Cubism, an everyday art

Cubism, an everyday art

  • Bottle and glass.

    LAURENS Jean-Paul (1838 - 1921)

  • Violin and pipe.

    BRAQUE Georges (1882 - 1963)

  • Glass and packet of tobacco.

    GRAY Juan (1887 - 1927)

  • Breakfast.

    GRAY Juan (1887 - 1927)

To close

Title: Bottle and glass.

Author : LAURENS Jean-Paul (1838 - 1921)

Creation date : 1917

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 62 - Width 34

Technique and other indications: Polychrome wood and sheet iron.

Storage location: National Museum of Modern Art - Center Pompidou website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - © All rights reserved

Picture reference: 34-000350 / AM1984-569

© ADAGP, Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

© ADAGP, Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: Glass and packet of tobacco.

Author : GRAY Juan (1887 - 1927)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 27 - Width 22

Technique and other indications: Gouache and pencil, papers glued on cardboard mounted on a frame.

Storage location: National Museum of Modern Art - Center Pompidou website

Contact copyright: © Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - © All rights reserved

Picture reference: 34-000342-02 / AM1984-522

Glass and packet of tobacco.

© Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: Breakfast.

Author : GRAY Juan (1887 - 1927)

Creation date : 1915

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 92 - Width 73

Technique and other indications: Charcoal, oil on canvas.

Storage location: National Museum of Modern Art - Center Pompidou website

Contact copyright: © Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Adam Rzepka

Picture reference: 47-000318-02 / AM2678P

© Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Adam Rzepka

Publication date: June 2007

Historical context

Life in Montmartre

The term "cubism", which became widespread in 1909, refers above all to the stylistic qualities of the works resulting from this artistic movement: the simplified figures are similar to geometric shapes. It was born under the pen of the art critic Louis Vauxcelles who, about the paintings exhibited by Georges Braque at the Kahnweiler Gallery in November 1908, wrote that he "reduced everything to cubes". However, beyond this formal characteristic, the movement initiated by Braque and Picasso also offered a particular iconography that permeated their daily life in Montmartre.

Braque, Picasso, Gris and Laurens, the four major cubists, lived in a neighborhood with a rural and working-class atmosphere distinct from other Parisian arrondissements. The Butte Montmartre, with the exception of the Sacré-Coeur complex, had not been altered by the town planning works of the second half of the 19th century.e century; it preserved a sociability and a provincial aspect with its streets without cobblestones, its fields, its mills, its small squares, its modest houses and its cafes.

Breaking with bourgeois culture, the young artists of the Montmartre bohemia led a more or less hectic life there, but in any case simple, if not poor, most not being able to provide for themselves with their art. If the situation of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Laurens began to improve thanks to the patronage of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, a new merchant who guaranteed them a minimum of income, their living conditions remained modest: very few buyers were interested. to such an innovative painting.

An exact reflection of this reality, some of the still lifes by Braque, Picasso, Gris and Laurens evoke their environment and their daily occupations.

Image Analysis

A representation-presentation of Montmartre life

These four works represent common objects: glasses, bowl, bottles, newspapers, pipes, packets of tobacco, coffee grinder ... Only the violin in Braque's pasted paper introduces a luxurious artefact more explicitly recalling the tradition of the genre of still life. . Tableware was also featured in earlier paintings, but it is associated with new elements, typical of their time such as the tobacco package, the model of the coffee maker or the headlines of newspapers (The Daily, The newspaper). When Gris painted faux wood or faux marble, when Braque and Gris glued wallpapers (faux wood, geometric and flower frieze paper), they also borrow from the ordinary decoration of popular private and public interiors, which imitated real woodwork. or the wall fabrics of bourgeois and aristocratic houses.

If, in Breakfast, Gris represented his morning meal - coffee grinder, coffee maker, bowl and newspaper - the other works instead focus on the usual table objects of coffee, alcohol, tobacco, newspapers, glasses. Cubists frequently evoke their favorite drinks in their paintings - wine, rum, beaune, banyuls…. Here Laurens has included a real piece of the label, but the letters "MA" alone do not identify the brand. Thus the Cubists represent what they consume at home or in the estaminets of Montmartre: the alcohol they drink, the tobacco they smoke, the press they read. Indirectly, with the integration of newspaper fragments relating to the current events, they even evoke their subjects of conversation.

It is with the inclusion of objects taken from their environment that the Cubists are most daring in this transcription of their daily life. They don't just reproduce it, but literally integrate it into their work: Gris and Braque stick pieces of paper, newspaper, wallpaper, tobacco packets on the canvas; Laurens assembles wooden planks and tin sheets to make a sculpture.


Making art everyday

Much more than a simple presentation-representation of the environment and the usual activities of Cubists, these works challenge conventions attached to artistic practice and the status of art in society. By depicting mundane scenes using everyday materials and unusual processes such as collage or assemblage, they run counter to the hierarchies that give the fine arts preeminence over other creative professions. They do not present high subjects, are not made exclusively with noble products and require only limited know-how. The artist no longer creates ex nihilo, he is no longer a demiurge giving form to formlessness, an exceptional being with extraordinary abilities.

The Cubists thus join the concerns of their contemporaries of the same social status. They represent situations, spaces and objects familiar to the greatest number. The gestures (cutting, sawing, gluing, nailing ...) and the materials used to make a glued paper or a construction, borrowed from everyday life, bring art closer to everyday life. As Kahnweiler wrote, they “discover a world of everyday objects that we have never looked at” and, through their subjects and materials, they magnify this everydayness by showing that it is worthy of inspire their art. Finally, they inscribe the very sustainability of their works in reality by questioning the notion of perishable. Made with elements that do not keep well, fragile papers and journals, they are doubly returned to time and the present: far from the immutability and eternity of the masterpiece, they assimilate the characteristics inherent to reality.

  • cubism
  • modernism
  • bohemian (life of)
  • Artistic current


Pierre DAIX, Journal of Cubism, Paris-Geneva, Skira, 1982.Daniel-Henry KAHNWEILER, Aesthetic confessions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963 [collection of unpublished texts or texts published between 1919 and 1955] .William RUBIN (ed.), Picasso and Braque, the invention of cubism, Paris, Flammarion, 1990 [exhibition catalog Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism, New York, Museum of Modern Art, September 24, 1989 - January 16, 1990].

To cite this article

Claire LE THOMAS, "Cubism, an everyday art"

Video: Cubism Introduction