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Art Movements in Art History - Development of Cubism 1911

Art Movements > Cubism > Development of Cubism 1911

Development of Cubism 1911*

This year marked the climax of the preceding two years, that is the highpoint of Analytical
Cubism - referred to as Hermetic.

This is the time when Picasso and Braque's work was most similar. Since they did not sign
their work, it is difficult to differentiate. They spent the summer together at Ceret.
Picasso and Braque were joined by Gris.

Crisis existed in the threat of near abstraction/non-figuration. This was partially solved
by the introduction of letters and numerals (ie by external symbols of reality).

A number of possibilities were opened up by the introduction of letters. To quote Braque

They were forms which could not be distorted because, being quite flat, the letters
existed outside space and their presence in the painting, by contrast, enabled one to
distinguish between objects situated in space and those outside it.

The letters establish the picture plane. They also have a compositional value. They have
a decorative value as well. But perhaps most radical of all is that through the use of letters a
new means of representing reality is introduced. Letters may be likened in intention to
imitation woodgraining and the trompe L'oeil nails in earlier Cubist work. To quote Braque again
-- "As part of a desire to come as close as possible to a certain kind of reality, in 1911
I introduced letters into my painting".

The reality here operates on both the formal and associative levels since letters carry
with them, as symbols and signs of communication, a variety of interpretations. Cubism was
thus opened up to another level of meaning. The letters were used for various purposes, for
example: to refer to places like Sorgues (SORG in a painting by Picasso); to refer to cafe life,
through ALE/BAR in Braque's first papier-colle in 1912 and Fox for Fox's English Bar in an
etching of 1911-1912; to permit personal references through the use of the MA JOLIE song
title in a painting of the same name by Picasso of 1912; to comment on art as did Gris who
"signed" his painting Breakfast by cutting out the letters G-R-I-S from a newspaper masthead.
Letters also, through abbreviation, could refer to a whole of which they are part, for example
JOUR for Journal, a French newspaper.
Furthermore, references and puns can be found. Jour may refer to day or play. Many of the
meanings of these verbal fragments are ambiguous, echoing the ambiguities of the space and
shapes found elsewhere in the paintings.

Finally letters led to the introduction of collage in 1912

 

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* Drawn from notes compiled by R. Becker for the University of South Africa

 




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