Week 7 / March 14: Cubism

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Nude in an Armchair, summer 1909, oil on canvas; 36 1/4 × 28 3/4 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art
LINK: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/490587


Developed by Pablo Picasso and George Braque, Cubism is one of the most significant developments in the history of modern art.

Pablo Picasso’s route to Cubism began with the simplification of forms inspired by African masks and ancient sculpture. The painter George Braque, associated with the Fauves, was deeply interested in the work of Paul Cézanne, the Post-Impressionist who relied on pure areas of blocky color rather than clearly defined linear forms that he then organized within the canvas disregarding perspectival accuracy.

The collaboration between Picasso and Braque in the development of Cubism is legendary in the history of art. Their intense working relationship lasted months in which the artists visited each other daily to discuss their work. Soon, they stopped signing their individual works and only declared a painting finished when both agreed. Recognizing that what they were doing was the creation of something wholly new and modern, Picasso and Braque referred to each other jokingly as Orville and Wilbur Wright, the American brothers who pioneered the development of flight a few years ahead of the development of Cubism.

  • For Cubism, download and use the ‘Cubism worksheet’ while doing the readings in the order listed below. This worksheet will take you through each reading and video helping to gather, define and organize key information to understand Cubism.As you are reading, fill in information on the ‘Cubism worksheet.’ Bring your completed worksheet to class for in-class review.
  • Start with the short essay on the Met’s website, giving you an overview of Cubism: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cube/hd_cube.htm 
  • Read another short essay that defines some key terms related to Cubism. Look up these terms on dictionary.com: simultaneity, conceptual and perceptional if you are unclear about their exact meaning. LINK: http://arthistory.about.com/od/modernarthistory/a/cubism_10one.htm

Next, you are going to read various material relating to Cubism on the Khan Academy website, including:

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon:

Picasso’s painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is extremely significant for the development of Cubism. Some ideas about Cubism are developed here, including the abbreviations of form influenced by African masks and sculptures and the beginning use of multiple visual perspectives or multiple points of view of the same object brought together within one image. Other equally significant aspects of Cubism only come later after continued experimentation and collaboration with Braque.



  • ‘Analytic Cubism’ is the name for the first phase that describes the two artists’ fulfillment of the original goals and ideas about Cubism. They figured out what they were trying to do as they made paintings in the Analytic Cubist style. Read the short treatment of Braque’s portrait painting The Portuguese. LINK: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/early-abstraction/cubism/a/braque-the-portuguese
  • On the worksheet, add any relevant terms to the area about Analytic Cubism.


On the worksheet, add any relevant terms to the area about Synthetic Cubism.

For class next week – summary of the 1 required thing to do:

  1. Read and take notes on Cubism. Bring the completed Cubism worksheet to class for in-class peer review.

Remember / FYI:

The Cubism worksheet is available above and on Blackboard.