READINGS: CUBISM AND ABSTRACTION
Apollinaire, On Painting
Apollinaire, Various Poems
Background: Magdalena Dabrowski, "Kandinsky: Compositions"
Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art
Background: Serial Music
Background: Eugen Weber, CUBISM,
Movements, Currents, Trends
, p. 254.
As part of the great campaign to break through to reality and express essentials, Paul
Cezanne had developed a technique of painting in almost geometrical terms and concluded that the
painter "must see in nature the cylinder, the sphere, the cone:" At the same time, the influence of
African sculpture on a group of young painters and poets living in Montmartre - Picasso, Braque, Max
Jacob, Apollinaire, Derain, and Andre Salmon - suggested the possibilities of simplification or
schematization as a means of pointing out essential features at the expense of insignificant ones. Both
Cezanne and the Africans indicated the possibility of abstracting certain qualities of the subject, using
lines and planes for the purpose of emphasis. But if a subject could be analyzed into a series of
significant features, it became possible (and this was the great discovery of Cubist painters) to leave
the laws of perspective behind and rearrange these features in order to gain a fuller, more thorough,
view of the subject. The painter could view the subject from all sides and attempt to present its
various aspects all at the same time, just as they existed-simultaneously.
We have here an attempt to capture yet another aspect of reality by fusing time and space in
their representation as they are fused in life, but since the medium is still flat the Cubists introduced
what they called a new dimension-movement. Very soon, however, the original purpose of this-the
capture and more complete reproduction of still objective reality-was lost from sight. The possibilities
of the new idea were too good to miss and soon the artist became more interested in what had started
as his means: that is, in purer and purer geometrical forms with no immediate relation to the object
from which they derived, and in their increasingly abstract and arbitrary arrangement.
Cubism still sees space (and through space reality) as differentiated. Its great invention was
to introduce movement into painting and use the possibilities of geometrical projection. But, in time,
this came to appear still too concrete an approach to subjective reality and expression. As the Cubist
technique was applied on ever more abstract lines, differentiation shrank and disappeared.
Abstractionists see no more sections, no divisions between different segments of reality; and this is
not surprising since reality has been transferred from the outside to the inside of the artist where
experience is all one and everything exists on the same plane: a flower pot and a flower petal, a house
and a T square, exist on the same plane, quite undifferentiated. Nothing is an island any longer,
nothing (or everything) entire of itself.
BACKGROUND: STE GROVEART.COM