Cubism: A Geometry of France

Juan Gris's portrat of Picasso in 1912.
Juan Gris's portrat of Picasso in 1912. | Source

Media Coverage of Cubism in the 1950s

An article in an issue of Time Magazine from 1956 sums up some very important facts in determining who might bee the Father of Cubism.

Art: THE CUBIST'S CUBIST; Monday, Aug. 06, 1956; Time Magazine.

This article states that the young artist, Juan Gris, had accumulated only the most basic arts training in Madrid, Spain before relocating to France in order to be near Picasso at Rue Ravignan in 1906. It was there in 1907 that Picasso created Les Demoiselles d' Avignon, called "the first cubist painting." However, Gris was already developing his own style within cubism, according to Time.

This suggests to me that Gris was the most original of the founders of Cubism and could be called its father. He is said to have never thought about the concept of "cubism" per se, and that his style felt natural to him. To me, that makes a founder - one already performing in a style that others are considering inventing. In fact, Time called Juan Gris "the purist cubist of them all."

Gris himself did a cubist portrait of Picasso, presented to the right and it is an enjoyable work. Of Picasso's own works, I most admire Guernica, which PBS presented in their documentary Guernica: Testimony of War (Reference: included at PBS.org). The artist's role is often to move the public to emotion, thought, and action; this painting in its political and artistic aspects has done all of that.

Cubism uses geometric shapes. Here are the square, the cube, and the tesseract representing the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th dimensions. A reporter early on called precubist works "tiny cubes." Some early cubists used cylinders or rectangles. One used triangles
Cubism uses geometric shapes. Here are the square, the cube, and the tesseract representing the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th dimensions. A reporter early on called precubist works "tiny cubes." Some early cubists used cylinders or rectangles. One used triangles

University of Southern California (USC)

USC hosts the superb CUBISM IMAGE BANK online at their online page at http://www.usc.edu/dept/architecture/slide/babcock/. The line of Cubist artists they present takes this order:

  • Georges Braque
  • Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906) - His work is considered the precursor to Cubism and it was rejected many times by the French art world.
  • Marc Chagall (1889 - 1985)
  • Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968) - Famous for Nude Descending a Staircase in 1912
  • Juan Gris
  • Fernand Leger (1897 - 1955) - Developed a style of cylindrical Cubism.
  • Piez Mondrian (1872 - 1944) - Painted famous rectangle pictures.
  • Pablo Picasso

Nude Descending a Staircase #2

Marcel Duchamp, 1912
Marcel Duchamp, 1912 | Source
"Artillery" by Fresnaye in 1911
"Artillery" by Fresnaye in 1911 | Source

Violin and Checkerboard

Juan Gris, 1913
Juan Gris, 1913 | Source

Developmental Considerations

The first mention I see of Cubism comes in the lifetime of Maurice Tete (1880- 1940), born in France, as indicated on AskArt Academicat askart.com. Tete studied with William Bouguereau (angels and human figures), but gave up this traditional style for a bent toward neo-impressionism, later interesting himself in Cubism as he progressed to the more geometrical concepts. He may have been one of the first cubists or pre-cubists.

Tete may or may not have dabbled with Cubism before Picasso's first cubist work, but some authorities state that artist Henri Matisse invented the name "Cubism" in 1909. Other sources report that the press called certain painters' works "made up of little cubes" and that evolved into the name "Cubism."

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) was born in Spain. He completed the first acknowledged cubist portrait in 1906, but his training had been in other styles. He was able to paint in classical, cubist, and expressionistic styles and became quite well known, as he is today.

George Braque (1882 - 1963) was a Frenchman that began his artist's instruction by painting houses and studying décor. He also studied painting on canvas at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Humbert. He began to perfect for himself Impressionism and its evolution into Fauvism. Viewing Picasso's first cubist work, Braque approached him to collaborate on Cubism as an artistic style in France. Over some years, he added his own personality to Cubism, becoming recognized as an innovator from the viewpoint of the later 20th and 21st Century. As an innovator, he might be considered a Father of Cubism.

Roger de la Fresnaye (1885 - 1925) - This French painter was born into an aristocratic family, trained formally, and influenced by Picasso and Braque. However, his work was more decorative in content and color (see example).

Juan Gris (1887 - 1927) was born in Spain and moved to France to study with Picasso, but already had natural tendencies toward Cubism without thinking about it [see introduction to this article, above]. Picasso and Braque went about consciously developing Cubism, which Gris was already doing to an extent. Gris is likely an important Father of Cubism.

Stuart Davis (1892 - 1964) was an American very much influenced by the school of Cubism. He added Realism into Cubism and creates an individual style. He seems largely responsible for bringing Cubism to the US from France initially after living and working there in the 1920s. Interestingly, he produced murals for the WPA in the 1940s. He might be considered the Father of American Cubism.

Some additional artists developed styles within Cubism in Eastern Europe and Russia as well.

Fathers of Cubism

Considering the materials available about Cubism and its precursors in several countries, I have my own opinion about who is the father or fathers of the French Cubist Art School (Style). To me,

  1. Gris, Braque, and Picasso all supplied major input and collaboration toward Cubism.
  2. Braque supplied a great deal of innovation to Cubism, making him a father of the movement in this way by developing it extensively.
  3. As a young man from Madrid, Gris supplied natural tendencies toward Cubism even before coming to France to work under the older, established artist Picasso and this makes Gris the natural father of Cubism. This also seems to make Cubism Spanish.
  4. Picasso seems to have been the most popular in Cubism overall and may have made the most money from it in his lifetime, compared to other cubists.

My opinion may not agree with those opinions of art historians, instructors, and artists practicing today; I'd like to see some opions from other Hubbers as well.

I do know what I like, however, and my favorite works of Cubism are on this page. Thanks for reading..

Artistic Flash

I have just experienced a flash of enlightenment. It comes back to me now that in 1st grade, my teacher did not like my cubist trees in drawing class, telling me they were "bad" things, expressly because of their style.

How inappropriate is that?

I may go and draw some cubist trees right now.

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Comments 17 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Fascinating! Makes me want to go back to my art history classes!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

The Time Magazine article really put me on the better path, I think :) Thanks for posting, steph!


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

Another great Hub. To say cubism really puts things into "perspective" is a play on words and an understatement, but it is true. What most of us novices think - and that includes those of us who have a hard time imagining or seeing shapes - is that a fourth dimension has been revealed. Thanks for your efforts. Don White


Devilhimself profile image

Devilhimself 6 years ago

Very well answered, thank you...but my interest is in your opinion - by the way, I'm fan of you Patty (how I wish you were - not here(!!!) - Smith!)


Lisa Luv profile image

Lisa Luv 6 years ago from Conneticut, USA

Very interesting article. Thank You. As an artist veriying in to different styles my proffessor in painting & drawing would for example compiling illustrations for a book, request I do 2 different books using the two different styles, one of them being a variation of Cubism (my own cubistic style) I actually chose Picasso's Cubism to emmulate as we were required to copy a master. I love cubism and use it often naturally in much of my work.

I even today while doing some practice studies noticed I could not help reverting after a while to a cubistic drawing within faces and such. Thank You again for this very informative article. Kudo's! May the rest of your week be filled withdelight!


Itswritten profile image

Itswritten 6 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

I have always love art , thanks this art form is beautiful.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Don - I read "Flatland" and "Sphereland" and became even more interested in the 4th dimension a few years ago. And, geometry is a favorite.

Devilhimself! - I'm glad you asked this question - it brought back my cubist trees incident and a lot of thought. I will enjoy cubism ever so much more now :)

Lisa Luv - I will be reasding your Hubs and hopefully seeing some of your art works presented!

Itswritten - Cubism is indeed beautiful and different from other styles. Glad you like it!


Roland Tumble 6 years ago

I'm sorry--I just voted this Down when I meant Up. Very nice introductory article.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Don't worry, I've done that myself form time to time. Thanks for the posting!


Wild cherry 6 years ago

Very interesting hub! I like cubism and I find fascinating the way these artists "saw" the objects and the world :)


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Oddly, I've never been a fan of most modern art, but I love Cubism. Looking at it here, it strikes me as "Art Deco-ish," or more correctly, the other way around. I wonder if Art Deco is rooted in Cubism? It certainly appears so, to me anyway, but is it an intended growth from it or subconsciously influenced by it? Hmmm. Great article as always, Patty!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Wild cherry - I'm beginning to look at this art style in a new light myself, and enjoying it more than ever.

Christoph - It IS rather like Art Deco, which if it began in the mid-1920s, could have influenced Cubism early on, don't you think? I like both. Thanks for visiting.


Mahfuza Urpa profile image

Mahfuza Urpa 6 years ago from Bangladesh

I have enjoyed this hub. It gives me more inform about art.

Thank you:)


Mohamed Mughal 6 years ago

Cubism is such a powerful technique for creative expression, both visual AND literary.

Good article!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I really enjoyed reading this - and your "Artistic flash" is so real. How many people have been put off good ideas by the rash judgemental statements of "teachers" I wonder!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on cubism. The history of the style is sometimes a little muddy. Herbert Read, in "A Concise History of Modern Painting", points out that "The individual contributions made to the formation of the Cubist style by the members of this group (the Groupe du Bateau-Lavoir)are difficult to distentangle, but it would be a mistake to look on Picasso as a dominating influence." Juan Gris was certainly a key contributer to the group, but so was Braque. I just wonder if we can ever know (and does it matter in the end?) if he did the first Cubist painting. Read also points out the decisive influence of Cezanne and African art on the group.

Love and peace

Tony


gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 6 years ago from L'America

Great article! and Henry Ford did not invent the horseless carriage! ha! ... My art studies in Europe exposed me to much that an education here in the states would not have provided. One thing i learned was to do my research before I opened my mouth. Thanks for the clarity and correct information on a subject I find fundamental in understanding the modern movement...voted "Up" Peace- greg z


France Travel Inf profile image

France Travel Inf 5 years ago

I thoroughly enjoyed your article - I love finding mathematics in real life situations!

http://www.france-travel-info.com

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