Approaches to Cubism

Gaiger, Jason (2004). Approaches to Cubism. In: Edwards, Steve and Wood, Paul eds. Art of the Avant-Gardes. London: Yale University Press, pp. 135–155.



Of all the labels given to movements in twentieth-century art, "Cubism" is perhaps the most misleading. At worst, it can encourage us to think of Cubism as little more than a mannerism - a style of painting in which the "touches" of Impressionism or the "dots" of Pointillism give way to hard-edged planes that allow the world to be represented in the more modern and mechanistic guise of interlocking boxes and cubes. Anyone who is tempted to interpret Cubism in this way is likely to be pulled up short by the assertion, to be found in just about every major study of the movement, that Cubism brought about the wholesale transformation of western art. For the art historian Robert Rosenblum, writing in 1959, it was as "revolutionary as the discoveries of Einstein or Freud", while for Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighten, writing at the start of the twenty-first century, it "initiated a pictorial revolution" that "transformed not just subsequent painting, sculpture and photography, but also architecture and design of everything from furniture to clothing to objects of everyday use". Claims such as these surely cannot rest merely on the development of a new style of painting, even one that broke with accepted notions of what a painting should look like.

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