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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Formation of the Cubist Idea

Cubism is known as a radical step from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Using geometric shapes, dark and light shades, and forceful lines, a new type of image was created. Picasso was most influential in his creation of a new way of depiction the human body. He used shapes to depict real bodies, and let them lie in a larger space leaving them very open and free. Cubist paintings relied mostly on geometry and shade as opposed to light and enclosed objects. This revolutionary step from Impressionism fueled Picasso to delve into this new, unexplored art.

The idea of space was explored in a whole new dimension because with geometric shapes, it was difficult to form distinct planes. In order to accomplish this, the spacing of the shapes was very important. In Woman Playing the Mandolin (1909),, it is clear to see that some sides of certain shapes are shaded differently. This shading lets our eye bring some rectangles forward and push others back into a different plane. It is therefore possible to see the main focus of the painting, which in this case is the woman and the mandolin. As well, to prevent the painting from looking like it is receding backwards indefiniately, Picasso painted some shapes close together, some further apart, and some overlapping. This alowed our eyes to see things in front of other things, instead of a lot of shapes “floating in an indefinite space, and shaded randomly from light to dark.” (Karmel, 23) These techniques all give sense to what can otherwise be a confusing and disorderly form of art.

Picasso’s main revolutionary contribution to Cubism was his depiction of bodies. He did not draw human bodies in their usual closed forms; instead he gave them free-flowing shapes that could move into large spaces where the “figure dissolves.” (Karmel, 49) There was no direction to this discovery of this new form of art, but Picasso experimented with it and came up with almost unrecognizable forms of bodies. He experimented with types of “figuration” hand in hand with “projective space” ultimately leading to “open form.” (Karmel, 49) This “open form” was the free-flowing form of the human body which defines Picasso in the era of Cubism.

Naturally, as expected, there were many negative attitudes towards Cubism because of its drastically revolutionary form. Many of Picasso’s works were called things such as “monstrous” and “inhuman.” (Karmel, 99) However, Picasso insisted that he was using nature to depict real images in their most real forms. He said that in the past painting had never been realistic, and now that it had an aspect so close to nature, it was not accepted by the majority of people. Picasso believed in discovering new ways of art, and as he said “A painter’s study should be a laboratory. He should invent, not just copy nature like an ape.” (qtd. Karmel, 99) Picasso invented a radically new form of art, and with the help of friends, he made his mark with Cubism.

Picasso, Pablo. Woman Playing the Mandolin (1909) State Museum of New Western Art, Moscow, 1931.

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