What Is Cubism?

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Cubism refers to an avant-garde art movement that took place in the early 20th century, utilizing a formalist approach to creating art through geometric reduction and embodying the essential elements of an object. Study works by Pablo Picasso to understand cubism with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Modern Art History
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Video Transcript

Hi. Professor Betty Brown here on Cubism. Cubism is the avant garde movement that was developed by Pablo Picasso and his partner in crime, George Brock in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century. And what Cubism is, is an avant garde art movement that takes a certain approach to art making. It's a formalist approach, and it's a kind of formalist, geometric reduction. I always think of Cubism as embodying three essential elements. First, a geometric vocabulary, so that forms are reduced to angles and squares and circles and arcs, not the messy, biomorphic forms of naturalism, but a geometric vocabulary. Secondly, Cubist art does not reproduce the external appearance of things. Pablo Picasso did all kinds of amazing paintings of his beautiful, increasingly younger girlfriends, and they really didn't resemble his girlfriends much, at all. Third characteristic of Cubism is that Cubism was about analyzing form, analyzing structure from multiple perspectives. So, if you look at Pablo Picasso's girlfriend from one perspective, at..... in say a photograph, then you get her external appearance. But if you analyze her structure from all these different perspectives, moving through time and space as you do, then it's not going to look like she does in a photograph. Cubism is difficult for a lot of people to understand, because it's an intellectual pursuit. It's a very mental approach, rather than a gutsy, passionate, emotional one. Picasso did that as well, but the Cubism was an analytic approach to art making.


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