In 1907 and 1908, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, inspired by the aperspectival,
cubic treatment of space in the paintings of Paul Cézanne and by primitive African art,
developed a radically new approach to the object in their paintings. When they showed
their new paintings at the Salon des Indépendants in 1909, the critic Louis Vauxcelles
referred to Braque’s landscapes as “bizarreries cubiques.” Vauxcelles’ remark was
immediately adopted in Parisian art circles, giving a name to the new approach: Cubism.
Cubism represented a break with the painterly tradition since the Renaissance. The object
was not represented in the central perspective but rather was deconstructed into prismatic
surfaces, simultaneously representing different perspectives on the canvas. This formal
analysis reduced what was depicted to geometric elements, similar to the relationship
between words and syntax.
The new approach of Braque and Picasso quickly became a movement, as other artists,
each with his own interpretation of Cubist principles, joined in the experiment. Albert
Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, the brothers Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Juan
Gris, and many others went through a shorter or longer Cubist period in their work.
Cubism also quickly spread beyond France, influencing art in many countries for some
time. The break with classical perspective and the composition of the image independent
of observation of nature opened up possibilities for abstract art, futurism, and other
movements. These developments took place very quickly between 1909 and 1915 and
were accompanied by changes in other art forms, including architecture and its theory, in
the years ahead. The new poetics expressed in Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem “Zone” of
1912 and the first atonal composition by Arnold Schoenberg of 1909 serve as examples
for poetry and music.
Architecture, however, remained relatively untouched by Cubist painting and
sculpture during this time with only two exceptions, and these were incidents rather than
profound stimulation for new architectural developments: the Maison Cubis te project of Raymond
Duchamp-Villon (1912) and the work of the group Skupina Výtvarných (Group of the Visual Artists) in
Duchamp-Villon (1876–1918) was a sculptor who belonged to a group of Cubist
artists in Puteaux, outside Paris. For the exhibition of the group’s work at the Salon
d’Automne in 1912, Duchamp-Villon and others presented the Maison Cubis te project, a kind of Ges amtkunstwe rk
(total work of art) complete with furniture and articles of use. For lack of space and
organizational problems, only the first story of the model was built in the Grand Palais.
This work is known only from pictures of the plaster model and charcoal drawings.
The two-story facade has a traditional, symmetrical arrangement. Cubist principles are
visible only in the details; traditional cornice and pillars, as well as the door and window
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frames, were replaced by broken surfaces and prismatic shapes. These plastic forms are
abstract, and the overlap between them is the architectural equivalent of the painterly
principle of superimposed planes.
The Maison Cubis te was the attempt of a sculptor to apply the principles of contemporary painting
to architecture. By contrast the acceptance of Cubism by the Skupina Vý tvarných group in Prague in 1911
was more systematic. Besides several painters and the sculptor Otto Guttfreund (1889–
1927), the architects Josef Chochol (1880–1957), Josef Gocár (1880–1945), and Pavel
Janák (1882–1956) were cofounders of the group. They were active in architecture,
interior design, arts and crafts, and set design and expressed themselves at the level of
The interest of these architects in the latest developments in painting represented a
reaction against the Wagner school’s dominant rationalism and leaning to social
engineering. Cubism seemed to offer an opening to a more artistic approach to
architecture. In 1910 Janák—himself one of Otto Wagner’s students—published an
article in the journal Styl titled “From Modern Architecture to Architecture,” noting that
Modern architecture had an exclusively practical orientation and had no interest in
questions of space, material, and form.
However, the transposition of the principles of Cubist painting to architecture turned
out to be a formidable task because of fundamental differences in the two art forms. In
fact the Prague architects only adopted the principle of decomposition, that is, the
fragmented representation of the image, and applied it to the design of the facade. The
plane of the facade was undermined by slanting, prismatic forms that replaced the
traditional, orthogonal composition of the facade. The result was comparable to the detail
in the Maison Cubis te. This approach had very little spatial significance, except in a few architectural
sketches and installations for exhibitions and in the Kurhaus at Bohdanec (health
administration building) (1911–12) by Gocár and the apartment building (1912) on
Neklan Street in Prague by Josef Chochol, which demonstrate a spatial application of
these principles. However, most of the architects concentrated on facades while their
plans remained conventional.
The underlying theory of the Prague group was different from Cubist painting. The
main objective was to achieve a plastic unity in the design of the facade through
dynamism and movement. They were concerned with movement in an abstract sense, as
an expression of the will to form, which subdues matter. These Czech architects saw the
Wagner school’s visible honesty in construction and use of material as imposed by
matter, materialist, and devoid of spiritual content. Historian Alois Riegl’s formulation of
Kunstwollen (the will to art), in contradiction to the function, material, and technique of the artwork,
and the theories of Theodor Lipps and Wilhelm Worringer, which were based on the
subjective nature of observation and intuition, positioned themselves against the
rationalism and materialism of contemporary art theory in the same spirit.
Prague’s architectural Cubism, which became increasingly more formal and
decorative after 1914, and even became a sort of national style of the Czechoslovak
Republic between 1918 and 1925, in actuality brought forth an Expressionist
architecture—at least within the framework of architectural history, in which the notion
of Cubist architecture simply does not exist. From the point of view of aesthetic
conception and analysis of style, the Prague designs are related to the Amsterdam School
and to German Expressionism, with which it is sometimes possible to identify direct,
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formal similarities. There are also formal similarities with the work of the Moscow group
Zhivskulptarch, which attempted the integration of painting, sculpture, and architecture
between 1918 and 1920 under the leadership of the Cubist sculptor Boris D.Korolyov.
The work of the architects Nikolai A.Ladovsky and Nikolai I.Istselenov from this short
period is distinctively Expressionist.
The significance of Cubism in painting to Expressionist architecture amounts to the
most definite, direct relationship be tween the two art forms. The causal connection rests
formally in the decomposed fragments and prismatic forms of Cubist painting, which led
to comparable three-dimensional forms in architecture. A deeper connection may reside
in the anticlassical aspect of Cubism, particularly the break with classical perspective
since the Renaissance. An anticlassical stance was also characteristic of Expressionism.
With respect to the relationship between modernist architecture and Cubism, it is
interesting that the protagonists of renewal in the 1920s sometimes took positions against
Cubism, or at least referred to it with considerable reserve, without identifying with it.
The purism of Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier may have been a further development
following in the wake of Cubism, but their 1918 manifesto “Après le Cubisme” does not
evince much appreciation for the movement. The manifesto rejected Cubist principles
and called Cubism as a whole an esoteric game of ornamental forms. Instead, there is an
emphasis on rational arrangement in the construction of an image, on a sort of
standardization of the depicted object, and on the plastic values of the image. The purist
manifesto represented a return to the classical tradition; elements of purist painting are
significant for the architectural work of Le Corbusier, including the aesthetic concept of a
standard and the emphasis on plastic values.
The direct influence of Cubism on modernist architecture is more difficult to identify.
Although some authors, such as Sig-fried Giedion, Reyner Banham, and Colin Rowe, see
Cubist painting as an important impulse for the work of Le Corbusier and Walter
Gropius, that remains a matter of interpretation. Without a doubt the pathbreaking role of
Cubist painting in general led to an analogy with the pathbreaking role of modernist
architecture, but this would appear to be more a matter of legitimation than a causal
connection. Some aspects, such as the reduction of the object to geometric forms, spatial
penetration, and transparency, bear a programmatic relationship to the conception of
architecture of the pioneers of architectural modernism, but it is not clear whether these
derive from Cubism or whether they were discovered because of Cubism.
Historically speaking, these aspects of architecture cannot be traced back exclusively
to Cubism. The reduction of building volumes to geometric forms may as well be
connected to Roman church architecture or the work of Enlightenment architects Claude
Ledoux and Etienne Boullée. It was no accident that the work of Ledoux and Boullée
received attention in 1933, precisely in relation to Le Corbusier. Transparency in
architecture had earlier been applied in the iron-and-glass buildings of the engineers of
the 19th century, whereas in Cubist painting transparency is more conceptual than
visually present. Moreover, penetration and simultaneity in Cubist painting are closer to
deconstructivist architecture than to Gropius’s Bauhaus aesthetic. It is also possible to
doubt the exemplary nature of the supposed rational construction of the image of
analytical Cubism, already seen as not rational enough immediately after World War I.
Another problem that complicates the reception of Cubism in architecture is the
confusion between “Cubist” and “cubic.” As early as the 1920s, the word “cubist” was
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applied by some writers to the new, unornamented architecture that relied on the
arrangement of stereometric volumes. The work of Adolf Loos, J.J.P.Oud, Willem
M.Dudok, and others has been called Cubist in this fashion, and as such the descriptor
seems to be a global designation of form rather than a connection to be French avantgardism
in painting.
That contradictory pronouncements have been made about Cubism and architecture
may be related to the fact that the artistic revolution of Cubism was a symptom, not the
cause, of a new experience and interpretation of a changing world. A similar
phenomenon took place in other movements, and architecture was one of them.

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