Blog: ARTY FACTS | Cubism and Abstraction

Cubism and Abstraction

Cubism was the first avant-garde art movement of the 20th century which completely turned the traditional ways of seeing on its head. Although there were pioneering modern art movements that preceded this at the end of the 19th century such as Impressionism, Cubism was the first to deconstruct form and perspective and present art that depicted reality in an unrealistic way; it was the first abstract movement in art.

'Bottle and Fishes' - George Braque



Pablo Picasso and George Braque were the two artists who led this movement. They wanted to create art which showed different angles of a subject simultaneously. They discarded the idea of creating art that showed the illusion of reality through linear 3D perspective, the traditional European way of constructing a painting, and instead painted many viewpoints of the subject at the same time. This resulted in the picture plane becoming flattened as there was no single viewpoint to create that 3-dimensional illusion of depth.

'Cubism is not a reality you can take in your hand. It's more like a perfume, in front of you, behind you, to the sides, the scent is everywhere but you don't quite know where it comes from.' - Pablo Picasso

Early Cubism and What Inspired It

The movement was directly inspired by the later work of Paul Cézanne who had begun to paint those slightly different viewpoints of a subject within the same painting. The Cubists developed this initial idea much further by completely fragmenting the forms of the subject. The first stage of Cubism was later named 'Analytical Cubism' where the artists kept a simple, muted colour palette in order to emphasise the deconstruction of the subject in which they were painting. There was overlapping of angular shapes and geometric lines which created flattened picture planes as opposed to the illusion of real space. Picasso was also inspired by African art and the simplified but striking shapes within African masks that represented the features of the human face. 


'Montagne Sainte-Victoire' -  Paul Cezanne /   ' Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' - Pablo Picasso /  'Violin and Candlestick' - George Braque / 'Seated Nude' - Pablo Picasso

Synthetic Cubism

The progression of cubism led to the further simplification of shapes and the introduction of collaged sections. Materials such as newspaper print and patterned paper were introduced to create various textures. Areas of flat bold colour also began to be applied to the paintings - this stage was later termed 'Synthetic Cubism'. 


'The Man At The Café' - Juan Gris                 'Guitar' - Pablo Picasso

Salon d'Automne

The Salon d'Automne is an annual exhibition of artists in Paris which was first held in 1903. It was created in reaction to the conservatism of the official Paris 'Salon' (of which Impressionist art at the end of the 19th century was often rejected) and encouraged work from young, emerging and innovative artists in Paris, including those of other nationalities. It became a highly successful exhibition, showcasing the pioneering modern art movements of the 20th century.

Cubist art was exhibited at these new progressive exhibitions and was an avant-garde art movement that, like others, shocked the critics. To present art that did not allude to perspective and reality was revolutionary and difficult to accept from observers. Other artists at the time were also experimenting and developing pictorial techniques that would fall into the category of Cubism. These included Juan Gris, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger.


'Bottles and Knife' - Juan Gris / 'L'Oiseau bleu' - Jean Metzinger / 'Les Fumeurs' - Fernand Léger / 'Eiffel Tower' - Robert Delaunay / 'Paysage Cubiste' - Albert Gleizes


Further Influence

Cubism is considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century due to it not only inspiring so many further movements and stylisation in fine art, but also inspiring architecture and the decorative arts. It influenced pure abstraction, Art Deco and movements including Futurism, Vorticism and Constructivism. 

Influence on Contemporary Gallery Art

The artist we can draw parallels with the most with the cubist art movement here at the gallery is Andrei Protsouk. His vision is built upon the foundations of the cubist approach to the flattening of perspective and the emphasis on geometric line and form. Andrei attended the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute, widely regarded as one of the world's finest art training programmes, and was tutored by Evsey Moiseenko, a prominent artist and contemporary of artists such as Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.

Andrei has developed a vibrant contemporary style based on angular forms, blocks of bold colour, intricately patterned shapes, layers of texture and stylised portraiture. His work is an uplifting vision of life based on love and passion. Please view his full collection and biography here.



Please join us for more 'Arty Facts' next week! To see more blog posts giving insight into art movements and techniques, please click here.



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