Cubism Cubist Sculpture Term Paper

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Cubist sculpture

Cubist sculpture and its significance in the development of art

Cubism as an art movement is considered one of the most revolutionary in art history. It was part of the modernist art movement during the Twentieth Century which altered the principles of art that had been dominant for centuries. Art previous to the cubism movement was traditional with a simple distinction between solid forms and negative space. Cubism altered this by making it purposely difficult to distinguish a difference between these two aspects. Furthermore, Cubism developed a form of art and sculpture with undefined and mutilated planes. This type of art was in many ways opposite to art that had previously been created by artists and accepted as the norm.

A central thesis or theme that will be explored in this paper is that Cubism was much more than just another artistic style and that it heralded a new way of perceiving and understanding reality and the world. In this sense Cubism was in essence a protest or a refusal to accept the norms and value that were prevalent at the time.

2. Cubism and reality

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Cubism' is in fact a derogatory label that was applied by critics to the style when it was first exhibited in Paris in1920. (Cubism) They were attempting to criticize the style as being made up of a collection of 'cubes' or similar shapes. The artists that were initially associated with this artistic movement were Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963). Picasso's views on Cubism are interesting to note as it provides some idea of the way that he and other artists saw the significance of this new ' style' in art.

We were trying to move in a direction opposite to Impressionism. That was the reason we abandoned colour, emotion, sensation, and everything that had been introduced by the Impressionists, to search again for an architectonic basis in the composition, trying to make an order of it..."


Term Paper on Cubism Cubist Sculpture Cubist Sculpture and Its Assignment

Picasso therefore showed a desire to move away from the impressionists and from the standards and norms that were accepted in art. But more importantly, the Cubist artists were searching for new explanations of reality and a technique that would be more effective in expressing their feelings and thoughts about the world around them.

In order to understand the reasons for the move towards Cubism one has to understand something of the time in which Picasso and Braque worked and created. There was throughout the artistic world at that time an intense dissatisfaction with the status quo or the accepted views of society and reality. This can be seen in the criticisms of the norms and standards of the time, not only in the art world but in many others areas and disciplines.

2.1. Cubism and modernism

There was a general feeling among many thinkers and artists in the early years of the Twentieth Century that the views and ideas that were prominent in society were false and needed to be radically questioned. One example of this type of questioning was the opposition to the view that reality was fixed, static and obvious. In terms of art history this view of reality was known as representation. In other words, all that an artist was required to do was to copy or re-present what the eyes saw, which was already there in the outside world.

This view was questioned by artists like Picasso and other modern artists. They were of the opinion that reality was relative or dependent on context and point-of-view. Reality therefore was not 'fixed' or static but was continually changing according to one's perspective or point-of-view. This questioning of the accepted views about reality was to have a great influence on the development of Cubism and other artistic movements in the Twentieth Century, such as Dadaism and Surrealism.

However, one should also consider where these alternative views and opinions about reality originated from. The critique or protest against the accepted views of reality was not only to be found among artists but in all fields and disciplines. The modernist movement that developed in the first half of the Twentieth Century was in fact a protest or an extreme questioning of the accepted views of reality. In order to understand this we will have to briefly discuss modernism as a revolutionary questioning of the status quo. In others words, in order to understand the Cubist attitude to reality and the accepted norms and values of the time, one also has to briefly look at the history of the era in which Cubism first emerged.

The period just before the First World War was one of turmoil and change in the world. The First and Second World Wars were to change the way that many people viewed reality. The First World War in particular with its horrific slaughter of a generation of young men led many people to question the values and norms of the authorities and leaders of the modern world. Artists and writers were in the forefront of this questioning.

It was also an age of new discoveries in many fields, including the sciences, which put into question the views and standards of the past. For example, the development of Einstein's theory of relativity questioned the way human beings understood time and reality and Darwin's theory of evolution was an important part of the scientific revolution that challenged the main views and perceptions in society of human origins and development. This was also to have an effect on religious views as the theory of evolution suggested that humanity had not been created in the image of God, but that man had developed in an evolutionary line determined by natural selection.

Freud and the discovery of the unconscious mind had a tremendous effect on the way that people perceived themselves and the world and this is turn was reflected in the art of the time and particularly in Cubism. All of these and many other discoveries and events led to one single result: a profound questioning of the accepted and conventional views about the world and reality.

Therefore the view of reality that had been prominent in the western society for many centuries was being interrogated and to a large extent overturned. There was a new type of order and new art forms materialized as a result of the questioning of the old ways of interpreting society and reality. This is basically how the cubist movement came into being. It was started by artists and thinkers in society questioning common lifestyles and views in society. Cubism started out as a style of art caused by the questioning of reality and eventually became an important aspect of the modernist movement and era. "...modern art is by nature rebellious and that this rebellion is most evident in a quest for originality and a continual desire to shock" (Modern Art).

3. Cubist art and sculpture

It is very difficult to define Cubism is only a few words. However, if one takes into account the above discussion about the search for new meaning and a different understanding of reality that was discussed, then the efforts of the Cubist artists can be understood in the context of the search for alternative views of reality. Cubist painters and sculptors "...depicted new spatial concepts not dependent upon three-dimensional perspective" (the AESTHETIC). This meant that these artists went beyond the boundaries of what was considered to be 'good' or acceptable art in the exploration of new artistic ideas.

Picasso and Braque created artworks which contradicted the conventional way that figures and objects can be portrayed in art. Their works

Included figural forms "...faceted in a variety of planes and angles seen from different points-of-view at the same time. Moreover, some of the facets were shaded, creating...shifting relationships that contribute to a general shimmering quality of 'iridescence." (the AESTHETIC).

Figure1. Pablo Picasso. Head of a Woman (Fernande) 1909, bronze

Source: (

The above head by Picasso is a good example of early Cubist sculpture and it shows how the planes and the angles of the face are distorted and the play of light is used to introduce a new perspective and insight into the figure.

What is important to note is that the cubist style of sculpture does not allow only one single interpretation of the work of art. We can view the head from many different angles and perspectives and each of these perspectives and angles is a valid and important view of the work of art. There is therefore no one 'correct' view of the sculpture. In effect this sculpture is a composition of changing shapes, spaces, textures, and objects. Cubist art tries to create a paradox and sense of uncertainty and indeterminacy in the work of art. One cubist piece could be described and interpreted in a number of different ways and it is impossible to create one single interpretation of the art created.

The above analysis of the sculpture by Picasso shows that this was a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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