Modern Art – Cubism by Rosângela Vig

You can also listen to this article in the voice of own Plastic Artist Rosângela Vig:

Rosângela Vig is a Visual Artist and Teacher of Art History.

Admire the remarkable power

From this noble and commendable line:
She is the voice that came from the resonating light
That speaks Hermes Trismegistus in his Pimander. 1
(APOLLINAIRE, 1997, p.27)

The artist is the knight. His reins guide our gaze along the paths of dream and fantasy. Our imagination and our own aspirations are marveling in this itinerary. When dare the artificer to dare, adventures our gaze, our heart and our soul travel through new angles and unimaginable perspectives. We can be enchanted or simply be astonished by the Beautiful or the Sublime that time has uncovered. And time has been generous with our look. Art is an adventurous lady who reinvents herself relentlessly. And nothing was more venturesome than the Art that unleashed the figurative in the early 20th Century. Among the daring aesthetic trends of the new century Cubism was the most influential and revolutionary.

Detached from reality, painters explored a new mode of representation and the object was seen through lines, as if it were open, decomposed. And the style came to the aesthetic demonstrations , extended their arms in the field of literature and had as your chief representative Apollinaire. In his book Caligrammes 2 poetry speaks to the reader, through words and through pictures. The text fills the space and configures itself into images. Here, freedom prevailed, by means of loose ideas, arranged at random, as if in disorder, as if they were discontinuous.

The troubled period in which flourished Cubism was marked by great wars, among them, the Russian Revolution (1917); the World War I (1914-1918); the World War II (1939-1945); and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). But humanity also witnessed great advances of Technology and Communication, such as, the invention of television in 1925, by John Logie Baird (1888-1946); Albert Einstein (1879-1955) revolutionized the field of Physics with the Theory of Relativity (1905); Alberto Santos Dumont (1873-1932) got his 14-Bis to make the first flight in 1906; and Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) discovered the antibiotic functions of penicillin in 1928. And the period also watched the diffusion of the photography 3 that reproduced the real images, allowing the Art to be itself.

Amid this buzz saw painting scene flourish in France of 1907, the Cubism, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963). The origins of the style, however, go back a little earlier, still in Post-impressionism, at the end of the 19th Century, with Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) who had been working with the pure colors and representation of things, in the form of cylinders and cones. In 1911, the Cubism became popular and was broadcast to several countries in Europe and Brazil.


We are the generation of angry young people,
to emerge as cacti of fury
to change the face of time.
(MAIAKÓVSKI, in COSTA, 2003, p.30)

The deconstruction of the form and detachment of the Classic proposed by Cubism has also been revealed in Architecture and, in this field, it may be that the only representative country is the Czech Republic 4. Among the many architectural standards that the city of Prague, the capital, houses, the Cubism is present in many of its buildings. And maybe, among them, the most important is the House of the Black Madonna (The House at the Black Madonna) (Fig. 1).

Considered a masterpiece of Czech Cubism, the building was constructed between 1911 and 1912 and designed by the architect Josef Gočár (1880-1945). Its interior houses a museum dedicated to Cubism. On one of the corners, outside the building, stays the Baroque Stone statue that gives name to the construction (Fig. 2). Fully adjusted to the style of the region, organized simplicity of imposing façade reveals cubist traces in the immense angular windows, interspersed by columns. On the first floor, the Grand Café Orient is among the elegant environments that also ensure the Cubist character, with its ornamental items, such as chandeliers, decorative objects and furniture, full of geometric lines, cones and cylinders. There, a kind of game of light and shadow complements the idea of fragmentation of form with the diffusion and orientation of light, as if it also fractured, in the Cubist style.

Fig. 1 – Casa da Virgem Negra, Museu de Artes Decorativas. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Foto: Ondrej Kocourek.
Fig. 1 – House at the Black Madonna, Museum of Decorative Arts. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Photo: Ondrej Kocourek.


Even a part of an object has its value. A whole new realism lies on the way one considers an object or one of its parts. (Léger in MACK, 2014, p.323)

The style that reinvented the Art found fertile field in Sculpture. Freedom allowed artists to make tactile the decomposed images. The imagery field designed by Cubism in Painting, was also a model in Sculpture. In this sense, the search was for autonomy, for the detachment of reality, for the search for new materials and new techniques. The collage was one of them and through it it was possible the overlapping of geometric shapes, allowing the look to the sensation of volume and depth amidst the hollow fields and the full spaces.

These attributes were revealed in the works of great names like Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1873-1918) and Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), but it was by the hands of the great precursor of Cubism, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) that Sculpture acquired relevance 5. Picasso acted alongside with his friend Georges Braque (1882-1963), with whom he initiated, spreaded the style and shared ideas. More than just intersections of volumes and forms, the main features of Picasso's painting were also shown in his sculptural objects.

Flexibility in the use of materials can be observed in several objects such as The Goat 6. Close to Picasso's studio was a yard full of scrap metal and building materials. From this place, the artist removed pieces of ceramics and iron that used to form the skeleton of the animal and filled with plaster. A basket complemented the space that formed the thorax and two jars represent the udders. For the curvature of the spine and the muzzle palm leaves were used; and the artist still used remains of metal throughout the structure. The result was an amazing work, full of details of a real goat, with very lean legs, motionless. It is possible to recognize throughout the sculpture, traces of objects and iron used by Picasso. His freedom and the Cubist style was perceptible in the unconcern with form; in the roughness of the animal's skin; in the straight lines of the goat's back, legs and paws, Cubism features. The search for new lines and new textures left exposed a desire of escaping from the figurative and allowed him to move freely through the Art itself. Considered degenerated, many works by Picasso were taken from public collections by the Nazi regime. They are now part of collections of great museums in the world.

Following the straight lines of Cubism, the Big Horse (Fig. 3), of Raymond Duchamp-Villon seems to be about to jump. Unlike Picasso's Goat, the surface of the horse is smooth, composed of geometric figures that fit perfectly with the parts of the body they represent and, through them, the movements of the animal are emphasized. The brightness that permeates the empty and the filled spaces of the image brings up light and shadow, enabling the game of light and the dark, when filling the empty spaces highlighting the idea of ​​movement.

Fig. 2 – Casa da Virgem Negra, Museu de Artes Decorativas, Santa na lateral do prédio. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Foto: Ondrej Kocourek.
Fig. 2 – House at the Black Madonna, Museum of Decorative Arts, the Madonna at the corner of the building. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Photo: Ondrej Kocourek.


As part of a desire to get as close as possible to a certain kind of reality, in 1911 I introduced letters into my paintings (Braque in MACK, 2014, p.330)

Explore the simultaneous perspectives; associating them with the set of lines and colors; then escape from reality and, above all, decide to get away from the common, taking flight to different dimensions; perhaps among the initial design of Cubism. Little did the artists know that, by exploring these new fields, they would be forever changing the History of Art.

Traces of distancing from realism were already at the end of the 19th Century, with the work of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). His innovative way of painting consisted in reducing the pictorial spaces into cubes and cylinders, which was of fundamental contribution to Cubism. The Cézannian period is considered like the initial or preanalytic phase of Cubism, and took place between 1907 and 1909.

Picasso managed to go further, He altered Cézanne's lines, widening his field of vision, with straight, open, seen on the same plane simultaneously. Les Demoiselles D'Avignon 7 was the work of Picasso that inaugurated and opened the cubist style, in 1907. The protagonists of the scene are five prostitutes of a brothel in a famous neighborhood of Barcelona. The name Avignon, therefore, does not refer to a city of France, but to the street (Carrer Avinyó) of the Spanish city. The work broke the paradigms of traditional art by portraying five naked women, with simplified forms. The straight lines, angular lines demonstrate the influence of African Art and Iberian Art, with which Picasso had contact. The woman on the left wears a pink robe that covers her body; she seems to open the scene, pulling a curtain. In the center, there are two women standing and one sitting; behind her, another appears to be opening a room, from where she herself emerges. In sensual poses, they all seem to be wrapped in a kind of pink veil. Unaware of the fruits at the bottom of the scene, they look at the viewer. Picasso made several studies until arriving at the original painting. Among the works that may have influenced Picasso, are The Opening of the Fifth Seal or Vision of St. John, by El Greco (1541-1614); The Bathers, by Cézanne; and The Turkish Bath by Ingres (1780-1867).

A second phase was, between 1909 to 1912, when the use of colors became more moderate; geometrical shapes prevailed; and the works distanced themselves from the figurative. To this phase, which name was Analytical or Hermetic Cubism 8, corresponds to Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, from 1910, by Picasso. The image features the well-known Art dealer of the time, Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), whose face emerges amid the superimposed forms and soft nuances. It is possible to recognize the contours of the musical instrument in the image, its cords and risks of its timber.

From 1912, as an attempt to lead the look to real icons, were brought to the works, recognizable elements. In addition to working with more emphasis on colors, artists began to use collages, letters, newspaper pieces and objects. This period was named Synthetic Cubism 9. Among the works of this phase is Violin, from 1912, also from Picasso. It is possible to recognize the contours of the musical instrument in the image, its strings, the scratches of its wood and its contours.

Before reaching the Cubist forms, however, Picasso's work 10 went through two phases. The Blue phase, between 1901 and 1904, when the artist produced works in monochromatic tones, with subjects that went through the themes of sadness, solitude, and poverty. Among the facts that induced him to this period were the death of his eight-year-old sister Concepción and the suicide of his great friend Casagemas. From 1904, until 1907, the artist went through the pink phase, attributed to his passion for Fernande. The theme began to revolve around acrobats, mountebanks and circus elements, that fascinated Picasso so much. In the lines of Cubism, the artist worked together with Braque and, and often, their works were similar. Picasso went on to say: “It was as if we were married” (“It was as if we were married”) (GOLDING, 1991, p.41), such was the friendship and collaboration between the two. For the historian and art collector Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979), “in the evolution of the new Art, the contributions of Picasso and Braque hardly distinguish themselves” (in MACK, 2014, p.326). After World War I, Braque distanced himself from Art, because of war injuries. Picasso's work still went through a classic period during the 20 and for a period full of erotic scenes that included the figure of the Minotaur, in the 30, under the influence of Surrealism. In 1937, in the mold of Cubism, Picasso painted his most famous and well-known work, the Guernica panel 11, in which he expressed his repudiation of the bombing that killed hundreds of people in the Spanish city of the same name.

Picasso and Braque worked in Cubist Painting, alongside other artists such as Juan Gris (1887-1927); Fernand Léger (1881-1955); the great Mexican muralist painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957); and Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), in Brazil.

The end of Cubism came in 1914, when several intellectuals, writers and artists who joined the movement were recruited and dispersed, under the World War I. But the revolutionary style continued to inspire artists and other movements that forever modified the pictorial space.

<span style="color: #000000;">Fig. 3 – By: Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Large Horse, 1914. Bronze. Collection Tate. © Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Photo © Tate. Image released under</span> <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer">Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)</a><span style="color: #000000;">. Link to the </span> <a class="cubismo-ajuste-cel" href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener">work</a><span style="color: #000000;"> on the main Tate website.</span>
Fig. 3 – By: Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Large Horse, 1914. Bronze. Collection Tate. © Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Photo © Tate. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported). Link to the work on the main Tate website.

Final Considerations

The turtle
From Thracian magic, charm!

I play my lyre while
Animals go to the fast sound
Of my turtle and voice.
(APOLLINAIRE, 1997, p.29)

The troubled scenery in which Cubism flourished was fertile ground for artists. Guided by freedom, they emancipated themselves definitively from traditional forms. Boldness made the recreation of Aesthetics possible and was the trace left by the style the Art, in the Theater and also in the Literature. Challenging the conventions of written language, Guillaume Apollinaire's Poetry (1880-1918) privileged discontinuity, with phrases, often without verbs, with autonomous verses; rejecting the classical form. Fragmented thoughts have exposed simultaneous views of the same reflection. It is as if mixed and overlapping voices express various nuances of the same reasoning. Such overlapping thoughts, in much are the remembrance of the fragmentation of Cubist Painting.

According to Terry Eagleton (1943-),

Art recreates individual things in the form of their universal essences, and in doing so makes them inimitably themselves. In the course of this, it converts them from contingency to need, from dependence to freedom. What resists this alchemical process is purged as a particularistic refuse. (EAGLETON, 2005, p.85).

Receive news from Exhibitions and Events in general in our Whatsapp group!
*Only we post in the group, so there is no spam! You can come calmly.

There could be no better text to elucidate Art. Cubism delimited this framework of recreation. The style that flourished in troubled scenery, forever changed the standards of Modern Art. The chaos of the early twentieth century was fertile ground for the artist, who was faced with two big wars. There, Art found its space, followed its path being itself, in its essence, free; awakening a new kind of perception, linked to the intellect.

For Gasset (2005, p.50), “aesthetic pleasure has to be an intelligent pleasure”, it means, that it allows an awakening of ideas, and instigates critical thinking. Such reasoning fits the Cubist content. On these new routes of form, were at stake new languages, new possibilities, but, above all an in-depth insight into the epoch. Despite the criticism, Cubism allowed an innovation in codes and experiences, providing a different approach on enjoyment and on the artistic object. The work must awaken, as a silent spell, which echoes through the senses, without the impositions of reality.

1 Original in French:

Admire the remarkable power

And nobility of line:
It is the voice that was heard light
Which Hermes Trismegistus speaks in his Pimander
(APOLLINAIRE,1997, p.26)

2 Calligrams book Guillaume Apollinaire, French Caligrammes: Poems of Peace and War.

3 Video about the Photography History of Nicéphore Niépce:

4 Cubist Architecture:

5 Sculptures by Pablo Picasso:

6 The Goat by Pablo Picasso:

7 Les Demoiselles D'Avignon:

8 Analytical Cubism or Hermetic:

9 Synthetic Cubism:

10 Pablo Picasso Paintings:

11 Guernica by Pablo Picasso:

12 Original in French:

The turtle
Magic Thrace, o delirium !

My fingers are sure to ring the lyre.
The animals spend the sounds
From my turtle, my songs.
(APOLLINAIRE,1997, p.28)

Liked? [highlight]Leave a comment[/highlight]!


  1. APOLLINAIRE, Guillaume. O Bestiário ou Cortejo de Orfeu. São Paulo: Ed. Iluminuras, 1997. Translation and presentation of Álvaro Faleiros.
  2. BAYER, Raymond. História da Estética. Lisboa: Editorial Estampa, 1993. Tradução de José Saramago.
  3. BYSTRINA, Ivan. Semiotics of Culture Topics, Classrooms Yvan Bystrina. PUC – SP,CISC (Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Semiotics of Culture and Media). São Paulo: PRE-PRINT. Translation Norval Baitello Júnior and Sonia B.Castino, 1995.
  4. CALVINO, Italo. Por que ler os clássicos. 2to. edition. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1993. Tradução Nilson Moulin.
  5. CHILVERS, Ian; ZACZEK, Iain; WELTON, Jude; BUGLER, Caroline; MACK, Lorrie. História Ilustrada da Arte. São Paulo: Publifolha, 2014.
  6. COSTA, Eduardo Alves da. On the way, with Mayakovsky: Reunited poetry. São Paulo: generation Editorial, 2003.
  7. EAGLETON, Terry. A Idéia de Cultura. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2005.
  8. FARTHING, Stephen. Tudo Sobre a Arte. Rio de Janeiro: Sextante, 2011.
  9. GASSET, José Ortega y. The art of humanization. 5 to. Edition. São Paulo: Ed.Cortez, 2005.
  10. GOLDING, John. Modern Art Concepts. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1991.
  11. GOMBRICH, E.H. A História da Arte. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Guanabara, 1988.
  12. HAUSER, Arnold. História Social da Arte e da Literatura. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2003.
  13. KANT, Immanuel. O Belo e o Sublime. Pôrto:Livraria Educação Nacional Ltda. 1942.
  14. MARQUÉS, María José Mas. Geniuses of art: Picasso. Barueri: Ed. Sunflower, 2007. Mathias de Abreu Lima Filho translation.
  15. PROENÇA, Graça. Descobrindo a História da Arte. São Paulo: Editora Ática, 2005.
  16. SCHILLER, Friedrich Von. Naive and Sentimental Poetry. São Paulo: Ed.Iluminuras, 1991.
  17. SPENCE, David. Picasso Breaking the Rules. São Paulo: Cia Improvements, 2005. Translation Luiz Antonio Aguiar.
  18. VIG, Rosângela. Of art as communication to communication as art: an approach of Cubist aesthetics in Guernica. In: (Last access in 15/10/2018)

The figures:

Fig. 1 – House of the Black Madonna, Museum of Decorative Arts. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Photo: Ondrej Kocourek.

Fig. 2 – House of the Black Madonna, Museum of Decorative Arts, the Madonna at the corner of the building. The Official Tourist Website for Prague. Photo: Ondrej Kocourek.

Fig. 3 – By: Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Large Horse, 1914. Bronze. Collection Tate. © Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Photo © Tate. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported). Link to the work on the main Tate website.

You might also like:


2 thoughts on “Modern Art – Cubism by Rosângela Vig”

Leave a Comment