Art History Lab

Cubism: Unveiling the Revolutionary Art Movement of the 20th Century

Cubism: A Breakthrough in Art

Art is a form of expression and creativity that has been around for centuries, and has been used to capture the world around us in various ways. However, when it comes to the revolutionary movement that is Cubism, nothing compares in terms of its unique approach and groundbreaking techniques.

In this article, we will explore the origins and characteristics of Cubism, and the impact it had on the art world of the early 20th century. Subtopic 1.1 – Definition of Cubism

One of the fundamental aspects of understanding Cubism is to define it.

Cubism is a movement in art that originated in France in the early years of the 20th century, pioneered by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. It is characterized by its unique approach to depicting objects and subjects through a series of abstract geometrical shapes and angles, breaking down the traditional rules of perspective and linear representation.

Cubism was born out of a need to abandon traditional notions of art in favor of experimentation and a more modern approach. Subtopic 1.2 – Influential Artists in Cubism

Among the most influential artists of the Cubist movement were Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Robert Delaunay.

Picassos works display a fragmented, multi-perspective view of objects and subjects. He experimented with colors, shapes, and forms, and is widely acknowledged as being central to the development of the Cubist style.

Georges Braque is another significant figure in Cubism, and his work often portrayed everyday objects and subjects, such as musical instruments and bottles, He created a sense of depth through his Cubist paintings, using different types of lines to break up his compositions. Robert Delaunay is known for his Orphic Cubism, based on the use of strong colors and geometric shapes, and also for his work on the Fourth Dimension.

Subtopic 2.1 – Features of Cubist Paintings

One of the essential features of Cubism is the use of an abstract perspective to portray different angles and aspects of objects and subjects. The fragmentation of these objects and subjects into geometric shapes and planes is another key characteristic of Cubist paintings.

Artists in the Cubist movement created flattened, two-dimensional images that were less concerned with replications of real-life scenarios than with the creation of innovative visual forms. In this way, Cubism revolutionized the modern art scene, breaking with traditional techniques and conventions.

Subtopic 2.2 – Different Types of Cubism

Cubism can be divided into three different types: Analytical Cubism, Synthetic Cubism, and Orphic Cubism. Analytical Cubism is characterized by the use of hard-edged shapes and a limited color palette.

These forms often represent objects and figures in such a way as to offer a multi-perspective view, and to show different aspects of a subject at the same time. Synthetic Cubism is characterized by the use of collage to create images and textures.

It often incorporated the use of newspapers or other materials and included a variety of elements from different media. Orphic Cubism, on the other hand, was centered on the use of vibrant colors and bold geometric shapes.

These shapes represented dimensions beyond our physical world, such as the Fourth Dimension.


The Cubist movement in art can be seen as an essential milestone in the history of art, as it completely changed the way that artists approached their work. By breaking down traditional rules of perspective and representation, and creating a new visual language, Cubism opened up the world of art to new and innovative approaches.

Today, it continues to inspire artists around the globe, as they explore new techniques and perspectives in their own creations.

Main Topic 3 – The History of Cubism

Cubism is often regarded as one of the most significant art movements of the early 20th century, characterized by its innovation and unique style. The following subtopics highlight some of the key moments and individuals who defined the Cubist art movement.

Subtopic 3.1 – History of the Cubism Art Movement

Historians have traced the origins of the Cubist movement to Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), which marked a radical departure from the traditional art forms of the time. The painting depicted five nude prostitutes, whose distorted shapes and jagged lines signaled the beginning of the Cubist phase.

During this African phase, Picasso began to incorporate African art motifs into his work, using elements such as masks and unconventional shapes. Another important figure in the history of Cubism was Paul Czanne, who experimented with the dissolution of traditional perspective and the use of fragmented, angular shapes.

His influence on Picasso and Georges Braque is evident in the early stages of their collaboration. Subtopic 3.2 – Collaboration Between Picasso and Braque

In the years following Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso and Braque collaborated closely, developing the Cubist visual language further.

During this time, their work became increasingly focused on geometry, using a layered, multi-perspective approach to create abstract, flat images. Louis Vauxcelles, a French art critic, was one of the first contemporary observers to recognize the Cubists as a coherent group, coining the term “Cubism” after seeing Braque’s work in 1908.

Other influential artists such as Juan Gris, Marcel Duchamp, and Robert Delaunay, also joined the Cubist movement, contributing to its development and evolution.

Main Topic 4 – Different Phases of Cubism

Cubism underwent several phases during its history, each marked by different artistic principles and techniques. In this section, we explore two of these stages: Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism.

Subtopic 4.1 – Analytical Cubism

Analytical Cubism is characterized by its use of geometric abstraction, with artists breaking down subjects and objects into fragments of color and shape. Objects and subjects were often depicted from multiple viewpoints, as if the viewer was looking at them from various angles simultaneously.

The use of muted colors and monochromatic palettes was also typical in this phase of Cubism. A prime example of this is Glass on a Table (1912), by Georges Braque.

The painting features a fractured glass and disassembled utensils, creating a flattened subject. Braque also began to use material collages in this phase, creating texture by including fragments of real life materials such as paper.

Subtopic 4.2 – Synthetic Cubism

Synthetic Cubism marks a departure from the focus on geometry and fragmentation, shifting towards the use of mixed media and real-life objects in the paintings. The imagery became gradually more fragmented, with recognizable objects broken into recognizable parts, which were then arranged together in collage.

A Pot of Geraniums (1915-1916), by Henri Matisse, exemplifies the Synthetic Cubism phase. In this painting, Matisse used collage techniques to assemble a wide variety of real-life materials, including a pot, decorative wallpaper, and patterns of colorful flowers.


In conclusion, Cubism remains one of the most significant art movements in history, influencing generations of artists and changing the course of modern art. Its groundbreaking techniques and emphasis on abstraction marked a departure from the traditional art forms of the time and inspired other subsequent movements like Dadaism and Surrealism.

By exploring different phases of Cubism, including Analytical and Synthetic Cubism, we gain deeper insight and understanding of this artistic phenomenon.

Main Topic 5 – Orphic Cubism and Famous Cubist Artists

Subtopic 5.1 – Orphic Cubism

Orphic Cubism is a term coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire to describe works of art by artists such as Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay-Terk. This phase of Cubism features bright and bold colors combined with circular forms, demonstrating a fascination with the ideas and aesthetics of mysticism.

Robert Delaunay used vibrant colors and shapes to explore the relationships between light, color, and sound. His work featured circular forms known as “disks,” which were arranged to create a sense of movement and rhythm.

Sonia Delaunay-Terk, a painter and textile designer, was known for her use of vividly-colored abstract geometrical shapes, along with her distinctive dresses, known as “simultaneous dresses,” which were influenced by Orphic Cubism. Subtopic 5.2 – Six Famous Cubist Artists

Picasso and Braque are known as the founding fathers of the Cubist movement.

However, there were other significant contributors who were essential in shaping the art movement, including Juan Gris, Paul Klee, Albert Gleizes, and Paul Czanne. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon marked a radical departure from traditional art forms of the time, signaling the beginning of his Cubist phase.

Braque’s work focused on geometry and layering, creating abstract and flat images. Juan Gris was known for his collage techniques, using fragments of newspaper and other materials.

Paul Klee’s work was an essential link between Cubism and Expressionism. His paintings featured a variety of elements and symbols, which he drew from.

Albert Gleizes was one of the pioneers of Cubism who wrote about the art movement in a manifesto. His works were characterized by the use of diagonal lines and repetitive shapes.

Paul Czanne was one of the forerunners of Cubism, and he experimented with the dissolution of traditional perspective and the use of fragmented, angular shapes, which he used to influence later artists in the Cubist movement.

Main Topic 6 – Books on Cubism and its Cultural Basis

Subtopic 6.1 – “Cubism” by David Cottington

David Cottington’s “Cubism” provides a comprehensive history of the movement, exploring the development of Cubism from its beginnings to its later stages. The book examines the historical context of the art movement, focusing on the different phases of Cubism and key players who shaped it.

Subtopic 6.2 – “A Cubism Reader: Documents and Criticism, 1906-1914” by Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighten

“A Cubism Reader: Documents and Criticism, 1906-1914” edited by Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighten, provides an in-depth look at different aspects of Cubism, from the cultural influences that shaped the movement to the critical reception of the artwork. The book is organized chronologically and covers a range of texts, including manifestos, exhibition reviews, and private correspondence.

The importance of cultural basis in Cubism is also significant. Cubism is a culmination of different concepts, including the influence of African art, Japanese prints, and the scientific discoveries of the time.

The Cubist movement was heavily influenced by the cultural climate of the time, including an interest in the study of perception, the understanding of time and space in Modern Physics, and the introduction of the machine age.


Cubism is an innovative art movement that marked a significant departure from traditional art forms of the time. Its groundbreaking techniques and focus on abstraction inspired subsequent art movements and continue to influence contemporary artists today.

The exploration of Orphic Cubism and famous Cubist artists, along with the study of prominent books on the art movement such as “Cubism” and “A Cubism Reader,” provides a deeper understanding of the development of the Cubist art movement and its cultural basis.

Main Topic 7 – Defining Cubism and Its Influential Artists

Subtopic 7.1 – Defining Cubism and Techniques Used

Cubism is an avant-garde art movement that emerged in the early 20th century, challenging the traditional notions of representation in art. The movement is characterized by its unique approach to depicting objects and subjects through a series of abstract geometrical shapes and angles, breaking down the traditional rules of perspective and linear representation.

In Cubist paintings, objects and subjects are deconstructed and reassembled in a fragmented manner, representing multiple viewpoints simultaneously. This technique, known as multiple or simultaneous perspective, aims to provide a more comprehensive and multifaceted representation of the subject.

The use of geometric shapes, such as cubes, cones, and cylinders, is also prominent in Cubist artwork, giving the movement its name. Cubism employs a range of mediums, including oil paints, collage, and mixed media.

Artists experimented with different materials, such as newspaper clippings, fabric, and found objects, to add texture and depth to their works. The use of vibrant colors and muted tones varied depending on the specific phase of Cubism and the artist’s personal style.

Subtopic 7.2 – Importance of Picasso in Cubism and Influential Artists

Pablo Picasso is often considered one of the most important figures in the Cubist movement. His contributions were instrumental in shaping and defining Cubist art.

Picasso’s works displayed a fragmented, multi-perspective view of objects and subjects, challenging traditional notions of representation. Picasso’s transition into Cubism can be observed in his artwork, starting with his masterpiece “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907.

This painting marked a radical departure from his previous style and demonstrated his innovative approach to portraying the human form. Picasso’s collaboration with Georges Braque further propelled the development of Cubism, as the two artists worked closely together, influencing each other’s techniques and ideas.

Georges Braque was another influential artist in the Cubist movement. He collaborated with Picasso in the development of the analytical phase of Cubism.

Braque’s works often portrayed everyday objects and subjects, such as musical instruments and bottles. He experimented with colors, shapes, and forms, creating a sense of depth through his fragmented compositions.

Juan Gris, a Spanish painter, was also a significant figure in Cubism. His work was characterized by a precision in composition and a focus on objects arranged in a Cubist manner.

Gris used collage techniques, incorporating fragments of newspapers and other materials into his paintings, adding texture and a sense of reality. Other notable artists who contributed to Cubism include Robert Delaunay, whose Orphic Cubism focused on the use of vibrant colors and bold geometric shapes, and Marcel Duchamp, who incorporated innovative concepts and ideas into his Cubist-inspired works.

The influence of Picasso and the other influential artists of the Cubist movement cannot be overstated. Their groundbreaking techniques, experimentation with perspectives and abstraction, and challenging of traditional artistic norms paved the way for a new era in art.

The impact of Cubism can still be felt today, as it continues to inspire contemporary artists to think critically about representation and embrace innovation in their own work. In summary, Cubism is a revolutionary art movement that defied traditional notions of representation.

Through the use of abstract geometrical shapes, multiple viewpoints, and a variety of techniques and mediums, Cubist artists sought to provide a new way of seeing, challenging the viewer to engage with art in a more dynamic and thought-provoking manner. The contributions of artists such as Picasso, Braque, Gris, and others have left an indelible mark on the art world, shaping the course of modern art for generations to come.

In conclusion, Cubism stands as a transformative art movement that revolutionized the way we perceive and depict the world. Defined by its abstract geometrical shapes, multiple perspectives, and innovative techniques, Cubism challenged traditional artistic conventions and opened the door to endless possibilities.

Led by influential artists such as Picasso and Braque, Cubism’s impact has resonated through time, inspiring generations of artists and shaping the course of modern art. Its importance lies not only in its historical significance, but also in its lasting influence on contemporary art.

By breaking down the boundaries of representation and embracing experimentation, Cubism invites us to see the world through a new lens and encourages us to continually push the boundaries of artistic expression.

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