Although most people think Pablo Picasso invented Cubism, it was actually Henri Matisse describing the work of Georges Braque as ‘with little cubes’ and then used the term ‘Cubism’. Both Braque and Picasso shaped cubism in it’s initial phase.
Looking at the still life work, there are many similarities between the two artists, both using violins and muted colours.
I really like the simplification of the objects contrasted with the detail of the backgrounds and the cubes style lines and shadows. This style is similar to the contour and blind drawings we did where the object is simplified and broken, yet drawn repetitively there’s enough of an impression of the object for it to be recognisable.
Juan Gris, another artist that used the instrument theme in some of his still life work. This piece is less of a line drawing and has the addition of more colour which isn’t used just on the one object it’s associated with. I really like his geometric patterns.
Another painting that really shows that is ‘Tea Cups’ where the cubic style is mainly in his patterns, rather than randomly throughout the piece. The bottom half of the painting feels Escheresque and similar to the modern day zentangles.
Below are a couple of examples of some more intricate cubist works.
I watched a tutorial video which gives a really clever way of producing a cubist style still life. You set up the still life, then walk around and make a few marks and shapes from various positions around each side and from above, then expand on these marks. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark the video and can’t find it now. This was my attempt at doing a still life in this way.
The first picture is of my initial marks. On the second picture, as well as adding colour and shading, I put in some extra lines and broke up some that were there to give it a busier feel. Finally, I thought it needed a bit more depth, so added a darker line to both the objects and linear details.
Having done the blind contour drawings, I wanted to experiment with that technique as a cubist picture. Firstly, I did a wash with watercolour adding darker areas in the shapes of the objects I was drawing. I then did contour drawings over these areas, then put the sketchbook under the table to draw blind contour drawings of the shapes repetitively.
At this point, I thought adding shading and detail with various charcoal in grey/black tones would give a nice effect.
On the final picture, you can see that I added in extra lines and shading which I think actually takes away from the detail in the objects. I prefer the picture before as the bottles and glasses are the focal points rather than getting a little lost. I’m really happy with the overall effect and the choice of media.
Papier collé (collage)
I couldn’t write about cubist still life without mentioning the discovery of collage by Georges Braque in 1912. His ‘compotier et verre’ (fruit dish and glass) had sand and woodgrain paper added to give texture. He mentioned this to Picasso, who also started adding in to his paintings, using newspaper and sheet music.