a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Picasso and Cubism


people, terms, and concepts: vanitas painting, primitivism, multiple perspectives, drawing what you know vs. drawing what you see


This topic examines the rise of another movement that radically challenged the tradition of naturalism:  Cubism.

          What is the subject, and what was the original intended meaning of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon? How does it ‘modernize’ the Dutch Baroque tradition of ‘vanitas painting’?

          What changes did Picasso make between the study for the Demoiselles below and the final painting? How do these changes more effectively convey his expressive purpose?

          How does Picasso use masks to help convey his warning against prostitution? How does he use form to do so?

          What is the technique of using ‘multiple perspectives’? How do we see multiple perspectives in the Demoiselles, the Bottle of Wine, and the Violin and Palette below?

          How are multiple perspectives used in children’s drawings and in some primitive and folk art, and how is this related to the idea of ‘drawing what you know, not what you see’?

          How can the use of multiple perspectives be said to be more true to reality than traditional naturalism? How do naturalistic techniques such as linear perspective, foreshortening, and diminution distort objects?


Braque, Violin and Palette, Cubism, 1909-10

Picasso, Bottle of Wine and Dice, 1914

Picasso, Study for the Demoiselles, 1907

Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907