Monday, June 30, 2014

Cubism (pt. 1)

Separate from the Expressionists were the Cubists, who reinforced structured ideals of art theory.  Their notions of style spawned largely from the earlier works of Cézanne, who sought to better paint the object in its three-dimensional fullness.  Plagued by this problem of remaining flat on a canvas, painters sought to bring out their subjects' mass and volume through stylized brushwork and technical approaches to perspective, color, and form.  This was a discipline of art that focused on the theoretical aspects of constructing images.  Although artists such as Picasso echoed the freedom of artists like Van Gogh, the Cubists employed their unorthodox techniques for the sake of their subject matter and larger art theory on a whole.  Cubism itself was merely a style of painting which artists could use to try to show all sides of a three-dimensional object on a flat surface.
In order to accomplish this transference (from real life to the painter's canvas, let's say), shapes had to be broken up and then reassembled.  Imagine drawing a cube, an object with six surfaces or sides.  One would have to flatten the cube, breaking apart corners, in order to show the full picture.  Similarly, then, artists broke apart their subjects and tried to view them purely geometrically when contemplating how best to paint them.  Flowers, a landscape, imaginative material—even people had to be "disassembled" first, and we see that clearly in Picasso's portrait of Vollard, 1910.
The artist has almost dissected the man, and the chunks are laid out on the canvas to give the full picture of him.  Realism need no longer be worried about, for this painting is trying to achieve an effect, like Impressionism.  Painting here has become a science of experimentation.  Here, colors are not realistic; browns, grays, and drab hues are used to convey an almost rudimentary, black-and-white image (except for his colorful face) of this man.  Compare this to the patchy brushwork of Paul Cézanne, who, you will remember, painted the Mont Saint-Victoire in sections or chunks.  Cubism, seeking to break down both the subject matter (the object) and the technique (art itself), adopted this new stylistic approach to painting that became the staple fashion of artists like Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.
Picasso is of course the most famous Cubist painter.  He became famous for his painting and collages and later extended his abilities to sculpture.  From a very early age, this Spanish painter showed the signs of sheer talent.  His paintings from the 1890s displayed a level of incredible realism that quickly distinguished him in the art world.  But Picasso chose to deviate from the realist style.  He wanted his art to be about something more than mere aesthetic traditionalism; his notions of Cubist art theory launched the artist into a creative period of experimentation and stylistic development that launched the careers of one of the most successful and well-known artists in Western art history.

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