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The Lure of Cubism

Whitford Fine Art, 2001. £10.00

As French painting rose from the ashes of the Great War, it was no longer possible for those who had been involved with Cubism before the War to come together again and continue the movement. Yet, it was at this time that true Cubist art at last came fully into its own, with a major group of Cubist works assembled at the Salon des Indépendants of 1920. Also, the dispersal at auction in Paris between 1921 and 1923 of the remaining pre-war stock of cubist paintings, belonging to the Kahnweiler Gallery, brought several hundred examples suddenly before the eyes of an awakening public, including young artists.

A large group of younger artists, rather than following the new avant-garde movements of Purism and Dada, felt more attracted to Cubism and the new pictorial concepts which Picasso, Braque and Gris themselves gave to the movement they had created more than ten years earlier.

By 1917 Picasso had begun to paint a series of still life abstractions incorporating the imagery of fruit bowls, mandolins, guitars and pedestal tables ('guéridon'). These paintings promoted the combination of geometric forms with decorative purpose, anticipating the Art Deco style, which was to dominate the inter war years. Braque and Gris, too had begun to allow decorative and sensuous values to play an active part in their painting.

Almost simultaneously Picasso distanced himself from cubism and, in a neo-classical reaction, returned to the tradition of Ingres. 'Le Rappel à l'Ordre', as this current is called appealed to artists wishing to use cubism as a pictorial language to explore the traditional values of painting. Other cubists explored cubism from Expressionism, Suprematism or Fauvism.

These extensions of cubism, collectively termed neo-cubism, would feed a generation of artists experimenting and searching for new ways of painting. Many of them successfully exchanged influences to create their very own pictorial language, and made this inter war epoch in French painting an attractive and rich source of inspiration for many artist after them.

Adrian Mibus, May 2001