Lesson 30: Cubist Art

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


There is only one valuable thing in art: that which you cannot explain.
               Georges Braque

Cubism, as an art movement, was closely related to expressionism and had its heyday during the same period. It was indeed the beginning of the 20th century when numerous art movements competed for the attention of the art market and consumers. All of them were artists who looked at reality in their own unique way and expressed it on canvas in their own way. Cubism was undoubtedly one of the more significant art movements that thrived between 1906 and 1920. However, cubist art remained popular among painters for many years thereafter.

Tuin aan de Thuner See, uit 1913 van de Duitse kubistische kunstschilder August MackeImage: Garden by the Thuner See, from 1913, by the German painter August Macke (1887-1914), known for both cubist and expressionist artworks. Garden by the Thuner See is a typical cubist work with rectangles, triangles, and diamonds. By using these geometric shapes, he found the balance between real and abstract forms. The colors added dynamism to the painted landscape. It depicts the garden of the house by the Thuner See where Macke and his family lived in 1913 and 1914.
On the left and far right, the view is framed by dark green and yellow-green checkered curtains. So, we are looking from inside the house out over the garden to the lake with the mountains in the background. The foreground and the middle of the painting are connected by the green, yellow, and red shades of the garden house, the meadow, the palm trees, the shrubs, and the trees. In the background, you can see the Thuner See and the high mountains of the Stockhornkette, painted in various shades of blue.
Location: This cubist painting by August Macke is in the possession of the Kunstmuseum Bonn, located in the German city of Bonn. The Kunstmuseum Bonn is situated at Helmut-Kohl-Allee 2 and focuses primarily on artworks from the post-World War II period.

Cubism as an Art Style

These artists believed that accurately depicting reality was nothing more than making copies, just like the expressionists believed. According to the cubists, museum visitors already knew what a house, a tree, or an animal looked like in reality. The goal of every artist, according to the cubists, should be to illuminate the depicted object or figure from all angles so that the museum visitor would have a new and refreshing perspective on the objects. The viewer could then reassemble the pieces that made up a painted object themselves. The same object was thus shown from different angles on the canvas or in a sculpture in cubist art. As a spectator, you got the feeling that you were in multiple places at once, as if multiple moments were folded into one.

Portret van Pablo Picasso, van de Spaanse kunstschilder Juan Gris.Image: Portrait of Pablo Picasso, from 1912, by the Spanish painter Juan Gris. Juan Gris was the artist name of José Victoriano González-Pérez (1887-1927). This oil painting was one of the first cubist artworks not created by Picasso or Braque.
Location: This ‘Portrait of Pablo Picasso’ by Juan Gris hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago in the city of Chicago, in the state of Illinois, USA. This museum of visual arts is located at 111 South Michigan Avenue in Grant Park.

In that sense, it resembled ancient Egyptian art, which in a long-forgotten period also depicted objects and beings in a two-dimensional form. They painted for the gods and not for humans. There was no interest in an exact anatomical representation of a human body. Each body part had to be shown optimally, so they showed the body frontally while simultaneously depicting the feet and the head from the side. An eye was sometimes drawn frontally within the same image. The depicted figures were shown in a mixture of side and front views. The goal of the ancient Egyptians was to show the figures and objects as a whole; essentially, that was also the goal of the cubists. However, there was a significant difference; the Egyptians remained more faithful to the way objects looked, while the cubists distorted their depictions much more, requiring the viewer to invest more effort in discovering the painting. This time investment, however, was very rewarding for many art lovers. They were rewarded with a deeper understanding of the depicted object and the environment in which it was presented. The cubists created paintings and sculptures in which the composition was built from cubes, cones, and cylinders. Through this method of constructing a composition, they could represent reality in their own way. The use of traditional perspective was also abandoned. The front and back of the composition blended into each other in cubist artworks.

Huis in L'Estaque, uit 1908 van George Braque in het Kunst Museum BernImage: Houses in L’Estaque (Maisons à l’Estaque), a cubist painting from 1908 by the artist Georges Braque, who, along with Pablo Picasso, co-invented cubism as an art movement. It is a great example of cubist art because Georges Braque simplified the forms of the houses and trees into geometric schemas, assembling them from triangles, rectangles, and lines. He then placed them in a self-arranged composition to represent the village as a community in nature. So, he didn’t place the houses as they stood next to each other in reality but created his composition from the ‘fragments.’ The word “cubism” is derived from this painting. When the renowned art critic Louis Vauxcelles (1870-1943) saw this painting in 1908, he described it in a review as a painting made up of small cubes. The term cubism was born.
Location: This cubist painting by George Braque is displayed at the Kunstmuseum Bern, located at Hodlerstrasse 12 in the Swiss capital of Bern. There are a total of three versions of this painting. The other two are in the possession of the Museum of Modern Art in Lille and an American private collector.

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