Our image of Cubism is very different from that entertained by the Parisian public in the period around 1910. Then, Henri le Fauconnier was regarded as the leader of the movement.Today, Picasso, Braque and Gris are seen as the most important Cubists. This fourth joint presentation by the Gemeentemuseum and the Triton Foundation explains the various forms of Cubism that existed at that time and includes works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Le Fauconnier, Boccioni, Delaunay, De la Fresnaye, Léger, Kupka, Metzinger, Mondrian, Valmier and Severini.
It is now exactly 100 years since Picasso started work on Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a milestone in the art of the 20th century and the first step towards the emergence of Cubism. Two years later, by around 1909, Paris was to accommodate two groups of Cubists: first, the group including Picasso, Braque and later Gris, which exhibited mainly in commercial galleries, primarily that of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler; second, the group that exhibited at the great Parisian Salons, therefore known as the Salon Cubists. Because only the Salon Cubists, like Henri Le Fauconnier, Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, exhibited on a regular basis, it was they who initially became the public face of the Cubist movement.
According to a view of art history that stresses formal innovations, the Cubists reverted to the fundamental principles of painting because they felt that traditional painting was exhausted. They took the basic vocabulary of painting – form, space, colour and technique – and replaced the traditional use of each of them by a new interpretation of their own. In short, adherents of this view of art history see Cubism as a totally new pictorial language and a completely new way of looking at the outside world. A major aspect of Cubism is the abandonment of the centuries-old tradition of the central perspective. Cubists felt that, to capture a subject completely, the artist had to show it from a number of different viewpoints at once.
In developing their brand of Cubism, Picasso and Braque introduced two major influences:
the robust forms and technique of merging the foreground and background used by Cézanne and the primitivism of African, Oceanic and Iberian sculpture. Artists like Le Fauconnier, Gleizes and Metzinger also linked the production of Cubist paintings to philosophical, scientific and literary theories, a phenomenon at which Picasso expressed disgust. Henri Bergson’s ideas about the importance of intuition and De Pawlowski’s ideas about the fourth dimension were particularly vital to the Salon Cubists. The exhibition and accompanying publication provide a detailed explanation of the ideas of the various groups of Cubists. The private collection of the Triton Foundation is composed of important works by major artists in the period 1860-1970 and in many ways complements that of the Gemeentemuseum. Each of the joint presentations in the current series is accompanied by a Triton Cahier, published by Waanders (€ 9.95 per issue, 4 issues for € 29.95).