The Moderns--3

[ Picasso and Braque]

 

Perhaps the most familiar name in modern art is that of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973.)

Young Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris in 1900, where he saw and experienced the art world of the fin de siècle; in that Post-Impressionist milieu, he absorbed something of Van Gogh's and Gauguin's "discontent with the spiritual ills of Western civilization..." (Janson 336.) Even before the Great War, when many of the fears and dashed hopes of the mal de siècle were realized in the horror of the trenches, some artists portrayed a "self-conscious preocuppation with decadence, evil, and darkness..." (336). In his so-called "blue period," the young Picasso conveyed the mood of melancholy in his series of paintings of beggars, clowns, street people. His The Old Guitarist (1903) captures something of the essence of Picasso in these years.
Around 1905, the same time as the Fauvists and the famous Salon d'Automne, Picasso and Georges Braque moved in the direction of Abstraction, experimenting and working together to develop Cubism. Both Picasso and Braque spent time in the Trocadero, Paris' Museum of Ethnography, where they stood transfixed before recently acquired masks and sculptures from Africa. "African art...with its purposeful distortions of space, scale, and location, provided a major impetus for these artists" (Witt 405).
The African influence is palpable in Picasso's post- blue period works. In 1907, he produced his "monumental" and "outrageous" Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Avignon not being the former papal city in southern France but the "notorious" street of prostitution in Barcelona (Janson 345). To this day, art historians analyze its "compositon, detail, message, intent. ...Picasso...used primitive art as a battering ram against the Classical perception of beauty" (345). One critic opined that the canvas "'resembles a field of broken glass'" (345).

< http://www.moma.org/docs/exhibitions/current/ >

There seemed no end to Picasso's genius or his ability to shock, stun, redefine the very nature of painting. In The Man with the Violin, (1912) Picasso experimented with "balance, harmony, contrast of color, texture, and form" in what came to be known as the cubist style (Witt 405). The term "cubist" was intended by the critics of the day as a derogatory comment on the new style.

< http://www.hipernet.ufsc.br/wm/paint/auth/picasso/music/ >

In 1912, Picasso painted The Three Musicians in which he added bright color to his rational and orderly cubist methodology (Witt 406) The painting is a complicated one with overlapping, complicated, superimposed views of the earlier Man with a Violin (406). "The simple, vivid colors, along with the intersecting forms of the musicians and their instruments, create a rhythmic movement that visually echoes the syncopations of jazz" (406).

< http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/hoving/hoving1-17-8.asp >

There was more innovation to come. With his friend Georges Braque, Picasso added collage to his Cubist style. The Man with a Hat (1912,) almost like an African "power figure (inkisi,) gains strength, power, and impact from what is attached or added on: in this case cut and pasted scraps of paper. Art historian and critic Janson comments on the evolution of "facet cubism" to "collage cubism": "The ingredients of a collage...play a double role: they have been shaped and combined, then drawn or painted upon...to give them a representational meaning, but they retain their original identity as scraps of material. Thus, their function is both to represent...and to present.... [t]hey endow a collage with a self-sufficiency..." (347).

< http://www.hipernet.ufsc.br/wm/paint/auth/picasso/portraits/ >

Arguably his most famous work, Picasso's Guernica (1937) commemorates the destruction of a Basque village of that name during the Spanish Civil War. The "saturation bombing" of a civilian target was the first of its kind, to be replicated--tragically--again and again in the wars of the 20th century. Filled with symbolism and redolent with images from Spanish history (including Goya's The Shootings of the Third of May, 1808,) Picasso chose not to paint the bombing or the bombed village, but to "evoke the terror and destruction of war" (Witt 406).

< http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/art-history/werckmeister/Jan_y_2000/ >

Georges Braque (1882-1963) came under the influence of the Fauvists when he moved to Paris in 1900; there he was also profoundly influenced by Picasso.

Georges Braque was a pioneering French Modernist--often associated with his friend Picasso--who combined painting with print making with collage and helped to launch cubism (Smith C23). Art critic Smith comments on his "overheated Fauvist efforts of 1906-1907" to his "opulent still lifes of the 1930s and 1940s" and his "crowded and shadowy studio interiors of the 1950s" to of course, "Braque the Cubist" (C23). According to Smith, Braque would comment that "he and Picasso were roped together like mountaineers in their invention of Cubism" (C23).
For a slide show of a recent Braque exhibition, follow link

Art critics credit these two, Braque and Picasso, with defining the new style of Cubism (Hodge and Anson 1) In 1907, Braque painted The Terrace of Hotel Mistral. The influence of Matisse and the Fauvists is particularly strong.

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/braque/mistral.jpg.html >

Braque's large compositions, both during and after his Cubist period of collaboration with Picasso, continued to focus on "representing the world...from a number of different viewpoints (Hodge and Anson 1). Large Nude of 1908 and Bottles and Fishes of 1910 exemplify his style.

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/braque/lg_nude.jpt.html >

 

Bottles and Fishes (1910)

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/braque/fishes.jpg.html >

 

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INCOMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Smith, Roberta. "The Other Father of Cubism." The New York Times: Weekend Arts.
October 14, 2011.

 

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