Modern Art Lessons – Cubism

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about my Lessons in Modern Art for the Modern Quilter – but I’m back!

Today we’re looking at Cubism – hello, Picasso!


The style of Cubism was popular from 1907 – 1922.  Cubist artists worked to depict objects as they really were in the world – not as we perceive them.

To better understand this movement, let’s start by considering a glass.  A drinking glass has a circular opening.  However, when we view the glass from an angle at the side, the opening appears to be oval-shaped.  The glass has not changed, but our new position has changed the visual representation of the glass.  In order to depict a glass as it really is, a cubist painter would break the image of the glass into geometric shapes, and arrange them across a field so that multiple perspectives can be seen at once.

You can see this example in action here, in this small excerpt of Picasso’s Still Life with Compote and Glass, 1914-15:

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We see a goblet from the side – noticing the height and shape of the glass’s silhouette, but we also see the circular nature of the cup opening due to its flipped and elevated placement above the goblet body.  By tossing aside notions of one-perspective and allowing multiple views to exist on the same canvas, we are able to achieve a fuller understanding for the true nature of the glass.   This style of multiple viewpoints is sometimes called simultaneity.

Another prominent Cubist artist was Georges Braque.  I love this piece where he takes the basic shapes of a violin, separates them into individual geometric pieces, and spreads them out so we can fully gather his impression of the instrument.

Still life with a violin, 1912, Georges Braque

Still life with a violin, 1912, Georges Braque

See the works of : Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque

The concept of taking an object and breaking it down into it’s basic geometric shape is very familiar to us quilters!  And it should be noted that the cubist movement has been a very prominent source of inspiration for art quilters, who respond to the realism aspect and create a portrait of an object through fabric piecing, applique, and yes- sometimes glue!

But one modern quilt that comes to mind when I think of Cubism is the popular, intricate, lovely “Space Dust” quilt pattern from Tula Pink.  Here we gather the full impression of a cratered moon through the artful arrangement of triangles. 

Space Dust Quilt Pattern by Tula Pink available HERE

Space Dust Quilt Pattern by Tula Pink available HERE

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