The impacts of cubism in modernism.


Art, in its different forms has existed over the centuries amongst the different communities of the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, a new era of improved modern technology was introduced. This was considered a new modern era commonly referred to as modernism by a majority of the artists forming an art movement. An art movement was characterized by a group of artists following a particular style with a common goal. A movement was defined with a specific period of time that it existed. Cubism is one form of movement that existed during the modernist era. These modern developments brought about major impacts in art and architecture developments with major shifts from the traditional forms of art. This created a whole new picture and coined new world views amongst the populations. Different art forms including Cubism, Futurism, and Fauvism among others emerged as a result of the development of these new technologies. There have been great and re-known artists who have continually been associated with art work. Throughout this period, major changes and developments have been experienced in different times due to modernism. The advancement in technology has allowed the artists to engage in more complicated and sophisticated works. This essay examines the impacts of cubism in modernism and the major developments that came about as a result of the transformation. This will aid in understanding why some objects appear the way they are and not otherwise hence facilitating faster appreciation of the art movement as part of the normal art.

The art of cubism

The fields of art, music and literature have undergone some tremendous transformation throughout different centuries. As a result, artists choose to use most appropriate ways of conveying particular messages to their audience. Cubism is one of the common movements that gained popularity in the early 20th century and associated with the art that originated in Paris. This is considered the period that marked the revolution of European painting since artists developed modernized approach towards developing their artistic objects in order to appeal to the viewers. It is during this time that major transformations and developments of liberation from the usual art norms were introduced and adopted. The movement is considered convenient since it allows the use of 3 dimensional objects which makes an object to appear closer to the reality and have multiple viewpoints. As much as the flat form of objects was still embraced, the presentation of pictures was embroiled with intersections and angles that made them unique indicating a shift from the norm. This made art lovers to enjoy their work since they were able to interact with many people from different backgrounds while communicating different messages to them and avoiding ambiguity. The different objectives that the artists intended to pass to their audiences were met because through the use of cubism, an artist can easily portray his/her feelings, emotions and thoughts by using colors that can depict the theme of the art. This called for proper designing and understanding of various themes before commencing the painting processes. Sculptures were made in a way that helped the viewers to understand the artist’s mind without requiring further explanations. This made this type of movement unique from other movements since the current economic situations had brought about major implications on individuals’ concentration span.

As much as this new form of art was embraced by a section of the artists while others rejected its presentation, its uniqueness stood out. Some of the great artists were determined to ensure that it becomes part and parcel of the community. With the familiarity of the fact that the society and the people have little time in observing art related things that seem to be normal, this form of art targeted to capture and captivate the mind of the audience. This would enable them have a different view of their everyday surrounding and catalyze critical and creative thinking. With the emerging modernism of life at that time, people spent most of the time on search of survival means to cope and catch up with the modern life and with the harsh economic conditions thus limiting leisure time. In that particular modern time, for people to appreciate art, it was necessary to bring about a unique presentation of the art work. In this way, it was a prerequisite that objects must be made in a simpler way that one may not need to crack his/her head trying to conceptualize an idea but rather bring up the different ideas from a single object. This brought about the freedom of expression where artists were free to use the art in communicating their views to the public. Creativity was highly enhanced since it is the artist’s innovativeness that determined the kind of audience one should expect to have.

Domains of cubism

Due to the modernism that was being experienced in the 20th century, cubism influenced art work in a number of domains. Cubism era had an influence in the different types of art work as was never thought. Painting was the major domain initiating the influence of cubism in art work. This was a form of visual language that used paintings to communicate different message to the audiences. The art of cubism was greatly embraced in painting than in all other forms of art work and many artists took up this technique. Cubism was also introduced in sculptures. The availability of better machinery for curving made it easier for the sculptors to present their works in a multi-dimensional form. Much of the influence to the sculpt art was brought about by the cubist presentations in the paintings and the authors of cubist sculptors are thought to be the cubist painters. Architectural work also applied cubism in its work. Decorations of the different objects applied the cubism technique and these made the pieces of work unique. The most outstanding form of the cubist architecture was the multi-faceted presentation of a building depicting its external and internal structures. Language was another extra ordinary area where cubism dominated. The architectural coining of simple independent adjectives and phrases presented a unique style of passing simple information.

Cubism and its artists

The development and spread of cubism was done by a number of artists who worked solely on their works or build up on other people’s work. With the 20th century being considered the modernist era, these artists clearly depicted the development. The name cubism was coined by Henri Matisse and Louis Vauxcelles who described the works of other artists. George Braque’s 1908 work-"Houses at L'Estaque", brought about the coining of the name cubism. The two artists observed the piece of art work as being a resemblance of a bunch of cubes which was totally different form the traditional artistic works. Other prominent artists depicted cubism in their different art works as they used special objects and language to communicate certain messages in a more modernized manner. This developed as a result of integrating different ideas on the same piece of work. Technology played a major role in the spread of cubism movement since artists could market their products using online marketing thus earning revenue from international markets. Modernism also helped in spreading the movement due to enhanced communication tools. Novelists could write their novels and publish their work on the internet so as to be read by a wider scope of readers. These set of artists had to overcome some critical barriers in order to thrive in the field where people were reluctant to embrace change. Persistence had to guide their daily operations in order to achieve their objectives of ensuring cubism gained ground and operated like any other art movements. Some of the main artists of cubism movement included but not limited to Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger among others. Their works have served a great deal in many countries in the world and they have existed for quite some time despite stiff competition in the same industry. This is because of their special artistic styles used in their objects that made their works to be more unique from other ordinary objects thus making cubism a preferred movement of art in the modern days.

i) Gertrude stein

She is a novelist who uses language as a tool of communicating to the public. In her novel “Tender Buttons”, she highly applies the modernist approach to reveal the everyday objects. Her use of special linguistics styles makes her work appealing to the readers and her work is considered a masterpiece of verbal cubism. Her passion in broadening the people’s mind and shifting their minds from the familiar to the unfamiliar was a perfect way of initiating change. She emphasizes on figurative speech using two familiar but independent ideas with short explanation of an object. She uses simple descriptions to portray important objects in life. The use of objects, food and rooms in the story is a clear indication of the simple everyday things in life that surrounds human beings without being given much consideration. She uses these simple things and molds them with extraordinary language that creates a different picture of them to her audience. This clearly indicates the application of cubism in her works through her poetic work. She is careful to maintain the rhythm and sound of the objects in her poems but creates an extra ordinary picture in the minds of her audience.

According to Hilder (2005), through the architectural use of the adjectives, she brings about defamiliarization of the familiar and at the same time familiarizing the unfamiliar. Through this, she makes her audience to view her piece of work from multiple view points while creating a deeper understanding of the situations surrounding them. This has continually made her work outstanding up-to-date making artists strive to understand her unique style. For instance, in her first poem “food” in an attempt to give meaning to the object, Stein states that she “claims nothing” to bring out the typical representation of the object. Here, she clearly reveals herself as a cubist artist as she attempts to reveal an objects multiple perspectives rather than through a single perspective. In her work, she also acknowledges Picasso’s influence on her work when she states "I began to play with words then I was a little obsessed by words of equal value”. Picasso was painting my portrait at that time, and he and I used to talk this thing over endlessly. At the time he had just begun on Cubism". All this portrays the influence that cubism brought to her work and the great change that was presented in the use of language at that time. She worked so hard to ensure that other artists accessed her work in an effort to spread cubism far and wide. This was due to her strong belief that this was the best form of art ever and would bring total transformation in the art world.

ii) Pablo Picasso

This was Spanish artists who spend most of his time in Paris which was a great home of art. He was a painter and sculpture who had passion for art and viewed it in a different way from other artists. He is considered one of the most creative artists of the 20th century and the author of cubism. His work clearly portrayed his love for cubist movement of art. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was his most significant work that made cubism known and appreciated widely as noted by Karmel and Picasso (2003). He builds his work on Paul Cezanne work’s meaning that he saw a gap in this work and sought to bring in some improvements. The drawings he made could guide the viewer in deriving the mood, feelings or emotions of a given situation. Dora Maar’s image is good example of how Picasso communicated to the public by considering diversity. Most of his work was influenced by the Iberian and African art work and sculptures and in one of his paintings; the women are wearing the African masks. This implies that not everyone will perceive something positively; there are those who might have a different opinion over the same concept. Using the same face he makes one side beautiful while the other side is made to be ugly in order to accommodate all types of individuals in the society. This maximizes the use of a single object thus making the art effective and convenient way of reaching out to a larger population. His effective application of the different bright contrasting colors in his work clearly indicated his inner feelings and thoughts. This Being contrary to the traditional art work that used limited dull colors indicated a complete shift. Being considered the author of cubism, his work marked a total transition from the conventional traditional drawing. From just a single piece of his work, his audience was able to have multiple viewpoints from it.

Picasso’s work strived to influence more artists with his unique style and he achieved this due to his special skills that attracted the attention of many. A total shift from the traditional art work is marked in his work when he treats objects in different forms including cylindrical, spherical and cone shapes. Through this, he exploits the different make up forms of the objects and presents it in multi-dimensional forms with sharp edges. Contrary to the flat representation of pictures, Picasso presents the objects in a fragmented manner intersecting at different angles. This brought about three dimensional figures. He also brings out the theme of colors in his pieces of work bringing up the blue and the rose periods due to his theme colors as noted by Tourin(2002). This further attracts the attention of the artists and with the availability of the materials they are able to embrace the new form. This new development that he brings makes art interesting to many artists and he brings on board numerous artists. Before the shift to the next movement and era, much cubist work had been developed and it stood out from the rest.

iii) Alice .B. Toklas autobiography

The autobiography in itself stands out to be an exemplary piece of work. Having been a close friend to Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas appears to be the subject here but without much contribution to the development of the autobiography. Her autobiography was written by Gertrude Stein who is considered the masterpiece of verbal cubism of the 20th century. With Stein’s passion for cubism, she embraces the modernity period by doing a lot of writings with the aim of spreading cubism far and wide. The autobiography is dominated by a number of cubist styles that bring about numerous meanings of its writings. First, the description of the characters and the events surrounding them is scattered throughout the autobiography indicating that this is a modernist work. Stein also narrates her own life in the voice of her friend; Alice. B. Toklas in such a manner that the readers do not easily recognize that Stein herself is the author. Siraganian (2013) notes that this perfect presentation of the events is a clear indication of the influence that cubism brought in that particular modern era. It also presents the different viewpoints of the characters concerning cubism such as the deteriorating relationship between Gertrude and her brother Leo due to their divergent views on cubism. This she did on purpose as she wanted to reveal to the readers the challenges experienced in developing a perfect piece of work. With her strong support for cubism, she greatly helped spread the message and making her writings available to the local artists attracting more artists into the movement. Modern technologies of communication that were introduced at that time greatly helped disseminate her message to the artists. This resulted to achieving milestones in making cubism more known and transforming the art work of that time.

The autobiography of Alice Toklas is an exemplary example of cubism. Her style in the writing depicts modernized way of communicating whereby most of examples are figurative to simplify the reader’s understanding and avoid time wastage when reading a particular article. This makes reading culture enhanced since many people will be attracted to reading novels and articles due to their interesting and relevant examples used. There is close relationship between the story line and the living things which affects an individual’s daily life thus making the novel appropriate to the reader. In this case, modernism played a major role in ensuring that the art work of that time was transformed.

Cubism and modernism in Paris

Before the commencement of the 20th century, art was considered a simple representation of nature that portrayed direct meaning to the audience. At the beginning of the 20th century, a shift from traditional art work to modernism came into place. The influence of the modern times and the modern life was the major driving force and Paris was considered the heart of modernism. Paris attracted majority of the young artists and writers due to the presence of great art museums and the freedom of fully engaging in their art work. The aspects of the modern world necessitated the transformation traditional western world art and the way artists expressed themselves to their audience. In this case, modernism can be described as the relationship between modern art and modern time as noted by Vargish and Mook (1999). There are a number of factors that are considered as the driving force of modernism. These include: advancement in science and technology, the introduction of photography and cinematography, transport development-aeroplane, telephone, influence from Africa and the East, World War I and II, availability of new improved materials among other factors. The artist critically thought of ways in which they would reflect the modernity of the era through the traditional art that had served for four centuries. The modernity era brought about a succession of the different periods of art all of which brought about various developments. This progression continually marked the different artistic eras and forming different artistic movements. At every stage, improvements were being made in art work and new forms of artistic works were being introduced.

Cubism is one of the modern movements and the earliest movement of art in the light of modernism. Its introduction marked the end of the traditional artistic work that mainly imitated nature and was viewed from one dimension. It brought about liberation from traditional and conventional rules and gave the artists the freedom to accurately use the colors to represent an object. The cubist movement strived to make an abject to be seen from multiple view points and bring out clearly the essence of the object. With the advancement in technology and the introduction of photography, the artists were able to illustrate the new infrastructures in their drawings in a more sophisticated manner. These developments allowed the cubist artists to present paintings of real people, places and objects in a multi-dimensional manner. This allowed the viewing the different parts of a subject at the same time. In an effort to better achieve this, the artists adopted other culture of the world to further enhance their work. In the traditional western art, a single culture was used and as modernism dawned, the cubist artists realized that there is need to incorporate other culture in their work. The African art became the first major influence on the art work in the cubist era and opened doors for the adoption of other cultures. The African art was more preferred by the cubist artists due to its expressive style that matched their goals.

Major branches of cubism movement
i) Analytic cubism

This marked the first phase of cubism and this is the period from 1908-1914. According to Cottington (2004), this period can also be termed as the discovery period by the two founders of this movement; Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Within this period, the two artists carefully analyzed their subjects from different viewpoints to establish their real forms. They were able to discover the different make ups of an object such as the space around and inside an object. They then reconstructed the subjects using the geometrical framework in their presentations. The fragmentation was so intense that it was difficult to differentiate the interweaving of the planes and lines with the subject. The application of the different shadings by dark colors was also introduced to aid in unifying the fragments. This allowed the shift from the conventional flat and one directional objects that were simple and direct in the eyes of the audience. Analytic cubism also brought about the detailed fragmentation of an object and intense overlapping of the same resulting to the object depicting even a more sophisticated shape from the reality. This means that these artists had special skills that enabled them achieve what they did with ease. The intense brain work required to develop such objects helps in understanding the level of creativity exercised by the artists. A lot of analysis was involved in order to justify the color selection since not all colors can be used on a single object. Understanding of the theme is also very critical in the type of cubism since the artist has to think of what the end product should look like and how the audience will perceive it. All these developments are evidence of the contribution of modernism to the art world

ii) Synthetic cubism

This is the second and the last phase of the cubism era and existed in the period beginning 1912-1920. This period marked the development stage that further enhanced the artistic work and made it even more unique. It employed the use of non-art materials as abstract signs to create a more appealing sensation to the audience. More simple lines, shapes and angles were employed here making the presentations much meaningful. The discovery of the use of the different colors and textures was also introduced in this period. This greatly allowed the artists to clearly express their feelings and inner thoughts through the depiction of the objects. Much brighter colors were also used and this portrayed the different messages passed by the artists to their audiences. It is at this time that bits and pieces of actual objects such as newspapers were added to the pictures forming the first collage. This was developed by using materials that are not related to one another thus bringing about different textures. All these were an effort towards defying the common grounds of artistic work that were believed to be the foundation over the centuries. The combination of artistic skills with modernization made the objects to be more appealing to the viewers hence gaining grounds over other art movements.

Impact of cubism in modernism

Art and architectural work today considers cubism as the most important movement in the 20th century. Cubism and modernism are two terms that are closely intertwined. Modernism in terms of improvement in technology resulted to the development of cubism movement which transformed the field of art in some major ways. As cubism was being experienced in France in the modern era, its effects spread further to the other parts of the world. These developments have remained to be major landmarks that left in the field of art and which have never lost relevance up-to-date as noted by Dempsey (2002). First, it is within this era that there was a total transformation of how art was viewed. It brought about a new style of composition allowing people to understand new ways of composing pictures. Rather than having a single presentation and view of a subject, new discoveries of presentation beyond what the eyes can see was introduced. Since nature was always part and parcel of art and this era brought about a new way of representing nature while introducing other emerging subjects brought about by modernism. With the ability to bring about the multi-dimension aspect of an object, the people acquired a new attitude towards paintings and artists. They identified their work as outstanding and appealing and this resulted to the creation of a positive attitude towards art work. Appreciation of the work being done by the artist was evident since increased viewing and sale of the artistic work was realized. This era brought about a lot of liberations from the traditional art philosophies that bound the artists and restricted their skills. It allowed them to explore their world and openly present their thoughts and feelings.

Secondly, cubism brought about a change in how individuals viewed art as it brought about the notion of art. It brought about a picture art as not only displaying nature but rather bringing a deeper meaning in communicating messages to the society as noted by Mussari (2013). This brought a new definition for art as a creation rather than imitation. Defying the religious practices observed since the renaissance period marked the beginning of modern art of the 20th century. The use of cubism in painting as well as in linguistics widened the scope of the message being passed. People’s minds were broadened when they saw and read the pieces of art developed during the cubist era. The skill and the ability of presenting the objects in a multi-dimensional aspect allowed for a major shift from the simple direct display of the common things in life. Instead of being shallow and direct, the artists in this era brought about a new meaning in their pieces of work with a perfect combination of the multi-dimensional objects blended with different colors and use of diverse linguistics.

Thirdly, cubism made it easier and allowed for people no matter how little their contributions were to become recognized as artists. The simple presentations that each of the artists presented had a deeper meaning and easily caught the attention of their audiences. With the efforts of the cubist artist to make cubism known, many other artists build up more on the work through bringing up ideas that were expounded. This enhanced creativity as many people would strive to remain relevant in the industry by bringing out issues in a more special and precise way.

Cubism improved the reading culture amongst people because of live examples that were used by novelist. A case in hand was Stein’s use of food in her novel since she knew very well that human beings interact with food on a daily basis hence making it a very reliable example. This makes the understanding of any idea very easy due to the use of common objects that people can visualize when reading the articles. Use of modern technologies aid in developing fine tuned objects in order to bring out a clear picture of the true object intended to be used. Modernism also aid in research facilitation thus equipping an artist with relevant skills as a result of benchmarking with what other artists do across the globe. This helps in ensuring that universal information is shared across the globe hence building trust among individuals by assuring them whatever they are exposed to is common in any other country. The practice will pull people into appreciating local artists hence promoting the country’s economic status.

Influence of cubism to contemporary art work

As much as cubism was born in Paris, France, in the early 20th century, it spread all over Europe. This meant that the field of art all over the world was being transformed. In Italy, it emerged as futurism, in Russia; it was introduced as suprematism and constructivism, in Germany as expressionism while in England as vorticim. Its effects is still felt strongly today both in Europe and in America. Cubism in itself is considered an art movement not confined to art history as its legacy continues to stand out in the contemporary art world as stated by Epstein (2001). Many artists today continue to apply the cubist technique both theoretically and stylistically. It continues to play major role in defining the art of today.


Art is a mode of communication that calls for critical analysis in its usage. This implies that all artists must devise methods of bringing out their pieces or works that can ensure maximum attraction of audience. To achieve this, most artists of the 20th century chose to develop a new style of creating objects which was an enhancement of the already existing artistic styles. Cubism emerged as a movement that had an incorporation of modernism in order to fit in the current trending issues. Some artists remained reluctant to fully participate in the movement whereas others took the bold step of tasting new ideas. A few who tried succeeded in the industry and their products were wide spread due to the new look that came with them. Sawyer (2000) noted that a combination of various skills was used in developing objects during the modern era. The use of 3Ds in objects was enough evidence that cubism was a unique movement that would best fit the interests of the public due to the fast growing technologies. The movement had a great impact in modernism since the stylistic devices used in the movement were relevant to the era of existence. It is clear that the growth in technology is directly related to the growth in the art field. Cubism and modernism are two inseparable words that must be well when trying to define each term in relation to art. This is because cubism is a style that was developed in modern days and depicted modern ways of doing things. Cubists were keen on understanding modernism in order to meet the audience’s expectations since the target audience belonged to the modern era hence proper analysis of their interests was required.


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