modernist art

late impressionism through surrealism

synthetic cubism


people, terms, and concepts: collage, formalism, realism

additional reading:  “Discussion” from Picasso & Braque: A Symposium

Synthetic Cubism differs from analytic Cubism in its inclusion of collage elements (cut-out bits of paper, from the French coller, to paste). As the discussion among Cubist scholars above suggests, there are at least six different ways of understanding the significance of this introduction of collage:  

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 violates convention by irreverently introducing the ‘low’ culture of advertising and cheap reproduction into the ‘high’ culture of painting (fitting a general understanding of Modernism as anti-conventional)

4) The use of collage calls attention to a rise in consumer culture in modern times --brand names, advertising, mechanical reproduction, mass media, etc. (another ‘realist’ explanation).

5) 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 (an explanation that revolves around social agency).

6) Collage was a vehicle for a complex ‘conversation’ between Picasso and Braque that ranged from complex issues of representation versus reality to silly puns and adolescent jokes.

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

Braque, The Portuguese, 1911 (hermetic Cubism)

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

Picasso, Still-Life with Bowl of Fruit, 1912