Modernist Monday: Fauvism and Cubism

 

Welcome to the first part of the Modernist Monday series.  In the last few weeks I have read about many different movements and styles that contributed to the development of modernist art.  Today I want to present a quick look at Fauve and Cubist art.

The Post Impressionist period, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,  created a new perspective on art.  Moving into new directions, away from the rules of their formal artistic training. Groups like the Fauves and Cubists continued the departure from pure representation of reality started by the Impressionists.  In this time of great change and competition in Europe, the visual arts were at the leading edge of social transformation.  And the centre of this change was within the creative caldron of Paris.

Join me after the break for more.

The beginning of the 20th century was a turbulent time of change.  New technologies like the airplane and automobile changed transportation.  The invention of the elevator and new high-rise building techniques allowed for ever taller skyscrapers.  Urbanization was continuing, as suburban regions around cities expanded outwards. Change in the art world was equally fast paced as old forms were thrown aside as avant-garde artists willfully subverted tradition(1).

One group of avant-garde artists, based out of Paris, were the Fauves. Fauvism was characterized by bright colour, strong emotion, brash brush strokes and simplification of detail(2).  Two artists who associated with Fauvism, Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, would influence many of the young artists who came to Paris at the turn of the century.

One such artist was a young Spaniard named Pablo Picasso.  The ambitious Picasso became a friend and rival of Matisse as they challenged each other with new forms of art.   The story of Picasso and Matisse can be seen in this video link to a 2003 Charlie Rose Show discussion of an exhibit of both artists at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Above is Charing Cross Bridge in London an example Fauvism from Andre Derain.  The bright use of pure colour and simplified forms both foreground (boats) and background (buildings) objects are characteristic of Fauve works.

The colour and simplification of Fauves leads other Parisian based artists to develop a more abstract form of representation with less colour.  Cubism was born of experimentation by Picasso and George Braque.  Unlike the Fauves bright, decorative work, Cubism focused on the substance of objects in space(3) From 1908-1912, the working relationship between Picasso and Braque was described by the latter saying “’We were like two mountain climbers roped together.’”(4)

Early Cubism was an experiment in representing simple objects, like a bottle, from different points of view at the same time.  Called Analytic Cubism Picasso and Braque would dissect the forms of a subject and look at the pictorial elements for meaning (5)

Quietly going about their experiments, Picasso and Braque’s friends began to see the unusual paintings and soon a group of Cubists were producing art. Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger and Henri Le Fauconnier all began a dialogue, in words and art, with Cubism. (6)

Below, a work of Delaunay shows a change in subject from the everyday still-lifes and other traditional art subjects explored by Picasso and Braque to one of urban life.  The use of colour in particular was influential, moving away from the dull shades of early Cubism into more vibrant hues. (7)

Picasso and Braque continued on their experiments, developing Synthetic Cubism around 1912.  By using paper and other materials to represent parts of the subject, Cubists could play with elements beyond paint and canvas. (8)  Braque’s “Woman with Guitar,” the header image for this post, is a good example of Synthetic Cubism: there are pieces attached to the painting filling out the shoulders and guitar body.  The presence of stenciled words is another characteristic of the synthetic collage.

 

 

** Mouse over images for source info – click image for link

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End notes

(1) Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Western Perspective 12th Ed. vol. 2 (Toronto: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006) 748.

(2)Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Western Perspective 12th Ed. vol. 2 (Toronto: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006) 739-740.

(3) J M Nash, Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1974) 19.

(4) H.H. Arnason, Marla F. Prather and Daniel Wheeler eds. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography 4th ed. (NewYork: Prentice Hall Inc. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers 1998) 181.

(5) Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Western Perspective 12th Ed. vol. 2 (Toronto: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006) 746.

(6) H.H. Arnason, Marla F. Prather and Daniel Wheeler eds. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography 4th ed. (NewYork: Prentice Hall Inc. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers 1998) 209.

(7)Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Western Perspective 12th Ed. vol. 2 (Toronto: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006) 748.

(8) Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Western Perspective 12th Ed. vol. 2 (Toronto: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006) 748.

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Modernist Monday: Fauvism and Cubism

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