Why was Picasso so bad at observation


What is cubism

The term cubism is derived from the French word "cube“For dice and has been used since mid-November 1908. It describes a style from the beginning of the 20th century that was developed by Pablo Picasso (1881–1976) and Georges Braque (1882–1963) between 1907/08 and 1910. The first phase, so-called Analytical Cubism, lasted from 1910 to the beginning of 1912 and focused on researching the simultaneous representation of different views of an object. After the appearance of the “Salon Cubists”, Braque and Picasso changed their style of design by no longer depicting (imitating) realistic elements, but instead wrapping scraps of paper, wallpaper and other found objects in their now brightly colored pictures, thus shaping Synthetic Cubism.

For the group Picasso, Braque, Gris and to a certain extent Léger, the terms gallery cubism, private cubism, cubism of Montmartre or the rive droite [right bank] used. For one thing, Picasso and Gris had their studios in the Bateau-Lavoir on rue Ravignan (Montmartre), and Braque worked nearby; on the other hand, they were closely connected to the gallery of the German dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. The Gris, Metzinger, Picabia, Léger, Gleizes, Duchamp, Marcoussis, Dumont, Marchand, Valensi and Agero, who joined forces from 1910, appeared together under the name Salon de la Section d'Or in 1912.

Initially, Cubism, which meant a real break with the tradition of painting but also with Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (→ Post-Impressionism | Pointillism | Divisionism), was only discussed within a small circle of artists in Paris. The avant-gardes of the years after 1900, which were concentrated on bright colors, Matisse and the artists of Fauvism were among the most radical, were to be combated with this new way of expression. The forerunners and prerequisites of Cubism include the art of Paul Cézannes and African art. Picasso was also inspired by form-aesthetic solutions in early Iberian art and paintings by El Greco, the "customs officer" Henri Rousseau and Paul Gauguin.

Features and Consequences of Cubism

The importance of Cubism cannot be overestimated, as it is based on a completely new conception of images: a painting does not reproduce what has been seen, but rather stands as an independent image next to the motif. The revolutionary aesthetic of Cubism is the matrix and the language of modernity par excellence1:

  • the principle of flatness and the orthogonal grid
  • Neutralization of the subject
  • analog semantics
  • Transformation of the sculpture into a handicraft
  • Inclusion of words in painting
  • Supplementing the painting medium with everyday objects such as newspapers, wallpaper and the like

With this, the Cubists prepared abstract painting and non-representational art. Cubism was the source of the great abstract movements of Constructivism (Vladimir Tatlin), Suprematism (Kasimir Malewitsch) or Neoplasticism (Piet Mondrian), it evoked Futurism, promoted the development of Henri Matisse, influenced that of Marc Chagall, shaped Constantin Brancusi, penetrated expressionism, determined the architectural vision of a Le Corbusier.

"Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" and early cubism

After Picasso had executed "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" (MoMA) in the first half of 1907 after a long period of preparation, his friends and colleagues were appalled by the result. Even Braque was skeptical and compared the picture to a swig of kerosene that would have been given to drink to spit fire. The art dealer Henri Kahnweiler, who had just moved to Paris, was one of the few confidants who encouraged Picasso:

“I hope that you will feel the incredible heroism of a man like Picasso, whose emotional loneliness was downright terrible at this time, because none of his painter friends followed him. The picture he painted here seemed crazy and monstrous to all of them. "

Until the 1920s, the painting remained rolled up in the artist's studio without ever being presented to the public, as the formal solutions that Picasso developed in this work were perceived as radically.

Proto-Cubism: with Cézanne against Monet

The aim of Pablo Picasso was to counter Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, in which the dissolution of form in favor of color observation had been carried out so far that a short time later some painters dared to take the step into abstraction, with a form and volume emphasizing painting style. Claude Monet had already formulated in the early 1880s that he did not want to capture the object, but the colored atmosphere between himself and the object. Out of this wish he developed the famous series in the 1890s and turned to the main theme of his late work, the garden of Giverny. Around 1905 Monet painted pictures of the water lily pond, some in monumental formats, in which a perspective without a vanishing point and with a wandering eye was also presented. By turning to Paul Cézanne's art, Picasso countered the liquefaction of forms with a sharp-edged contrast that emphasized the three-dimensionality of the body. Braque, too, was drawn to the exquisite colors of Cézanne's compositions, which were always geared towards solidification, abandoned the principles of Fauvism and wanted to follow in its footsteps.

"Treat nature according to cylinder, sphere and cone."2 (Paul Cézanne, letter to Émile Bernard, Aix-en-Provence, April 15, 1904)

Georges Braque spent the summer of 1907 in L’Estaque, where Cézanne had also painted, and Pablo Picasso in La Rue des Bois north of Paris. When they compared their works with one another in the autumn, they saw how similar their conclusions were from the questions raised by Cézanne. One of the most important stylistic criteria was the simplification of the forms to their basic geometric properties and thus the omission of all details. The abandonment of the central perspective and the rising arrangement of the cubic houses on the picture surface led to a relief-like character, i.e. the objects appear as if they were tilting forward into the viewer room. In addition, there is the limitation of the painters to ocher, brown and green tones. The simplification of form is expressed in the works of Braque and Picasso both in the paintings, the drawings and his bronze sculptures. In addition, the motif was fragmented until 1910, which was reflected in a prismatic appearance.

How did cubism get its name?

The first connection of the word “cubisme” with Georges Braque's conception of art, inspired by Cézanne, is to be ascribed to the critic Charles Morice (1889–1970). In an article from April 16, 1909 in the “Mercure de France” about the 25th Salon d‘Indépendants, he saw Braque as a “victim” of a “one-sided or poorly thought-out admiration for Cézanne” and quickly coined a new ism for his observation.

“And I think I see that Mr. Braque is a victim, in short, especially“ Cubism ”, a particularly one-sided or ill-conceived admiration for Cézanne.3

In September 1908, Georges Braque sent six pictures to the jury of the Salon d’Automne, headed by Henri Matisse. The works created in L’Estaque during the summer were rejected and later rumored that Matisse had said they were full of “little cubes”. Surprised by this rejection, the former Fauvist organized a solo exhibition in Daniel Henry Kahnweiler's gallery on Rue Vignon. Between November 9 and November 28, 1908, he exhibited 27 of his most recent paintings there. The show went down in history as the birth of cubism.

On November 14, 1908, Louis Vauxcelles took over the term Cubism in the "Gil Blas" when he criticized the exhibition by Georges Braque and the "small cubes [petits cubes]" in his paintings. On March 25, 1909, he continued to write about "Cubist bizarreries [bizarreries cubiques]" and thus involuntarily gave the art direction its name. Gertrude Stein, who became Pablo Picasso's most important patron during these years, adopted the formulation and described Picasso's landscapes from 1909 (Horta de Ebro) as the first Cubist paintings ever.

Braques and Picasso met in the second half of 1907. At the same time, Paul Cézanne, who had died a year earlier, was commemorated in a major retrospective in the Salon d’Automne. The colourfulness, broken down into spots by Cézanne, but above all his conviction that all objects can be traced back to the simple stereometric basic forms (→ Cézanne. Metamorphoses in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe), shaped the new conception of art by Braque and Picasso. Even though Picasso repeatedly emphasized that the study of African sculpture would have played no role for him, the developed forms show a kind of adaptation of the geometric form conceptions of sub-Saharan art, reduced to the most important elements.

Braque presented his works, including such diverse images as the Fauvist “Terrace of the Hôtel Mistral” (L'Estaque and Paris, summer – autumn 1907) and the proto-cubist “Houses in L'Estaque” (Bern Art Museum), in November 1908 newly founded gallery by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979). The art critic Louis Vauxcelles founded the term cubism (from the French "cube" for cube) inspired by the cubic, that is, cubic forms.

"Braque is a very bold young man [...] He reduces everything, be it landscapes, people or houses, to basic geometric shapes, to cubes." (Louis Vauxcelles)

Georges Braque, Large Nude, Winter 1907 – June 1908, oil / canvas, 140 x 100 cm (Center Pompidou, Paris © Center Pompidou Dist. Rmn-GP)

Picasso - Braque: a working group

Picasso and Braque saw each other almost every day between September 1908 and May 1909. The gallery owner Kahnweiler mediated between the two very different artists, as Braque worked systematically and conceptually, while Picasso was known for his impetuous, intuitive manner. The two painters also shaped a new self-image of artistry, as they wore mechanic suits while painting during this time. They also compared themselves with the flight pioneers, the Wright brothers, who had made the world's first powered flight in 1903. In order to climb the steep path to the Parnassus together, so the next metaphor, they also formed a "rope team".

The rapprochement between the two went so far that in 1911/12 they not only painted similar motifs in the same style, but also did not sign their works. This makes it extremely difficult to determine the authorship of works. Nevertheless, there are differences between Picasso and Braque which, upon closer analysis, lead to the following conclusions: Braque's Cubism corresponded much better to the ideal of formal autonomy and timeless classicism. With Picasso, every access to a motif is accompanied by sensations and feelings; Physiognomics and the value of the motives in life retain their meaning even in the transformation process. As a result, with Picasso the form facets can always be haptically experienced, while with Braque the back and forth can only be grasped as an imaginary order.4

Analytical Cubism: Features & History

From 1908 to early 1912, Picasso and Braque developed Analytical Cubism by using Disassembling forms and objects and checking them for their space. It was no longer about capturing the appearance of an object, but about capturing it Objects and people as the sum of their appearances capture. Picasso and Braque studied objects like people from all possible perspectives, which they simultaneously, i.e. at the same time, brought together into a painting. In doing so, they placed particular emphasis on the Volumeswhile the color was reduced. The muted colors Analytical Cubism was fed by the non-colors white and black as well as brown and ocher tones, which could be lightened to beige. Picasso's and Braque's paintings are sometimes so similar that it is difficult to spot any differences between the two painters. The term Analytical Cubism comes from Juan Gris.

In the summer of 1909, Braque stayed in La Roche-Guyon, a village on the Seine northwest of Paris, where the venerated Cézanne had already painted. He depicted the medieval tower on the limestone cliffs, at its feet the geometric houses and the oval-framed nature in a dynamic collapsing shape. At the same time, Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Fernande Olivier stayed in the northern Spanish village of Horta de Ebro. “The Factory” (1909, Hermitage) also shows the simplification of the buildings, which are also positioned in a spatially difficult relationship to one another. While the cubes of the building evoke three-dimensional structures, the painter blocks the depths in the sky.

From the winter of 1909/10 onwards, Picasso's visual language became increasingly difficult to decipher. His pictures are no longer to be understood in the classic sense of mimesis (imitation), but rather always more abstract, without completely eliminating the subject. In some paintings, the fragmentation of the form is almost unrecognizable - the surface ornament has been raised to its intrinsic value. This arises from the fact that both the contour and the interior design are broken down into geometric elements. These are painted in such a way that they penetrate each other. Another important property is that Rhythm of the elements on the scene. The cross-image structure - a complex interplay of horizontals, verticals and diagonals - dominates, the "depicted" image objects are fitted into them. This creates mainly flat-looking compositions in which a few convex or concave lines suggest three-dimensionality. The descriptive image title In this phase, they repeatedly prove to be helpful support in order to be able to identify the objects on the basis of formal analogies or associations.

Presumably inspired by Futurism, Picasso and Braque also began in 1911 Integrate lettering and typography in your work. As a result, they were able to tie the increasingly abstract and facetted-looking objects back to reality. Once again it was Georges Braque who, as a trained house painter, was the first to take the step. Since the painters Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger received an annual salary from Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler in the heyday of Cubism, they could indulge in their experiments in relative seclusion on Montmartre. Only a small group of sponsors bought the works at all.

“Picasso and Braque were aware that their hermetic pictures were very often no longer understood in terms of their relation to reality, but rather as pure, abstract formal games. In order to keep the eye on its way through the picture again and again and to remind the viewer of the representational character of the pictorial presentation, since the spring of 1911 they have permeated the cubist faceted construction with obviously representational inclusions. "5 (Meyer 1976)

Synthetic Cubism: Features & History

From late summer 1912 - and certainly not without reason after the appearance of the “Salon Cubists” - Braque and Picasso began using the new technology of the paper collés to experiment. Georges Braque was the first to use this additive technique, whereby Picasso immediately took up and reinterpreted it. This is an early form of collagein which the “unity of means” is preserved. A paper collé consists of cut-out newspaper snippets with text or image information that have been glued to cardboard and then supplemented with oil paint. Word jokes and language games play a role that should not be underestimated. In addition to newspaper clippings, the two painters also used scraps of paper, scraps of wallpaper or illusionistically designed surfaces (printed oilcloths), with which, for example, wood grain is simulated. Compared to Analytical Cubism, Synthetic Cubism is a flat style in which no illusion of space is created. In addition, Picasso and Braque reintroduced colored colors into their compositions. This phase of Cubism, known as Synthetic Cubism, retained its appeal until around 1919.

"Salon Cubists"

The so-called “Salon Cubists” formed as a group in 1910 and appeared for the first time in the spring of 1911 at the Salon des Indépendants [Salon of the Independents] as a common mouthpiece for Cubism. Its representatives included Fernand Léger and Robert Delaunay, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. Their common hanging in the hall 41 achieved a first noteworthy scandalous success. The founders of Cubism, Picasso and Braque, were not exhibited in 1911. The “salon cubists” are often marginalized, while Picasso was recognized as the inventor and Braque's part in it was only recognized late. This judgment is directly related to a purely formalistic analysis; In recent years, however, icon-graphic and ideological interrelationships have increasingly been taken into account and reference has been made to exhibition practices. The merit of the “salon cubists” is undisputed in having presented Cubism to a broad audience and argued it theoretically.

Léger and Delaunay, who probably met for the first time in 1907, got to know the works of Picasso and Braque through the gallery owner Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler in 1908 on the advice of Apollinaire and Jacob, and in the following years they dealt with the dissection of the figures. Metzinger and Delaunay had known each other since their participation in the Salon des Indépendants in 1906. Together they went through a neo-impressionist phase. On the occasion of the autumn salon of 1910 they got to know each other: Gleizes, Metzinger, Le Fauconnier and Delaunay were put together by the jury. In the years that followed, the painters met each other in cafes and artist studios - as with Henri Le Fauconnier and the Duchamp brothers, where the writers Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon also frequented. The "founding fathers" Picasso and Braque never took part in these meetings and soon distanced themselves from their "imitators". They developed Synthetic Cubism, and from 1917 Picasso turned back to classical figure painting anyway.

The famous room 41 at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1911 presented works, among others. von Gleizes, Metzinger, Delaunay and Léger (April 21-13, 1911). The hoped-for breakthrough quickly turned out to be a big slap in the newspaper. Only the poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) defended the new art direction. At the autumn salon of the same year, the group of Cubists had already expanded to include the artists of the Section d'Or: André Lhote, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Roger de La Fresnaye, André Dunoyer de Segonzac and František Kupka added cubist (Kupka also about abstract) forms of expression (→ František Kupka. pioneer of abstraction).

Salon d’Automne 1912, Paris, exhibition view with works by Kupka, Modigliani, Csaky, Picabia, Metzinger, Le Fauconnier

Cubism, according to Apollinaire in June 1911 when he introduced the painters to the catalog of the Salon of Independents in Brussels, would not be a style, but a common attitude. In the introduction to cubism, "Du cubisme [About Cubism]", published in 1912 by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, they placed the two terms simultaneity and fourth dimension at the center of their theoretical considerations. In doing so, they described the simultaneous viewing of the pictorial object, which, however, is built up from successive events and views, as well as the dimension of time in the pictorial space through the introduction of motifs of movement.

The Salon d'Automne opened its doors on October 1, 1911 (October 1 - November 8, 1911). The reactions from critics and the audience are even more violent. The theoretical foundation of Cubism therefore did not arise out of inner necessity, but also out of the feeling of having to defend oneself against conservative-nationalist critics such as Louis Vauxcelles. He commented sharply on the 1911 exhibition:

“The Salon d'Automne and the Indépendants are teeming with Wallachians, Munich residents, Slavs and Guatemalans. These "Kanaken" conquer Montrouge and Vaugirard [Paris suburbs with cheap studios]. Tired of their homeland, they pour into Matisse's studio in hordes; they have neither training nor knowledge nor decency; less than four months and you have already mastered the new style, apply it and even surpass it. They vie in anarchy. [...] Our eyes are faced with the worst polychrome graffiti, the most unusual chords and dissonances. We suffer the onslaught of barbaric Cubism, the pig gallop of the epileptic Futurisus. [...] You act against nature! Aberration! Crime!"6 (Louis Vauxcelles, March 1912)

However, the “Salon Cubists” expanded the Cubist repertoire to include the big city as a motif, the female nude, its dynamism, its rhythm, and they also integrated movement motifs derived from Futurism and again colored colors (see above all Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp). For the theoretically oriented painters, however, a discourse immanent to the picture was not enough; they looked for inspiration in contemporary philosophy and utopian literature. Here they found simultaneity and the fourth dimension, i.e. the time to incorporate as factors into painting. In their book “About Cubism” Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger explained the goals of Cubism for the first time.

Section d'Or or Puteaux Group

At the end of 1911, the Section d’Or group was formed around the Duchamp brothers in Puteaux. Its most important members included Francis Picabia (→ Francis Picabia: Our head is round), the brothers Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamo, the sculptors Alexander Archipenko, Joseph Csaky and Ossip Zadkine, Jacques Lipchitz and Henri Laurens, as well as the Painters Louis Marcoussis, Roger de La Fresnaye, František Kupka, Diego Rivera, Léopold Survage, Auguste Herbin, André Lhote, Gino Severini (from 1916), Maria Blanchard (after 1916) and Georges Valmier (after 1918). In addition, there were writers and critics such as Guillaume Apollinaire.

Section d’Or, the golden ratio, refers to Leonardo da Vinci's “Treatise on Painting”. Jacques Villon read a French translation of the Renaissance master's instructions in 1910 and introduced the term into his discussion with Metzinger and Gleizes. The group chose the name Section d'Or to indicate that Picasso's and Braque's Cubism is just one variant of a larger tradition in Western art. On the one hand, the members managed to distance themselves from the inventors and, on the other hand, to fit their avant-garde, highly controversial style of expression into a tradition of painterly work. The organization of the exhibition and its orientation as an overview of the history of development, but also the publication of “About Cubism”, can be interpreted as an attempt to make the Cubists' artistic intentions accessible and understandable to a wider audience.

Picabia, Léger, Kupka, Le Fauconnier, Gleize and Metzinger exhibited together in Hall 11 at the Herbstsalon (October 1 - November 8, 1912). The Salon de la Section d'Or (10.-30.10.1912) in the Parisian gallery La Boëtie with almost 200 exhibits by 31 artists was a counter-event to the autumn salon.

Cubism in 1912

Though fiercely hostile, the Cubists neither developed a uniform style nor did they support colleagues who strayed too far from the central doctrine of dissection and the simultaneous presentation of different viewers' points of view. An example of this is the scandal surrounding Marcel Duchamp's painting “Nude, Descending a Staircase, No. 2”, which was even rejected by the Cubists. When Duchamp wanted to exhibit it in the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1912, the hanging jury, including both of his brothers (sic!), Rejected it. The painter and later inventor of the Ready Made never forgave his colleagues and brothers for censoring him. Marcel Duchamp presented the work in October 1912 at the Salon de la Section d‘Or and in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York. Juan Gris' “Portrait of Picasso” (Art Institute of Chicago), Metzinger's “La Femme au Cheval [Woman with a Horse]” (1911/12, National Gallery of Denmark), Delaunay's “La Ville de Paris [The City of Paris] ”(Musée d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) and Leger's“ La Noce [The Wedding] ”(Musée d'art moderne).

In the autumn of 1912, the Cubist contributions to the Salon d’Automne sparked another scandal about the use of public funds that even preoccupied the city administration. From this debate Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes wrote "Du Cubisme [On Cubism]", which was published in 1912. Above all, the submissions by Kupka, Delaunay, Léger, Picabia and Duchamp already showed properties that could no longer be reconciled with the concept of Analytical Cubism: They successively eliminated figural parts in order to advance towards abstraction. Above all, Kupka's exhibited pictures - "Amorpha-Fugue à deux couleurs" and "Amorpha chromatique chaude" (National Gallery, Prague) - but also Delaunay "Simultaneous Windows on the City" (1912, Hamburger Kunsthalle) are pioneering achievements in non-representational painting. In 1913/14 Léger carried out a series entitled “Contrasts of Forms”, in which he dealt with the subjects of mechanization and modern life with abstract forms. In “Les Peintres cubistes” (1913), Guillaume Apollinaire referred to this direction of cubism as Orphism, although the works of the artists mentioned are so different that no common line can be discerned.

The show “Salon de la Section d'Or” in the La Boétie gallery in Paris in October 1912 is considered to be the most important exhibition of the Cubists before the First World War Participants presented. Since the artists presented their development since 1909, this exhibition already had a retrospective character.

Since Paris was the European metropolis for contemporary art before the First World War, many international artists stayed on the Seine. They carried the theory of cubism to Russia, translated the concept into plastic and architecture.

Orphism - Apollinaire's "colored cubism"

The poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire distinguished four different currents within Cubism in a lecture in 1912. In doing so, stimulated by the colorful paintings by the artist Robert Delaunay, he spoke of an “Orphic” Cubism. Delaunay, however, firmly rejected the term for his paintings.

Apollinaire developed his approach further to the idea of ​​Orphism. By this he understood a painting that detached itself from the reproduction of external reality and expressed an "ideal beauty". He was one of the first to describe a completely abstract art in which cubist, futuristic and expressionist approaches are combined. The outbreak of World War I ended the attempt to establish Orphism as a radical avant-garde movement. Even if Robert Delaunay did not find access to the term orphism, the term has prevailed.

Reception of Cubism in German Expressionism

“What is Cubism? First and foremost, the conscious will to restore the knowledge of measure, volume and weight in painting. ”(Roger Allard, The Characteristics of Renewal in Painting, in: Der Blaue Reiter (Almanach of the artist community of the same name), Munich 1912)

Munich painters, including Adolf Erbslöh, Erma Bossi and Alexander Kanoldt, show from 1909/10 a similar tendency to simplify the “synthesis” of the subject in order to achieve increased expression. The emphasis on the tectonics of the objects or portraits did not mean, however, that the German avant-garde painters also achieved fragmented multiple perspectives like their Paris colleagues.

The future colleagues of the Blue Rider were able to get to know the art of early Cubism for the first time (outside Paris) at the 2nd NKVM exhibition (September 1-14, 1910) in the Tannhauser Gallery. The French avant-garde was particularly well represented with pictures by Georges Braque, André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault and Maurice de Vlaminck. Braque and Picasso were first introduced as the founders of Cubism in Germany shortly after the Sonderbund exhibition in Düsseldorf in the summer of 1910.

If the future painters of the Blue Rider owed a lot to Cubism, Robert Delaunay in particular should be mentioned here, on a philosophical level they were concerned with a completely different goal. Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky emphasized letting the spiritual take shape in art. The spiritual character of the Blue Rider clearly distinguishes it from the formal analyzes of Cubism. Marc and August Macke found luminous color, colored light and the dissolution of form primarily in the work and theoretical writings of Robert Delaunay. Marc in particular was drawn to colored, Orphic Cubism (at the same time he received the rhythmic fragmentation of the Italian Futurists). Formal adoptions from Cubism allowed him to merge the animal more closely with its surroundings. However, it should not be forgotten that this is an expressive reinterpretation of Cubist concepts. Marc as well as August Macke owed a lot to Delaunay, as their entire mature work until 1914 was permeated by his colored prisms (color energy according to Delaunay). All of these observations relate exclusively to Analytical Cubism of 1911/12. Synthetic Cubism was mainly taken up by Paul Klee due to the war in German painting. Klee used collaged forms, integrated letters (as symbols) and built his landscapes and figures according to tectonic principles.

“The young French and Russians who exhibited as guests then had a liberating effect. They made people think, and one understood that art is about the deepest things, that renewal must not be formal, but is a rebirth of thought. Mysticism awoke in souls and with it ancient elements of art. It is impossible to try to explain the last works of these 'savages' from a formal development and reinterpretation of Impressionism. […] The most beautiful prismatic colors and the famous Cubism have become meaningless as a goal for these 'savages'. Their thinking has a different goal: through their work of their time to create symbols that belong on the altars of the coming spiritual religion and behind which the technical producer disappears. ”(Franz Marc, Die› Wilden ‹Deutschlands, November 1911)

The reception of modern art was particularly intense in Germany, as the recordings of the Cubists in the Cologne Sonderbund exhibition in May 1912 show. Pablo Picasso was given his own room with thirteen Cubist works, something that would have been completely unthinkable in Paris.

In December 1913, an exhibition with works by Picasso and African sculptures opened in the New Gallery of the painter and graphic artist Otto Feldmann in Lennéstraße 6a in Berlin, a branch of his Cologne gallery: 44 paintings, 11 drawings and watercolors as well as 13 etchings by Picasso from the Years 1907 to 1913 and also 19 African objects, 18 wooden sculptures and a bronze from Benin were on display.

After an exhibition in Munich, this was the second major Picasso exhibition in Germany, which, like the Futurist exhibition by Herwarth Walden in April 1912, caused a shock in Berlin. In January 1914 the magazine “Kunst und Künstler” published a review by Karl Scheffler, who rejected the adaptation of African models and also viewed Picasso's cubist development with skepticism. Other critics were appalled at the audacity to put ethnographic objects on the pedestal of high art. Nevertheless, the confrontation between the German Expressionists and the Parisian avant-garde had clearly borne fruit. While the Munich painters of the Blauer Reiter were primarily interested in Robert Delaunay's color and light concept, Cubism conveyed the qualities of art from sub-Saharan Africa to the Brücke painters, who had now moved to Berlin.

Major Cubist Artists

Guan Gris (1887-1921)

The Spanish painter Juan Gris moved to Bateau-Lavoir in 1908 and became Picasso's studio neighbor. In 1911 he began to deal with Analytical Cubism and became one of the leading painters of this style during the 1910s. In 1912 he portrayed Pablo Picasso (Art Institute of Chicago) and wrote the first Introduction to Cubism.

Gris ‘preferred subject was the still life, which he always reassembles from the few objects in his studio. As he emphasized, he used a deductive method:

“I go from the general to the particular, i. H. I start from an abstraction in order to arrive at a concrete reality, my art is an art of synthesis […] Cézanne made a cylinder out of a bottle, I start from a cylinder in order to make a single thing of the type of a bottle. "

In works of Synthetic Cubism he supplemented illusionistically painted surfaces (use of stencils) with drawn elements, which results in a complex layering of things.

Fernand Léger (1881–1955)

Robert Delaunay (1885-1941)

→ Robert Delaunay and Paris

Albert Gleizes (1881–1953)

The cubist Albert Gleizes turned to synthetic cubism in 1913/14. He perceived painting as “colored architecture” and emphasized its decorative quality by using bright colors in strong contrasts.

Jean Metzinger (1883-1956)

Before Jean Metzinger became aware of the art of Picasso, he had gone through a phase of impressionism and pointillism (→ Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh - ways of pointillism). With "The Blue Bird" (1912, Musée d’art modern de la ville de Paris) he created a major work of Cubism. He depicted three complexly nested female nudes next to and behind one another on a terrace. The middle, standing woman holds the blue bird from which the title is based in her hands and leads it to her mouth. The white dome of the Sacre Coeur appears above it, on the right a steamer tears a “hole” into the pictorial space (and also the narrative). Compositional issues, such as formal correspondences and connections, become visible in the image structure.

Alexander Archipenko (1887–1964)

Henri Laurens (1885-1954)

Like Picasso, Henri Laurens also worked with found materials such as pieces of sheet metal or wood. For him, spatial problems were in the foreground, which he implemented visually with collaged and assembled objects.

Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973)

Lipschitz's anthropomorphic sculptures connect the negative with the positive space for the first time, such as the "holes" between arms and torso.

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968)

Duchamp expanded Cubism to include the movement factor, which he had come to know in Futurism. With the painting “Nude, Descending a Staircase” (1912), he introduced rhythm and movement as central themes.

Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945)

The architect understood the cube as the basic form of any architecture and was the first to implement a building with unadorned facades (cf. Adolf Loos “Ornament is crime”) and a functional room structure. The cubist architecture shows similar solutions as the Bauhaus and the International Style.


  • Cosmos Cubism (exhibition cat. Kunstmuseum Basel, March 30 - August 4, 2019), Munich 2019.
  • Lisa Werner, Cubism is exhibiting. The Salon de la Section d'Or, Paris 1912, Berlin 2011.
  • Katharina Schmidt, Hartwig Fischer (ed.), A house for cubism. The Raoul La Roche Collection. Picasso, Braque, Léger, Gris - Le Corbusier and Ozenfant (exhibition cat. Kunstmuseum Basel, 8.7.-11.10.1998), Basel 1998.