What Is Cubism Art?

cubism-art Credit: Rich Lapenna/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Cubism was an early 20th century art form that rebelled against the basic artistic techniques of perspective, modeling and foreshortening. Rather than trying to imitate life, Cubist artists highlighted the flatness of the canvas, fracturing their subjects into geometric forms viewed from multiple angles. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are generally recognized as the creators of Cubism.

The Cubist movement first emerged in Paris between 1907 and 1914. French art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, devised the term Cubism after viewing a landscape painting by Braque. Some of Cubism's primary influences include Paul Cezanne's landscapes and the stylistic distortions of African art. In the earliest Cubist works, the painting's subject was still typically discernible. Picasso's famous "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," for example, features heavily distorted female figures that are still recognizable, and is a defining work of early Cubism.

As the movement progressed, Picasso and Braque entered a phase known as Analytic Cubism. These highly abstracted works reduced their subjects to a series of overlapping angles and planes, making no effort to represent actual objects or people. Typical subjects of Analytic Cubism included musical instruments, bottles, newspapers and human faces.

Braque and Picasso eventually moved on to Synthetic Cubism, which took their painting completely beyond representations of 3D space. These works featured large pieces of paper pasted onto the canvas, either cut to represent certain objects or adorned with newspaper or magazine imagery referencing the painting's subject.