One of the most famous artistic movement of the 20th century is Cubism. It can seem a bit overwhelming, but with a few guiding principles it is easier to understand it and to see what the artists drew. Cubism had its golden years between 1907 and 1914. Artists had a new way of thinking, they asked themselves how to depict their surroundings in a different way. Kahnweiler, who was an important art dealer, distinguished three phases for the Cubism.
The first phase, from 1907 to 1910, is called the Cezannian Cubism. It got that name because this cubism took its inspiration from Cézanne’s work. They deconstructed the reality and explored the pictorial plan. Artists wanted to multiply the points of view and bring them all on the same canvas. During this phase, the image was still readable. Then, from 1910 to 1912, there was the analytic (or hermetic) Cubism. The object was deconstructed in small fragments and all the spatial marks were deleted. Artists thought colors could disturb the understanding of the recreated space, so they used a limited number of colors, tending towards monochromaticity. Picasso and Braque were very closed to abstraction, but even so they always tried to avoid it. As soon as they realized how far they went, they used new techniques in order to stay in Cubism and stay away from abstraction. This was the synthetic Cubism which occurred from 1912 to 1914. This phase was characterized by the introduction of numbers, letters, words which reintroduce some readability in the painting.
Compotier et verre (fruit dish and glass) is part of this last phase. It was made during September 1912 by Georges Braque. This artwork is composed of paper imitating wood and charcoal. It was part of Leonard Lauder collection which he gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently.
This artwork is the first papier collé of the cubists. It is a collage made of pasted papers, and in this example it looks like wood. The wallpaper fragments are linked together by charcoal drawings and words. These allow the viewer to recreate what the artist has depicted. Representing volume is unnecessary thanks to the paper and charcoal, which reconnect the Cubism to reality. There is a separation between the color and the drawing in this piece. The color becomes the object which doesn’t need a shape. This specific piece is a turning point for Cubism. There is no need for chiaroscuro since there is a rebus game which brings the piece back to reality. The papier collé also brings back colors into Braque and Picasso’s works. About this piece, Braque said: “After having made the papier collé, I felt a great shock and it was an even greater shock to Picasso when I showed it to him.”
Carl Einstein, a Cubist critic, saw in those papiers collés “the first works entirely synthetic” but also the first separation of the artwork revealing the artist’s genius. William Rubin agreed with him with this sentence: “Cubism had, in itself, the prophetic notion of an artwork as a pure idea, completely separated from the artistic talent and therefore, feasible by anybody.”