The Hidden Beauty of Cubism

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.”

GEORGES BRAQUE Still Life with Fruit Dish, Bottle and Mandolin, 1930. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.  © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
GEORGES BRAQUE
Still Life with Fruit Dish, Bottle and Mandolin, 1930.
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

However, there are many forms and styles of accepted ‘art’ which do not conform to conventional definitions of beauty. Take Cubism as an example. Many art enthusiasts, whilst acknowledging that the likes of Pablo Picasso and George Braque are masters of their craft, are confounded by Cubism. Abstract art may have this effect in the general sense, but there is something about Cubism which perplexes and befuddles the viewer.

Lovers of art for the sake of loving beauty were suddenly forced to confront a form of art which possessed a mathematical, geometrical, and almost dispassionately considered beauty. Arguments may be made that dispassion is not beautiful, or pleasing to the eye, and many critics and artists alike rejected this movement when it was first brought to public attention in the early 20th century.

Analysis as a form of art may be too academic for the most vocal critics of Cubism, but the process of identifying the key characteristics of a subject, breaking them down, and fitting them back together in an abstract sense is not without purpose. In a Cubist painting, the viewer is given a series of perspectives combined in one image, and the significance of the subject grows in consequence. This can be considered beauty in and of itself.

If the purpose of art is to inspire, and the cause of art is expression, then surely Cubism strongly deserves its place amongst the elite of the art movements. Nobody can deny that this genre provokes strong reactions from its audience – it intrigues, puzzles, raises questions, and is ripe for analysis. There is certainly no question that Picasso and Braque inspired a host of artists who followed in their wake, not only in art, but in music, dance, and literature.

PAUL STRAND Georges Braque, Varengeville-sur-Mer, France, 1957. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
PAUL STRAND
Georges Braque, Varengeville-sur-Mer, France, 1957.
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

If you follow the Cubist path, you may find yourself at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. There, the exhibition George Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945 will be running until the 1 September. Be sure not to miss it! And why not advance your Cubist knowledge still further with Guillaume Apollinaire and Dorothea Elimert’s Cubism?

– Fiona Torsch

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