modernism in art

late impressionism through surrealism

Synthetic Cubism


• SH essay, Synthetic Cubism, Part I

• SH essay, Synthetic Cubism, Part II

• SH video, Pablo Picasso, Still-Life with Chair Caning

• SH essay, Juan Gris, The Table

• recommended: NY Times article, An Art Revolution, Made with Scissors and Glue

• SH essay, Cubist Sculpture I

• recommended:  “Discussion” from Picasso & Braque: A Symposium

key terms and concepts: collage, assemblage, formalism, realism, social agency

Synthetic Cubism differs from analytic Cubism in its inclusion of collage elements, cut-out bits of paper, from the French coller, to paste. (Some definitions also include the use of lettering in hermetic Cubism, and the fully painted later Cubist works that just look like they were composed out of cut-up construction paper.) We are also looking at Cubist sculpture in this topic, which differs from traditional sculpture in that it is constructed by assemblage (put together from distinct parts made of diverse materials, often including nontradititional media or found objects) rather than a uniform material shaped into a single mass. Be able to discuss are at least five different ways of understanding the significance of this introduction of collage/assemblage:  

1) The use of collage and stenciled letters asserts the “flatness of the picture plane” (remember why the formalists insisted on flatness in painting?).

2) The use of collage is truthful to the two-dimensional objects it is used to represent:  sheet music is sheet music; newspaper is newspaper (a ‘realist’ explanation).

3) The use of collage mixes 'low' culture and 'high' culture, calling attention to the rise of consumer culture in modern times -- brand names, advertising, mechanical reproduction, mass media, etc.

4) The use of collage reinforces the modern role of the artist as journalist and social critic, as is evidenced by Picasso's frequent use of newspaper reportage on the Balkans war.

5) The use of collage allowed Picasso and Braque to continue their complex and self-reflexive meditations on the relationship between representation and reality (and to make silly puns and inside jokes to one another).  

Be able to discuss the works below in relation to any of these issues ...

Picasso, Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass, synthetic Cubism, 1912

Juan Gris, The Table, synthetic Cubism, 1914

Picasso, Still Life, Cubist sculpture/assemblage, 1914