Evening Certificate In The History Art Essay

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My decision to do an essay on the Cubist art movement was a straightforward one, as when reading through the choices provided, I was immediately drawn to the last two. The Surrealist art movement, in particular, has been an avid interest of mine for a number of years. However, I chose to do the Cubism essay instead as I already know a good deal about the Surrealist movement from appreciating it as a hobby but also as it was the main topic I choose to do for my Leaving Certificate Art History exam just two years ago. I felt it would be more advantageous to my education to research the Cubist movement, especially since it had such an influence on Surrealism. Whilst studying art history I am frequently reminded of how each art movement is a continuation of that that has gone before it, so in order to fully appreciate a movement I feel it necessary to understand the ideas that provoked each change.

Points to be made in introduction

  • Cubism was one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century. It took place between 1907 and about 1914.
  • The innovators of the Cubist movement were Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 18811973) and Georges Braque (French, 18821963).
  • The main characteristics of Cubism would be the presenting of a three dimensional object as an abstract form on a two dimensional surface and the fragmenting and interlocking of background and object in geometric arrangements.
  • Cubism was one of the most influential shifts in ideas in the history of art, paving the way for many of the movements towards the abstract in modern art and in such schools as Precisionism, Futurism, and Constructivism.

Plan of each paragraph

1. The Origins of Cubism

  • The term Cubism can be sourced back to a conversation between French art critic Louis Vauxcelles and Henri Matisse in 1908. Matisse described Braques paintings, which he had submitted to the Salon dAutomne, to have little cubes (Taschen 6).
  • Cubism can be broken down into two phases: Analytical Cubism and Synthetical Cubism.
  • In the early phase, starting in 1907, objects were broken up, analysed, and put back together in an abstracted form. The use of the technique of representing various sides of an object at one time defined the work as Analytical Cubism.
  • In 1912, the second phase came about, when Picasso and Braque began creating papiers colles. The technique involved pasting various types of paper in their work to create the shallow space of Synthetic Cubism.
  • However, the terms 'analytical' and 'synthetical' were never utilised by the artists at the time but were merely terms used in later years to critically analyse the Cubist movement.

2. The influences of Cubism

  • The prominent influences on the development of Cubism were Cezanne's later work and African sculptures.
  • In Cezanne's later work, Picasso and Braque admired his concept of the simplification of natural forms into cylinders, spheres, and cones. By exploring these concepts further, representing objects various viewpoints at the same time, they revolutionised how objects could be visualised in art.
  • In the beginning 20th century, Europe was discovering art from exotic continents such as Africa and Asia. Artists, such as Picasso, were inspired by the primitive and simplistic styles of the foreign cultures. We can see its influence clearly in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), the precursor to Cubism.

3. Analytical Cubism

  • Analytical Cubism is one of the two major branches of Cubism. It was developed between 1908 and 1912 by Picasso and Braque.
  • During this time they took apart forms, analysed them, and reassembled them into geometric parts on a flat plane. They only use of colour was a monochromatic scheme of greys and ochre.
  • An example of the early analytic phase would be Braque's Houses at L'Estaque (1908).

4. Synthetic Cubism

  • Synthetic Cubism was the second main movement within Cubism that was developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919.
  • Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of collage and papier coll, which allowed the exploration of new effects of depth from the overlapping of collaged planes.
  • An example of the synthetic phase would be Picassos Pipe, Glass, Bottle of Vieux Marc (1914).

5. Georges Braque

  • Braque was initially involved in the Fauvist art movement, but he moved away from this style in 1908 when he rediscovered Paul Cezanne and met Picasso. Braque responded to Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon by painting his Grand Nude in the cubist style of geometrisation of form and new spatial relationships (Moffat).
  • In 1909 Braque and Picasso started working together, using their various influences to develop a whole new way of depicting form and space.
  • Although Braque started out painting landscapes with Picasso, they soon found the advantages of painting still-lifes instead, such as them being able to see multiple views of an object as opposed to a landscape.

6. Pablo Picasso

  • Before beginning the Cubist period of his art, Picasso became interested in African art, which was currently being brought into Paris museums due to the expanding of the French empire. These exotic artefacts inspired his work during his African-influenced period (1908-1909) and into his Analytic Cubism (1909-1912).
  • After he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, he went on to found Cubism with Braque.


The liberating formal concepts initiated by Cubism also had far-reaching consequences for Dada and Surrealism, as well as for all artists pursuing abstraction in Germany, Holland, Italy, England, America, and Russia.

Works cited

Gantefhrer-Trier, Anne. Cubism. Taschen, 2004.

Moffat, Charles Alexander. "Cubism". The Art History Archive. 2nd March 2010


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