In the early 1900s, artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Bracque developed a new avant-garde style of modern art called "Cubism." Cubism eschewed realism and sought to depict subjects in a far more abstract manner in an attempt to redefine the Classical concept of beauty. Although the Cubist movement was short-lived, its influence was felt in varied areas beyond the world of art.
As its name implies, Cubist paintings feature small cubes and geometric shapes that overlap and layer on each other to create an abstract image of the subject being painted. Picasso's 1907 painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is considered to be his first truly Cubist work, as it demonstrates a core characteristic of Cubism by portraying a figure from different vantage points within the same painting.
The Cubist movement was more or less over by the time World War I began, but its influence continued to be felt long afterward. This is apparent in the style of Art Deco, which was directly influenced by Cubism. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Cubist-inspired Art Deco was integrated into artwork, fashion, jewelry, interior design, furniture and architecture.
Cubist ideas also influenced musicians. An example of this can be seen in composer Igor Stravinsky's "Piano-Rag-Music," a piece he wrote for solo piano. Stravinsky drew his inspiration for the piece from the ragtime music that was popular in America during the early 1920s. Using the conceptual philosophy underlying Cubism, Stravinksy combined rhythmic and harmonic elements from ragtime with Russian symphonic influences.
Cubism also made its way into the literature of the 1920s. This was especially true of poetry, with the abstract work of poets such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude Stein and Pierre Reverdy all bearing Cubist elements, such as destruction of grammar, strange or absent punctuation and the use of free verse. Poet Guillaume Apollinaire was inspired by Synthetic Cubism, an offshoot of Cubism that involved deconstructing the subject and reassembling it using small, overlapping planes. Apollinaire attempted to create a new form of poetry in this manner by integrating drawings and collages into his poetry.
Cubism was highly influential in the art world as other artists took inspiration from the ideas of Picasso and Bracque and integrated these ideas into their own work. Offshoots of Cubism included Analytical Cubism, Synthetic Cubism, Orphic Cubism, Purism and Futurism, each of which took the core concept into new directions
The Cubist movement can also be seen in the way women's fashions changed in the early 20th century, as rounded, balloon-shaped gowns gave way to the clean, linear look favored by the flappers of the "Roaring '20s." In fact, a 1999 exhibit at the Costume Institute of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a number of fashions from that period that presented a visual argument that Cubism was largely responsible for this change.
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