Cubism : Birth of Abstract Art

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Cubism: Painting by Ismael Nery
Cubism: Painting by Ismael Nery

You must have seen many of the million dollar paintings of artists sold in auctions and wondered why would someone pay so much for that? Sometimes people try to figure out what’s hidden in the painting but never get it. For some people drawing like that is an easy task and for others, Artists are just crazy!

Now, let me explain the story and importance of these sort of paintings.

Abstract Art

  • Abstract art is a type of nonfigurative art, nonobjective art, nonrepresentational art or in simple words it is the type of art in which objects do not resemble those known in physical nature.
  • The universal and timeless shapes (shapes which do not change with or not affected by time) found in geometry the circle, square and triangle become the spatial elements in abstract art; they are, like colour, fundamental systems underlying visible reality.
  • Abstract art can be slight, partial, or complete. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance color and form in ways that are clearly visible and easily recognizable, can be said to be partially abstract but the work which bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable is said to be totally abstract.
  • Even art that aims for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be extremely difficult to find. It is at this level of visual meaning that abstract art communicates.

At the end of 19th century photography started developing so artists tried to break the rules and denied that art needs to depict something and started playing with the forms, viewpoints and angles which advanced with the technology and thus Cubism ‘first modern abstract art’ was born.

To understand Cubism ‘first modern abstract art’ let’s learn a bit about art movements which caused the birth of Cubism and itself destroyed the tradition which was followed by the artists of previous art movements.

Art Movement

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades). Three art movements which contributed to the development of abstract art were Romanticism, Impressionism and Expressionism.

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Romanticism Art Movement
Impressionism Art Movement
Expressionism Art Movement

By the end of the 19th century, many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. it led to the birth of cubism.

Cubism artists wanted instead to emphasise the two dimension of the canvas. So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric cubical forms.

VERISIMILITUDE : The sense that what one reads is “real,” or at least realistic and believable. For instance, the reader possesses a sense of verisimilitude when reading a story in which a character cuts his finger, and the finger bleeds. If the character’s cut finger had produced sparks of fire rather than blood, the story would not possess verisimilitude.

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About Cubism

A typical Cubist painting depicts real people, places or objects, but not from a fixed viewpoint. Instead it will show you many parts of the subject at one time, viewed from different angles, and reconstructed into a composition of planes, forms and colours.

Birth of Cubism

Originated at the beginning of the 20th century. Cubism was a truly revolutionary style of modern art. It was the first style of abstract art.

By 1911 Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963) in Paris were recognized as the inventor of Cubism.

Cubism began between 1907 and 1911. Pablo Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon has often been considered a photo-Cubist work.

Abstract art began in 1911 with such works as Picture with a Circle (1911) by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Impact of Cubism

The impact of Cubism was far-reaching and wide-ranging. Cubism spread rapidly across the globe and in doing so evolved to greater or lesser extent. In essence, Cubism was the starting point of evolutionary processes that produced diversity. It was the antecedent of diverse art movements.

In France, offshoots of Cubism developed, including Orphism, Abstract art and later Purism.

Post-Impressionism as practised by Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne had an enormous impact on 20th-century art and led to the advent of 20th-century abstraction.

Their main influences are said to have been Tribal Art (although Braque later disputed this) and the work of Paul Cezanne.

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