Cubism and modernity

Cubism and modernity

  • The guitar, a statue of terror.

    BRAQUE Georges (1882 - 1963)

  • Still life on the table

    BRAQUE Georges (1882 - 1963)

  • Little head.

    LAURENS Jean-Paul (1838 - 1921)

To close

Title: The guitar, a statue of terror.

Author : BRAQUE Georges (1882 - 1963)

Creation date : 1913

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 100

Technique and other indications: Charcoal, gouache, glued papers.

Storage place: National Picasso Museum Paris website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Picture reference: 90-005997 / MP1990381

The guitar, a statue of terror.

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: Still life on the table

Author : BRAQUE Georges (1882 - 1963)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: 1914

Dimensions: Height 48 - Width 62

Technique and other indications: Charcoal, papers pasted on paper.

Storage place: National Museum of Modern Art - Center Pompidou website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - © All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 34-000241-02 / AM1984-354

Still life on the table

© ADAGP, Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: Little head.

Author : LAURENS Jean-Paul (1838 - 1921)

Creation date : 1915

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 30 - Width 13

Technique and other indications: Polychrome wood and iron sheet.Construction / Title attributed: Small head.

Storage place: National Museum of Modern Art - Center Pompidou website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - © All rights reserved

Picture reference: 35-000192-01 / AM1537S

© ADAGP, Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Publication date: June 2007

Historical context

A new urban environment

The end of the XIXe century and the beginning of the XXe have experienced an unprecedented change in living and working conditions. Technical inventions such as cars, telephones, electricity and balloons were changing the way of life; cinema and the craze for sports were emerging ...

In front of so many novelties, the young artists could not remain indifferent. Among French artists, Robert Delaunay painted the Eiffel Tower and, with André Derain, he found inspiration in team sports such as rugby.

The Cubists, although more preoccupied with formal problems and focused on the representation of their intimate world, were also interested in manifestations of a pervasive contemporaneity. The works of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Laurens testify more subtly to recent changes that have taken place in their microcosm of Montmartre.

Image Analysis

A discreet iconographic and material modernity

Lots of cubist works, like The Guitar, a statue of terror, include letters, drawn words ("concert", "ron"), painted with a stencil or quite simply sketched on the support stuck on the canvas (newspaper, advertising…). For Apollinaire, these writings are intimately linked to the Parisian visual environment: the cubists “introduced into their works of art letters of signs and other inscriptions because, in a modern city, the inscription, the sign , advertising, play a very important artistic role ”.

The visual significance of the advertising material was such that they even included fragments of it: an advertisement for the Gillette safety razor in Still life on the table, for the Tivoli cinema in The Guitar, a statue of terror, but also for brands of underwear, electric lamps, department stores… If they thus revealed, as Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, their merchant, remarked, a “new universe of beauty, the one concealed in the posters , storefronts, advertising placards ”, the very choice of items included is not trivial: they most often evoke objects that have recently become commonplace and which characterize modernity particularly well. As such, the cinema program is, for example, highly significant.

The very materials of the pasted papers and the constructions play their part in this evocation of modern life: they are manufactured mechanically, correspond to new industries. This is the case with "faux wood" wallpapers used by Braque, produced in the factory to replace hand-painted wallpapers, or sheet metal used by Laurens, from a rapidly developing metallurgical sector.

Interpretation

Conscious and unconscious modernity

Through certain elements of their iconography (letters, advertisements, newspapers, etc.) and their industrial materials, the works of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Laurens are firmly rooted in their time. They thus stood against the artist’s usual isolation, taking refuge in his ivory tower, out of the world, concerned only with aesthetic problems and the art of the past.
But the reference to modernity is also creeping more insidiously into the very techniques of manufacturing glues and constructions. With the introduction of ready-made elements, the creative processes are largely reduced to collage, the assembly of pre-existing materials, almost a single gesture. Artists then seem to imitate industrial production processes and workers' modes of operation: the division of labor which leads to segmentation and deskilling of labor, the making of an object now being carried out by several people and being restricted to movements. simple repeated. Like the worker assembler joining parts he did not shape with his hands, Braque glues, Laurens welds together parts made by others. They limit the technical difficulty of artistic creation.

We should of course not see in this last reconciliation an entirely conscious will on the part of the cubists, and the idea of ​​impregnation seems on the contrary to be more appropriate: the concerns of an era always contaminate the work of artists without even knowing it. . On the other hand, it is obvious that, in their minds, pasted papers and constructions, thanks to the use of elements taken from their environment and of processes unheard of in the art world, concretized their search for new and modern means. ; in their eyes they embodied the most radical artistic modernity, that is, the one that best suited their time.

  • cubism
  • modernism
  • Apollinaire (Guillaume)
  • Artistic current
  • futurism
  • modernity

Bibliography

Guillaume Apollinaire, Art chronicles, 1902-1918, Paris, Gallimard, 1960 [collection of artistic reviews published between 1902 and 1918]. Pierre DAIX, Journal of Cubism, Paris-Geneva, Skira, 1982.Daniel-Henry KAHNWEILER, Aesthetic confessions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963 [collection of unpublished texts or texts published between 1919 and 1955]. Florian RODARI, Collage, glued papers, torn papers, cut papers, Geneva, Skira, 1988.

To cite this article

Claire LE THOMAS, "Cubism and modernity"


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