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Picasso was just 25-years-old and working out of a cramped studio in the Paris district of Montmartre when he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, an artwork that disrupted conventional ideas about realism and perspective by fragmenting the bodies of the women in his picture into geometric shards, as if they were reflected in a mirror that had been shattered. It was 1907 and this work is considered to have laid the foundations for the Cubism movement that would follow.
Around the same time, another artist was also experimenting with this style, just without Picasso’s notoriety. His name was Georges Braque and he can be credited with the first cubist landscape. His 1908 oil painting Houses at l'Estaque depicts trees and houses transformed into three dimensional blocks, merging the foreground with the background until they are indistinguishable. It was this work that inspired the movement’s name. The word “Cubism” can be traced back to a scathing review of a show Braque did in Paris, where art critic Louis Vauxcelles said the artist despised form, 'reducing everything, places and figures and houses, to geometric schemas, to cubes'.
It’s said that Cubism existed in two phases. The years between 1908 and 1912 has been branded as the era of analytical Cubism, which produced muted artworks in limited tones; blacks, greys and ochres. Whereas Synthetic Cubism popular between 1912 and 1914 – was distinctive for simple shapes, brighter colours and the use of collage.
Find out more in our Guide To Drawings.