Synthetic Cubism. In 1912, Cubism entered a new phase that art historians have dubbed Synthetic Cubism. In this later Cubist style, instead of deconstructing forms, artists constructed paintings and drawings from objects and shapes cut from paper or other materials. !e work marking the point of departure for this new style was Picasso’s Still Life with Chair-Caning (“#$. 29-14), widely regarded as the %rst modernist collage. From the French word coller, meaning “to paste,” a collage is a composition of bits of objects, such as newspaper or cloth, glued to a surface. In this seminal work, Picasso placed a piece of oilcloth and brushstrokes on top of a pho- tolithographed pattern of a cane chair seat pasted to the canvas. Framed with rope, this collage challenges the viewer’s understand- ing of reality. !e photographically replicated chair caning seems so “real” that the viewer expects the holes to break any brushstrokes laid on it. But the chair caning, although optically suggestive of the real, is only an illusion or representation of an object. By contrast,
the painted abstract areas do not refer to tangible objects in the real world. Yet the fact that they do not imitate anything makes them more “real” than the chair caning. No pretense exists. Picasso extended the visual play by making the letter U escape from the space of the accompanying J and O and partially covering it with a cylindrical shape that pushes across its le& side. !e letters JOU, which appear in many Cubist paintings, formed part of the mast- head of the daily French newspapers (journaux) o&en found among the objects represented. Picasso and Braque especially delighted in the punning references to jouer and jouir—the French verbs mean- ing “to play” and “to enjoy.”
Cubism and Anarchism. Although most discussions of Cub- ism focus on the formal innovations of Picasso and Braque, it is important to note that contemporary critics also viewed the revolu- tionary nature of Cubism in sociopolitical terms. Many considered
ARTISTS ON ART
Pablo Picasso on Cubism In 1923, almost a decade after Picasso and Braque launched an artis- tic revolution with Analytic (FIG. 29-13) and Synthetic (FIG. 29-14) Cub- ism, Picasso granted an interview to the painter and critic Marius de Zayas (1880–1961). Born in Mexico, de Zayas had settled in New York City in 1907, and in 1911 had been instrumental in mounting the first exhibition in the United States of Picasso’s works. In their conversation, the approved English translation of which appeared in the journal The Arts under the title “Picasso Speaks,” the artist set forth his views about Cubism and the nature of art in general.
We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. . . . They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same!thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not. . . .
Cubism is no different from any other school of paint- ing. The same principles and the same elements are common to all. . . . Many think that Cubism is an art of transition, an experiment which is to bring ulterior results. Those who think that way have not understood it. Cubism is not either a seed or a foetus, but an art dealing primarily!with forms, and when a form is realized it is there to
live its own life. . . . Mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psycho- analysis, music, and whatnot, have been related to Cubism to give it an easier!interpretation. All this has been pure literature, not to say nonsense . . . Cubism has kept itself within the limits and limita- tions of painting, never pretending to go beyond it. Drawing, design, and color are understood and practiced in Cubism in the spirit and manner that they are understood and practiced in all other schools. Our subjects might be different, as we have introduced into painting objects and forms that were formerly ignored. . . . [I]n our subjects, we keep the joy of discovery, the pleasure of the unexpected; our subject itself must be a source of interest.*
*Marius de Zayas, “Picasso Speaks,” The Arts (May 1923), 315–326. Reprinted in Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 263–266.
29-14 P!”#$ P%&!”$, Still Life with Chair-Caning, 1912. Oil, oilcloth, and rope on canvas, 10 580 ( 19 1
Musée Picasso, Paris.
This collage includes a piece of oilcloth and brushstrokes on top of a photo lithograph of a cane chair seat. Framed with a piece of rope, the still life challenges the viewer’s understanding of reality.
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