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Subject - CSG / CSV (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311), Diploma of Visual Art (CUV50111)

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Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Education Manager: Adam Hutterer - email:

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Class 06 - Lecture Notes

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  • Cubism appeared around 1907 in Paris and its founders were Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque created it between 1907 and 1914 in Paris. The French art critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the term Cubism after seeing the landscapes Braque had painted in 1908 at L'Estaque in emulation of Cezanne. Vauxcelles called the geometric forms in the highly abstracted works "cubes."

  • Cubist painting ignores the traditions of perspective drawing and shows many views of a subject at one time.



The Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective, modelling, and foreshortening.

They wanted instead to emphasize the two-dimensionality of the canvas.

So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, and then realigned these within a shallow, relief like space.

They also used multiple or contrasting vantage points.


  • The Cubists were influenced by art from other cultures, particularly African masks.

Influences on early Cubism have been linked to Primitivism and non-Western sources. The stylization and distortion of Picasso's ground breaking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York), painted in 1907, came from African art. Picasso had first seen African art when, in May or June 1907, he visited the ethnographic museum the Trocadero in Paris

Pablo Picasso “Head of a Woman” 1907 and right: African Mask


Pablo Picasso “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon” 1907


  Georges Braque “Viaduct at L'Estaque”, 1908


  • The Post impressionism Paul Cezanne is the second major influence on the development of cubism

In his mature work Paul Cézanne ignores the laws of classical perspective, allowing each object to be independent within the space of a picture while the relationship of one object to another takes precedence over traditional single-point perspective. He was to be the principle influence on early cubist developments.


Paul Cézanne “Bibemus Quarry” 1898


  • There are two main distinct phases of the Cubist Style: Analytical Cubism (pre 1913) and Synthetic Cubism (post 1913)

Cubism continues to inspire the work of many contemporary artists, which still use the stylistic and theoretical features of this style.

  • Cubism was the first style of modern art to emphasis a Formalist aesthetic.

Braque and Picasso's mature Cubist work is usually divided into two phases—Analytical Cubism (1909–11) and Synthetic Cubism (1912–14). In the ‘Analytical’ phase, the relatively solid massing of their earliest Cubist paintings gave way to a process of composition in which the forms of the object depicted are fragmented into a large number of small, intricately hinged planes that fuse with one another and with the surrounding space. This fascination with pictorial structure led to colour being downplayed, and the archetypal Analytical Cubist paintings are virtually monochromatic, painted in muted browns or warm greys. Examples show how similar the two artists were in style at this date. At times they worked in such close harmony ‘like mountaineers roped together’ in Braque's memorable phrase—that even experts can have difficulty in differentiating their hands.

In Cubist work up to 1910, the subject of a picture was usually obvious. Although figures and objects were dissected or "analysed" into a multitude of small facets, these were then reassembled, to evoke those same figures or objects. Picasso and Braque abstracted their works so much that they were reduced to just a series of overlapping planes and facets mostly in near-monochromatic browns, greys, or blacks. In their work from this period, Picasso and Braque frequently combined representational motifs with letters. Their favourite motifs were still lives with musical instruments, bottles, pitchers, glasses, newspapers, playing cards, and the human face and figure.


George Braque-Pablo Picasso 1910-12


Juan Gris 'Still Life with Open Window, Rue Avignon', 1915

  • Cubism was the first art movement to introduce collage as a visual motif.

During the winter of 1912–13, Picasso executed a great number of papiers collés (paper collage). With this new technique of pasting coloured or printed pieces of paper in their compositions, Picasso and Braque swept away the last vestiges of three-dimensional space (illusionism) that still remained in their "high" Analytic work.

Whereas, in Analytic Cubism, the small facets of a dissected or "analysed" object are reassembled to evoke that same object, in the shallow space of Synthetic Cubism—initiated by the papiers collés–large pieces of neutral or coloured paper themselves allude to a particular object, either because they are often cut out in the desired shape or else sometimes bear a graphic element that clarifies the association.

Pablo Picasso “Still Life With Chair Canning” 1913


  • Appropriation in art starts with Synthetic Cubism

George Braque “Violin and Pipe” 1913 


While Picasso and Braque are credited with creating this new visual language, it was adopted and further developed by many painters, including:

Fernand Léger,

Robert and Sonia Delaunay,

Juan Gris,

Marcel Duchamp,

Albert Gleizes,

Jean Metzinger

Diego Rivera.

Though primarily associated with painting, Cubism also exerted a profound influence on twentieth-century sculpture and architecture. The major Cubist sculptors were Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Jacques Lipchitz.

  • Cubism would lead other artist and movements to the machine aesthetic.



Along with Picasso, Braque, and Gris, Fernand Léger ranks among the foremost Cubist painters. By 1912, he had developed his own adaptation of Cubism. Utilizing pure colour, he simplified the forms in his pictures into geometric components of the cone, cube, and sphere, leaving their contours unbroken.

Machines and modern technology fascinated Leger. This would lead to the Bauhaus adoption of the "machine aesthetic". With colourful and overlapping disks, cylinders, cones, and diagonals, Léger presents a modified, abstract equivalent of the visual impressions of reality.

Fernand Léger, “Three Women” 1921

  • Cubism would lead other artist and movements to investigate dynamic movement in art.


One of his most important works, Nude descending a staircase (1912), reflects Duchamp's hesitant relationship with Cubism. He adopts the limited palette of Cubist paintings, but his invigorated figure is in a state of perpetual motion—a very different effect from Picasso and Braque's Analytic Cubism that held figures tightly in place.

Provoking negative reactions from even the Parisian avant-garde, the painting was rejected by the Salon des Independents’ for the artist's mechanistic, dehumanizing rendering of the female nude. The painting was to act as mediation between Cubism and Futurism with the emphasis shifting towards a depiction of dynamic movement.


Marcel Duchamp “Nude descending a staircase” 1912

  • Cubism influenced many other styles of modern art including Orphism, Futurism, Vorticism, Suprematism, Dada, Constructivism and De Stijl.


The liberating Formalist concepts and the use of collage initiated by Cubism had far-reaching consequences for Dada in Zurich, as well as the Futurist in Italy in the first two decades of the 20th century. Cubism was particularly influential upon all artists pursuing abstraction in Germany through the Bauhaus and in Holland through De Stijl, It would continue to influence Avant- guard discourse in England through Vorticist movement, in America through the advent of abstract expressionism and in particular the Supremacist and the Constructivist art movement in Russia.  


Vorticism -The cover of the 1915 BLAST 

Blast Manifesto:


Kasimir Malevich “Suprematist composition” 1916.

  • Cubism continues to inspire the work of many contemporary artists, which still use the stylistic and theoretical features of this style.

David Hockney (Polaroid collage), “Kasmin” 1982


Frank Gehry, “The Guggenheim museum”  Bilbao, Spain. 2003



  • Anything emotional or expressive was taboo.

De Stijl (the style) was defined by its purity of form and unity in composition.  Anything emotional or expressive was taboo.  All De Stijl design was based on the rectangle and the use of black, white, grey and the primary colours.  De Stijl design was rigidly mathematical, aiming at total abstraction. Piet Mondrian applied these principles of organization and precision to his highly individual artwork.

  • Mondrian initially took his direction from analytical cubism.

Piet Mondrian “Still Life with Ginger Pot” 1912


Piet Mondrian “ Composition in Red, Yellow and Blue


Thoe Van Doesburg

In distancing itself from the De Stijl ethic or strictly defined geometric impersonal style, Van Doesburg came to teach at the Bauhaus and encouraged the director Walter Gropius to move in the direction of a more Avant-garde, constructivist and formalist aesthetic.

Theo van Doesburg “Counter-Composition V,” 1924

Van Doesburg shifted his style of painting from one that emphasized direct reflection of everyday life to one that placed more importance on a conceptual style that favoured a simplistic geometric style. His theories, conveyed the idea that there was a collective experience of reality that could be tapped as a medium of communication applied to design.


Theo van Doesburg “Contra-Construction Project”, 1923.





The Weimar Bauhaus Art and Design School combined fine art with applied arts into a single curriculum.  In 1919 the Architect Walter Gropius was appointed director of the first Bauhaus.  Gropius was proudly anti academic situating his (teaching methods and curriculum) the school in the real world. The main objective pursued by the Bauhaus was the union of art and industry. It aimed to teach the arts by bridging the gulf between art and industry. In fact, the school was a merger of the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts and the Weimar Academy of Fine Arts.

The Bauhaus school of design Weimar

The progressive teaching attitudes and practices and passion for functionality spanned

the creative disciplines, as everything from architecture and graphics to furniture and product

design where shaped by this new found modern aesthetic.

Oskar Schlemmer

Oskar Schlemmer, “ Bauhaus Stairway” 1932

Osker Schlemmer was the sculpture and theatre production teacher at the Bauhaus. He said of the Bauhaus style that it “it must be determined to be radically geometric and modern at all costs. He was instrumental in evoking the Bauhaus creed of form before function.

Scene from Metal Dance by Schlemmer 1931


Josef Albers

The Bauhaus painting teacher and colour theorist, Josef Albers was famous for producing the monumental  “Homage to a Square” series of paintings and was also probing in his research about how colours were perceived in the mind of the viewer when placed against different backgrounds. He was instrumental in developing advanced theories colour contrast still referred to till the present day.

Josef Albers “Homage to a Square” 1930-1955


  • Bauhaus design would have a huge impact on most of 20th century design.

Bauhaus Poster Design 1923


The essential features of Bauhaus design and publications were order, asymmetry and a basis rectangle geometric structure.

Decoration was limited and circular, rectangular and linear forms were used instead.

Photography and montage replaced realistic drawings as illustration.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “The Barcelona chair” 1929

Barcelona Chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the second director of the Bauhaus for his 1929 German Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Barcelona.

Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer was appointed by Walter Gropius to direct the new Printing and Advertising department at the Bauhaus in Dessau.

Bayer developed the “Universal”, a geometric sans-serif typeface in 1925, designed the iconic signage for the Bauhaus’ new building complex in Dessau, and the graphic design for Bauhaus product catalogues and posters.

In 1937, works of Bayer’s were included in the Nazi propaganda exhibition “Degenerate Art”, upon which he left Germany.

In 1938 Bayer settled in New York City where he had a long and distinguished career in nearly every aspect of the graphic arts. Bayer’s output is synonymous with the graphic look of the Bauhaus and his influence permeates graphic design even today.

Gropius´ aim was to bring an end to class distinctions that opened a gap between craftsmen, designer and artists. He also wanted to create a new architectural style to reflect the new era that had begun unfold with the end of World War I and the advent of Russian constructivism.

The style of the architecture Gropius promoted was characterized by functional design distinctly lacking in ornamentation. Focusing instead on clean geometric plane and line. This new approach to reductive architecture was coupled with the use of newly developed industrial materials and process. Pointing out the benefits of using newly appointed  industrial materials such as steal, glass and pre-fabricated concrete as an efficient and economic means of production.

Le Corbursier “Villa Savoye” 1928



The arrival of the painter and designer Laszlo Moholy Nagy to the Bauhaus extended the interest in typography, printing and photography.  A new typography workshop was included to the Bauhaus curriculum at Dessau.  It turned into one of the most influential and important typographical style under the direction of Jan Tschichold.

Poster and sketched by Jan Tschichold 1928


The new typography was characterised by geometric, San Serif type and simplified a symmetric style layouts.  It was a rejection of classical rules of typographic symmetry. Using a diagonal system of grids created most of the work produced.  The precursor to the formal systems later developed, which forms the basis of typographic layout systems, we use today.



Gropius got funding for the Bauhaus from the Social Democrats, and therefore the school had the support of the party in power. However, when the party lost control of the state parliament, the Nationalists took over and, since they were hostile to the Bauhaus's leftist curriculum, the school's funding was cut in half.

In 1925, due to ongoing hostilities the Bauhaus had to change its location from Weimar to Dessau. Soon after the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, it became known to the general public as being associated in style with geometric and formal aesthetic concerns and ultimately modern. During the late 1920s, however, the Nazi Party and other fascist political groups were in opposition to the ideas of the Bauhaus and, in 1933, the school was closed and many of its members, staff and teachers immigrated to the United States.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy founded the Graphic Institute of Chicago and taught using the Bauhaus teaching methods. The ideas of the Bauhaus contributed, among others, to the development of the style known as International Style.

The Bauhaus graphic design style would go onto eventual influence a host of preceding generations of design schools.  Notable among them was Art Deco in its use of modernist attraction to machine aesthetics and a sense of dynamism and movement.  To the purist however such links between Bauhaus with Art Deco was sacrilegious.





While Modernist designers such as the Bauhaus and The Constructivist struggled after World War 1 to transform society with their Utopian ideals of revolutionary change in art and design, Art Deco a new fashionable style that incorporated current tendencies of reductive form and the old decorative sensibilities was taking the world by storm.

As Art Nouveau began to wane as a popular design style, some designers in Paris realized that the middle class required another nonthreatening style as an alternative to the increasingly abstract and for much inaccessible modern style.

Art Deco graphic design motifs.

Despite the prevailing Modernist philosophy, the compulsion of the European public for ornamentation in design persisted. Art Deco came into existence in the 1920s and lasted as a design force until 1935 the advent of the Second World War.

It was there for the design style most associated with the Jazz Age. Art Deco was one of the first mass produced styles to find acceptance with most consumers internationally. There are various versions of Art Deco design and architecture from American, French, Italian, English and Australian sources. Melbourne is also one of the prime Art Deco cities with buildings such as the Century building and the Manchester unity building both in Swanston Street.

Manchester Unity building Collins St Melbourne


The Sun Theater, Yarraville. Melbourne



  • Art Deco was an eclectic design style

Art Deco as a style of art and design also influenced art, graphic design, fashion, jewelry design, industrial design and architecture. Art Deco drew its inspiration from a number of sources, which included the decorative sensibilities of Art Nouveau, the ‘machine aesthetic’ of the Bauhaus, the geometric abstract elements of Cubism and Constructivism, the Futurist emphasis on movement, and Aztec art.

 Examples of Art Deco product design


The Art Deco design style was characterized by the use of angular geometric stepped patterns, sunburst and zigzag motifs and the use of both bright and subdued colours.

The graphic patterns in the motifs could be intricate in detail. A classic example of Art Deco poster design includes Schulze Neudamms’ poster for Fritz Lange’s film Metropolis of 1926 and Georges LapapeVogue magazine cover of April 1927

Film poster Metropolis 1926

VOGUE, April 1, 1927

Artist and designers such as AM Cassandra and Tamara De Lempicka combined highly stylized, elongated and dynamic figuration depicted within a Neo classical sensibility.

AM CassandraNord Express” 1935

Temara De Lempicka “Portrait of Ira” 1922



Art Deco openly celebrated speed, travel, and luxury and the new and faster ocean lines and stream lined trains and cars that made travel to distant lands accessible for the newly emerging middle classes of Europe and America. They were seen as the ultimate Modern symbols of elegance and luxury.

As the travel industry began to expand it wasn't long before the various travel companies were spending vast amounts of funds commissioning designers to promote their service. The series of striking poster designs that resulted echoed this feeling emphasising speed, comfort and elegances the ultimate characteristic of the modern jazz age.

A.M. Cassandre, “Normandie”, 1935

A.M. Cassandra “L’Atlantique” 1933 and Michael Kungl “Clipper 314” 1932



The two classic architectural examples of the Art Deco style in New York are the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building, both of which were completed during the 1930s.

The Empire State building New York


The Wall Street crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed in America resulted in a devastating economic downturn throughout Europe and the rest of the western world. The Great Depression of the early 1930s meant a return to a more austere and frugal life for most Americans and Europeans including Germany who turned to totalitarianism and fascism. The rise of the Nazi party and Adolph Hitler would soon see the world plunge into the Second World War, effectively bringing an end to the affluent life style of the Jazz age.






1: What pictorial principals did Picasso and Braque adopt from Cezanne?

2: What role did African art play in influencing Picasso’s early Cubist pictures?

3: Cubism was developed across three distinctive stages, what were they?

4: Give a brief description of how each stage was distinctive from each other through style and use of motifs.

5: Find two examples of each stage.

6: What visual process did Futurist art adopt from Cubism?

7: Note three ways that Cubism directly influenced Mondrian in De Stijl.

8: What is meant by “Machine Aesthetic?”

 9: What was the Bauhaus famous for?

10: Find three definitions of Formalism in art and design. 

11: Find three examples of Art Deco poster design.


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