Analytical Cubism In The Path to Cubism, published in
1920, Kahnweiler first made the distinction between Analytical and
Synthetic Cubism that later art historians borrowed and used. Kahnweiler
used the term Analytical Cubism to characterize the work produced
by Picasso and Braque from about 1908 to 1912. The idea behind their work
of this period was an extension of Cézanne's; they wanted to paint
not the appearance of the subject (after all, a camera can do that)
but an analysis of the subject. Cubism has nothing to do with cubes;
the work of this period instead looks like a shimmering group of
facets, because appearance is fragmented into discontinuous planes.
The word "analysis" comes from a Greek word meaning "to undo," "to
loosen throughout," and so it is fitting that this style of painting
aimed at an understanding of the subject by breaking the subject
up into constituent parts. Picasso's Analytical Cubist work is mostly
in very dull colors, browns and blacks and grays, so as not to distract
the viewer's attention from the formal experiment. By comparing
Braque's "Houses at L'Estaque" with a photograph of the view that
he was painting, one can clearly see how Analytical Cubism renders a
subject. The best way to understand what Analytical Cubism means
is to look at the pictures; it is, after all, a visual concept.
Picasso's development of the style over time shows what he was aiming
Art Nouveau People began speaking of "Art Nouveau"–which means
"New Art" in French–in the 1890s. Architects, who were now as likely to
be using iron and glass as stone, felt that different building materials
called for a new style of ornament; they were ready to draw on sources
besides the Greek and Roman, which had been very nearly the only
source of architectural inspiration since the Renaissance. Asian art was held up as a new model for European art. However,
Art Nouveau did not just copy Asian examples, but transformed them
into something new. The influence of the sweeping arabesques of
Asian decoration encouraged architects to try to transpose these
curves into iron. From Japanese art in particular, Europeans saw
that design could be harmonious without being symmetrical. The super-curvaceous,
asymmetrical designs of the Belgian architect Victor Horta (1861-1947)
were wildly popular in the 1890s. The influence of Asian art was even more profound among painters
and printmakers. Instead of aiming to present a convincing representation
of reality, artists tried to paint pleasing patterns. "Decorative"
was a word of high praise. Pictorial space was flattened and contrast
sharpened, so that outlines and shapes took on a life of their own.
The work of Aubrey Beardsley, inspired by Japanese prints, was well
Assemblage An assemblage is, simply, a sculpture that is "assembled"
instead of carved or chiseled or cast. The sculpture consists of miscellaneous
objects and materials glued or otherwise stuck together, like a
three-dimensional collage. Picasso's "Guitar" (1912) is a good example.
Avant-garde "Avant-garde" is French for "advance guard." The term describes
how certain groups of artists since the mid-nineteenth century have
thought of themselves as plunging bravely into the future, ahead
of the laggards of mainstream society. It is difficult to pinpoint
the origin of the phrase; an early example of its use, in a French
essay from 1845 on the role of the artist, gives a good sense of
its meaning (the pompous tone is also quite typical):
Art, the expression of society, manifests, in its highest soaring,
the most advanced social tendencies: it is the forerunner and therevealer.
Therefore, to know whether art worthily fulfills itsproper mission
as initiator, whether the artist is truly of theavant-garde, one
must know where Humanity is going, what the destinyof the human
Blue Period Towards the end of 1901, Picasso started painting entirely
in shades of blue; his subject matter was appropriately melancholy–emaciated
vagrants and old prostitutes. He continued painting in this style
until the end of 1904, when rose tones began to dominate his palette.
Collage "Collage" is French for "gluing," and refers to making
pictures by pasting together scavenged scraps (like old newspapers, photographs,
pieces of cloth, whatever) instead of drawing or painting. Picasso's
"Still Life with Chair Caning" (1912) introduced the practice into
the fine arts, although, strictly speaking, he did not invent it:
the technique is found in nineteenth-century folk art. Picasso,
however, was the first to see its possibilities in a modern context.
Cubism Cubism was a new style of painting–often divided into
two main phases or tendencies, Analytical and Synthetic–invented
by Picasso and Braque. Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907),
which took "primitive" art as its inspiration, cleared the way for
this radical redefinition of painting. Other pieces by Picasso in
1907, such as "Mother and Child," show how the influence of African
masks moved him in a proto-Cubist direction. By October 1907, the poet Apollinaire had introduced Picasso
to Braque, a young painter extremely devoted to Cézanne. Together
the two developed Cubism, beginning in 1908. Their partnership and
cooperative development of Cubism was disrupted by the outbreak
of World War I in August, 1914. Picasso's last major purely Cubist
work was his "Three Musicians" of 1921; afterwards, his interests
turned towards Surrealism, politics, and the old masters. All of
Picasso's later works engaged in clear dialogue with Cubism, but
did so as they would with an already-developed, complete style–that
is, they did not try to reshape or rework Cubism, simply referencing
it and leaving it intact.
Fascism Fascism arose in the social disorder and nationalist
discontent in Italy after World War I. The word was first used by
the political party founded by Mussolini, who ruled Italy from 1922
until defeat in World War II, but it is used more generally to describe right-wing
totalitarianism, such as that of Hitler's Germany and Franco's Spain.
Picasso was very involved emotionally in the Spanish Civil War and
sold work to benefit the Spanish Republic; one of his most iconic
works, "Guernica" (1937), was commissioned by the Spanish Republic
and represents the barbarity of a Fascist attack on the town of
Guernica. Picasso's embrace of Communism was probably an effort
to voice his rejection of Fascism as loudly as possible.
Fauvist In 1905 a group of young painters exhibited in Paris.
They began to be called "Les Fauves," or "the wild beasts" because
they used such savagely bright colors and free brushstrokes and disregarded
all the traditional rules of illusionistic rendering. They were
not really so very wild; their compositions aimed towards more at
decoration than at revolution. Georges Braque was a member; later,
explaining the decline of the Fauve movement, he remarked, "you
can't remain forever in a state of paroxysm." The dull colors of
Analytical Cubism were a sort of counter-movement to the wild colors
of Fauvism. Henri Matisse became the most well known of the group
and, later, perhaps the most famous artist of the century besides
Fin-de-siecle "Fin-de-siecle" means "end of the century" in French.
The term is used to describe the 1890s and a particular atmosphere
of decadence, like that palpable in Art Nouveau, especially in the work
of Aubrey Beardsley.
Illusionistic A painting or drawing is illusionistic if it tries
to create the illusion of being what it represents. For example,
a painting of a landscape might look almost like a window, looking
out onto a view, or a plaster wall might be painted to look like
marble, or the shell of a lobster might be rendered in such minute
detail that it almost fools the eye. When one praises a painting
for "looking very realistic," one is praising the skill of the artist
in creating illusionistic effects.
Impressionist The Impressionists were a loose group of late-nineteenth-century French
painters who painted casual, everyday scenes of middle-class life
with bright colors laid on rapidly, almost hastily. Some of the
best known include Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. While the
Impressionists' work became extremely popular in the twentieth century–a
museum show would be an almost guaranteed blockbuster–they were
outcasts in the art world of their own time. One critic wrote in
An exhibition has just been opened at Durand-Ruel whichallegedly
contains paintings. I enter and my horrified eyes beholdsomething
terrible. Five or six lunatics, among them a woman, have joined
together and exhibited their works. I have seen peoplerock with laughter
in front of these pictures, but my heart bled whenI saw them. These
would-be artists call themselves revolutionaries,"Impressionists."
They take a piece of canvas, color and brush, daub a few patches
of paint on it at random, and sign the whole thing with their name.
Minotaur In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a monster with
the head of a bull and body of a man, born from a mating between
the queen of Crete and a white bull. The monster was confined to
a maze built by the master craftsman Daedalus. Athens had to make
a yearly sacrifice of seven boys and seven girls for the Minotaur
to devour, until the creature was finally slain by the hero Theseus.
Modernism When we say that something is modern, we usually mean
only that it is up-to- date, of the moment, the latest thing. The
word modern has been used in this sense for centuries and centuries, and
we still use it this way. For example, if we install new appliances
in the kitchen, we might say that we had modernized it. However–and
this is where things get tricky–artists in the early twentieth century
had such an acute sense of themselves as up-to-date, of- the-moment,
the latest thing, that the word "modern" stuck to them. And so,
strangely, "modern" has come to describe a historical period that
has passed. Sometimes museums have one curator for "modern" art,
roughly defined as that produced in the first half of the twentieth
century, and another for "contemporary" art, meaning art produced
since 1950 or so. To avoid confusing the contradictory meanings
of the word "modern," one can use the word "modernist" to describe the
art of the historical period from 1900 to 1950; this way, one can
still describe one's kitchen as "modern," and signify that one has
installed a new dishwasher–and not a Picasso print.
Neo-classicism In art, classicism refers to the style of Greco-Roman
antiquity–white marble sculptures of naked heroes, red-and-black
pottery, ruins with columns, etc. Since the Renaissance, the ancient
world has been a continuous source of inspiration for European art
and architecture; thus banks in American cities are often made to look
like Greek temples, for example. Art that is not in fact ancient
and Greco-Roman, but is inspired by or made to imitate it, is called
Old Masters Distinguished, canonical European artists from the
period from about 1500s through the early 1700s, especially the
painters who are in every art history textbook, are called old masters.
Papier Collé "Papier collé" is French for "glued paper" and refers
to collages which use not only found scraps but also invented shapes
cut from blank paper. Georges Braque invented this technique and shared
it with Picasso in 1912.
Salon The Salon was an annual exhibition of art works chosen
by jury and presented by the French Academy since 1737. It later
became a more generic term for a large art exhibition featuring
Surrealist Surrealism was an literary and art movement officially
founded in Paris by André Breton with his Manifeste du surréalisme in 1924.
The movement celebrated weirdness for weirdness's sake and held
that the unconscious, combined with chance, was the source of art;
thus, hypothetically, the purest Surrealism was achieved by psychic
automatism, by letting the brush wander over the paper without conscious
control. Most of the most important Surrealist writers were friends
of Picasso's, including Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, and Jean Cocteau.
The most famous Surrealist image, which captures the obsessive alternate
reality that the Surrealists were trying to enter, is the Spanish
painter Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" (1931.)
Symbolism Symbolism was mostly a literary movement, never officially organized–perhaps
it was actually more a contagious mood than anything else–although
certain visual artists are often associated with it. The Symbolists
sprang up first in late nineteenth-century France, rebelling against
the predominant naturalism and realism of their time. They wanted
to express by suggestion rather than by direct statement, liking
to give everything an enigmatic air. Symbolism first developed in
poetry, where it spawned free verse. Forefathers included the poets
Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud; practitioners included Laforgue, Moréas,
and Régnier. The Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin is perhaps the most
well known Symbolist painter; his pictures are like allegories without
keys, drenched in melancholy and mystery. His paintings exist more
to conjure up a certain mood than to convey any idea. Other artists
working in this vein include Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau. The
Surrealists drew heavily on the Symbolists.
Synthetic Cubism In "The Path to Cubism" (1920), Kahnweiler designates
as Synthetic Cubism Braque's and Picasso's work after around 1912.
Typically both more playful and more colorful than Analytical Cubism,
Synthetic Cubism was based on the new techniques of the collage
and the papier collé. Even when there were no actual pasted scraps
involved, the technique of collage, with its sharp edges and stylistic
discontinuities, still left its marks. Picasso's rather jazzy "Three
Musicians" (1921), his last major Synthetic Cubist work, is all
oil paint on canvas, but one can see that, at this point, Picasso
painted like a collage; the shapes are flat and sharp-edged, as
if they were cut paper. The pattern on the outfit of the guitar-player
in the center is flat; rather than mimicking the way in which patterned
fabric curves over the body, Picasso creates the effect of a cut-out
piece of patterned paper pasted right onto the canvas. The incongruity
of the small detail of the musical notes on the score held by the musician
to the right with the extreme simplification and lack of detail
throughout most of the painting is also typical of collage.
Spanish Civil War
At the time of the Spanish Civil War, Spain had been
Europe's backwards backwater for over a century. The monarchy had been
overthrown rather quietly in 1931, and Spain was governed by a liberal,
modernizing republican government. This government moved against
the privileges of the Catholic Church and did some small-scale land
reform, which was much too little to satisfy the leftists but was
enough to make the priests, landowners, and former royalists very
angry. The rightists took over the government in 1933 and were quite
brutal towards the Catalans and unionists. By the time of the general
elections of 1936, the line between left and right was clearly drawn
and tension ran high. Leftists joined together in a Popular Front against
the rightists–the priests, the landowners, the former royalists
and the Fascists, known in Spain as the Falangists. The Popular
Front won a narrow victory but the right-leaning army, led by General
Francisco Franco, decided to take over the country. Very bloody
civil war ensued, complicated by the intervention of Hitler and
Mussolini on Franco's side and of Stalin on the republicans' side,
until 1939, when Franco emerged victorious, crushing the leftists.
World War I
World War I, 1914-18, sprung from imperialistic, territorial,
and economic rivalry among the great powers of Europe, was horribly
bloody; the suffering was further compounded because it all seemed
perfectly senseless, the product of violent nationalism and complicated,
distant diplomatic maneuvers that had nothing to do with the common
people who ended up fighting and dying. Poison gas and large-scale
trench warfare were used for the first time. The Treaty of Versailles,
signed in 1919 after an armistice in 1918, imposed harsh reparations
on Germany which led to more rancor, and, eventually, World War II.
The generation of artists active in the 1920s (including the Surrealists)
was marked by a disgust at the older generation, for having dragged
them into such disgusting brutality, similar to that which stirred
up the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s in the United States.
World War II
After World War I, a defeated Germany, disappointed Italy,
and ambitious Japan all became extremely militaristic and nationalistic.
War broke out, after a long period of extreme tension, with the
German invasion of Poland in 1939. German forces swept through France
in 1940; armistice was signed on June 22 and the Vichy regime, a
Fascist government that served as the Germans' tool, was set up.
Picasso and other artists and writers managed to survive in Occupied
Paris until the city was freed by the Allies in August, 1944, after
the landing at Normandy, but it was a very dark time. Some of Picasso's friends,
such as Sartre and Aragon, worked in the resistance against the
occupying German forces. Picasso's post-war embrace of Communism
was probably all the more ardent because he had experienced the