19th Century Art First Question - Three Term Paper

Pages: 14 (3991 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

19th Century Art

FIRST QUESTION - THREE PHASES OF CUBISM

Considered one of the most influential art movements of the twentieth century, Cubism defined not only a transformative period of art but influenced the careers of the individual artists who directed the movement as well.

Cubism is traditionally divided into three phases: The proto-cubist, or Cezanne Phase, when Picasso and Braque, both considered the innovators and initiators of the Cubist movement, first followed the guidance and advice of Paul Cezanne and began treating nature in their art as consisting of the "cone the sphere and the cylinder" (ArtLex, ¶2); the Hermetic or Analytic Cubism period when cubism had been defined as an art form, and the Synthetic Cubism or Collage period of 1912-1919 when later cubism moved into collage.

Early Proto-Cubist Period:

In 1905, when Braque was still fascinated with Fauvist influences of Matisse and others, Picasso had left his native Barcelona for Paris. His work, at the time, was far removed from the sensuality and intellectual aspects of the art that he witnessed in the salons of Paris. Still concerned with morality and compassion, he depicted lonely figures in a world of beggars and circus performers. Still, even in these early works, such as "Girl on a Ball" (fig 1), one can see the foreshadowing of Picasso's cubist style with the flattened space and the use of the geometric forms of sphere and ball. In this painting, one can see dialectic between the depiction of objects in space, and the affirmation of the flat picture surfaces (Rosenblum, 10).

While Picasso was still painting human figures of despair in allegorical scenes, Braque was working within the confines of Impressionism with his landscapes and still life. Still loyal to Fauvist principles of "exuberant color," Braque nevertheless became greatly affected by a Cezanne exhibit at the Salon d'Automne in 1907, the same year he first met Picasso. That year, Picasso had spent much of it working on "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Figure 2) in which its angular forms owned much to his obsession, at the time, with African masks. These two influences, Cezanne and primitive African art, were to have a considerable influence on the Cubist movement in general. In Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso gives the women faces that resemble African masks, and twists their positions to create multi-viewpoints. Braque was excited when he saw this painting of Picasso's and realized that here too, was someone breaking with traditional Western single viewpoint perspective" (Chilvers, Cubism, ¶ 2).

Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

The two artists were very unlike each other in temperament, but they forged a friendship and artistic relationship that was to have a profound influence on art, together creating the movement known as Cubism.

Braque had already been moving closer to Cezanne with his insistence on analyzing the solid forms in his work. (Rosenblum, 32). Cezanne had earlier begun painting landscapes in terms of volume and we can see that influence in Braque's landscapes painted in L'Estaque. Braque traveled with Raol Dufy in 1908 to L'Estaque in Province, a site of many of Cezanne's landscape works and it was here that Braque produced a series of landscapes of his own clearly demonstrated the new influences being exerted upon him. His "Houses at l'Estaque" (Fig 3), demonstrated his new use of simplified form and more muted color usage. When these new type of paintings were exhibited at the Daniel Henry Kahnweiler Gallery, the critic Louis Vauxcelles gave Cubism it's name when he declared "M Braque scorns form and reduces everything, sites, figures and houses, to geometric schemes, to cubes" (Danto, 1998,¶3). This criticism, according to Arthur Danto completely failed to "capture the openness, the tentativeness, the nuance of Braque's efforts as an artist" and was, according to Danto a terrible simplification, but the term stuck. Danto argues that Cubism was just a concept others found to describe what Picasso and Braque had invented but had little relationship to what the artists actually believed they were doing. According to Danto, Picasso had said, "We simply wanted to express what was in us" (¶ 2).

Figure 4: Picasso, Landscape

Figure 3:Georges Braque, Viaduct at L'estaque (1908)

1908)

What Picasso and Braque created together, nevertheless was revolutionary, influencing a major transformation in Western art. Their discoveries in Cubism altered centuries of prevailing traditions since the Renaissance. Cubism replaced perspective systems that had precisely placed discrete objects in their surrounding space with a radically new fusion of mass and void, an unstable structure of fragmented planes and angles in uncertain spatial positions. No longer could the assumption hold true, that art was an illusory representation of an objective reality, but rather, art was now to be a reality in itself. Cubism changed dense objects into weightless transparencies, where sharp lines dissolved into the space around it; eventually, in the later periods of Synthetic Cubism, even the objects themselves could be metamorphosed into other objects. No longer could perception and its artistic representations be linearly tied to absolute objects existing outside of us. Perceptual reality, through these artistic images, was seen as ephemeral, shifting, and impermanent.

This new perception of reality, represented in the Cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso, was paralleling major transformations of how humans were experiencing changes in their world in general. With new communications and transportation abilities, such as the telephone, telegram, airplane and cinema, as well as the scientific discoveries of Einstein's relativity theory and its concept of a space-time continuum where time and space were no longer different dimensions, these inventions and new paradigms were breaking down the so-called objective world as it had been known to previous generations. Stephen Kern looks at the period between 1880 and 1918 as reality-shattering, in his classic book "The Culture of Time and Space," where he posits that these sweeping changes created a whole new way people began to experience space and time, which in turn changed their conscious perception of the world (Kern, 1983).

Cubism became the artistic language to express these changes in perception; even the spectator, seeing Cubist art, could have the realization that no single interpretation of the shifting shapes, spaces and textures would ever be completely resolved (Rosenblum, 9), it's ambiguity being the one certainty.

When we look particularly at the multi-viewpoint paintings of this period, (Fig 4a) it is as though we were taking in the whole object simultaneously, i.e. walking "around the painting like a sculpture. There is a presence of a space-time simultaneity sparing us of a linear time event, i.e. taking in each perspective in separate moments; instead we see the whole object in one moment through our conceptualization.

Space-time has now been incorporated into the perceived object itself. This art was as radical as the fundamental changes taking place in the world at the time. Figure 4a:Picasso: "Head of Medical Student": Study for Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Hermetic or Analytic Cubism 1909-1911:

Joseph Golding called the years between the autumn of 1910 and the autumn of 1912 the "look alike years"(1990, ¶16). Yet, according to Golding, it was Braque that took the lead during this period, reaching toward a greater abstraction in his vision, although Golding feels that Picasso was more daring in his use of the multi-viewpoint perspective (¶11).

This was the time period in which Braque and Picasso's working relationship was at its closest and when the likenesses between their works was so great that it was sometimes hard for even the experts to tell them apart. Nevertheless, it is Braque, according to Golding, who showed the way and worked out many of the technical challenges that create a new "vocabulary of painting (¶11).. During this period, Braque and Picasso worked in nearby studios at Montmartre. This period of their Analytic Cubist work is sometimes characterized as "High Cubism" as it was a period that reached an certain stability. Another term used is "Hermetic Cubism" to convey the idea that Cubism during this period reached its most cryptic and "near-abstract" state. (Chilvers, Cubism ¶ 5). The Analytic Phase was called such because in this period one the artists are taking objects apart, analyzing them into their compound elements and then reorganizing them into a new order on the canvas.

The earlier Cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso had been relatively solid in mass, and the pictoral representations of trees and houses and human figures were easily recognized and discernable (Figures 3 and 4). Now their works become more fragmented into a large number of small, complex planes, intersecting and fusing with each other and the surrounding space. Color became even more de-emphasized and the paintings of this period are almost monochromatic in their muted browns and grays. Examples such as Braque's "The Portuguese" (Fig 5) and Picasso's "The Accordionist" (Figure 6) demonstrate the Analytic Cubist period as well as how close the two artists styles were during 1911.

Fig 6: Picasso, The Accordionist (1911) Fig 5: Braque, The Portuguese, (1911)

Other examples of their close collaboration and similar development during this period, what… [END OF PREVIEW]

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