The Ideas of Analytic Cubism

December 1, 2016

The term analytic cubism defines the early phase of Cubism and it describes the innovations and experimentation of the two artists, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Considered as fathers of the Cubism movement, the two painters revolutionized the face of art. Lasting from 1909 until 1912, analytic cubism images are characterized by a fragmentary appearance, linear construction, reduction of color to an almost monochromatic color palette, understanding of the objects as basic geometric shapes, and the use of multiple viewpoints. Unlike other avant-garde images produced by Italian Futurists, Piet Mondrian or the pioneer of abstract art Wassily Kandinsky, analytic cubism images were left open to interpretation and were not accompanied by an artist’s manifesto. For years art historians and critics have analyzed and attempted to come to terms with analytic cubism, and to make sense of its fragmented forms, shallow and heavily worked surfaces.

use the word artist when speaking about the authors in the past
Pablo Picasso - Factory in Horta de Ebbo. Image via

The Beginning of Analytic Cubism - What Pushed for the New ?

Challenging the canons of creativity, cubist artists aimed to revitalize art so that it would be more in tune with the innovations and the birth of the modern age. At the turn of the 20th century, artists found themselves in the midst of great change. Technological advances, dramatic political and social changes were all occurring at this time. The birth of photography forever transformed the role and need for visual art as it was used to document the changes occurring in the world. For many painters and artists, creativity needed to reflect these bursts of new energy and ideas. The two authors, Picasso and Braque, inspired by the Post-Impressionist artist, Paul Cezanne, rejected the rule of three-dimensionality and perspective in art and began to experiment with flat surfaces, reduction of form and color, and the understanding of nature in forms of basic geometric shapes.[1] Attempting to create a sense of totality which reflected the need for the new, the two artists collaborated, communicated daily, and experimented with space, time, and representation of the world.

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space and its rules were broken by this period. space changed
Left: Pablo Picasso - Artwork / Right: Pablo Picasso - Portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Images via

The Style of Analytic Cubism

As a particularly rigid form of avant-garde art, analytic cubism was the most intellectual and uncompromising stage of Cubism movement. Termed in this way, it reflected the shift from the earlier brighter images for a more analytical approach towards the subject matter. The structured dissection of the subject, viewpoint-by-viewpoint, resulted in the fragmentary image and overlapping planes. During 1910 – 1912, Picasso and Braque abstracted their works to the point that they were reduced to a mere play of planes and facets. The produced result is best described as a collage of various viewpoints which are glued back together to form a total picture. Reducing the color to the almost monochromatic shades of gray, brown, and black, the focus remained on the structure of the form and the density of the image at the center of the canvas.[2] The favorite motifs were usually still life with a musical instrument, bottles, pitchers, glasses, newspapers, and the human face and figures. Landscape images were rare.

Continuing with the research of the two-dimensional surface and the rejection of the single point perspective, analytic cubism images were objects in their own right. This understanding of Cubist artworks was put forward by the critic Clement Greenberg who defined the images as constructions of various parts that both represent and are new understandings of reality.

space of analytic cubism, where is it? define the space and relevance of the movement.
Georges Braque - Still Life With A Bunch of Grapes. Image via

The Importance of Analytic Cubism and its Images

The painting Portrait of Ambroise Vollard is considered as the image which defines the style of analytic cubism. In this work, Pablo Picasso has disassembled a human figure into a series of flat transparent geometric plates. The early cubist painting style, with its focus on cube-like imagery, has disappeared and in its place, we are offered an image which celebrates the planes. The overall quality of deconstruction and then the creation of the image aided by the multi-layered arrangements of overlapping planes is one of the key elements of the new artistic style. [3]

The importance of Analytic Cubism is seen in its questioning of the traditional artistic canons. The rejection of the three-dimensionality and the reduction of form to the basic idea of a flat surface impressed not only painters but marked the new understanding of sculpture and architecture as well. The analytic cubism ended in 1912 and in its place the two artists offered Synthetic Cubism, an equally revolutionary style of creativity which incorporated found objects and materials as well as paint and canvas. These two styles defined the Cubism movement which for many is considered as the moments which marked the birth of non-representational art.

  Editors’ Tip: Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910-1912

Exploring the pivotal phase of modern art, analytical cubism culminated during two-year period, between 1910 – 1912. The creative exchange of the two masters, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque produced the Cubism movement which is considered as one of the most revolutionary periods of art. The book is the first publication to delve deeply into these two intense years of productivity, revealing the intriguing pictorial game being played out between these two great artists. Essays by prominent curators and historians offer sustained readings of paintings, drawings, and prints in terms of their engagement with issues of genre, format, medium, and artistic process. To understand the play between the two authors is to understand Cubism and to fully comprehend its importance for later developments in art history.


  1. Cox, N., Cubism, Phaidon, 2000
  2. Ganteführer-Trier, A., Cubism, Taschen, 2004
  3. Cottington, D., Cubism and Its Histories , Manchester University Press, 2004


All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image:Left: Pablo Picasso - Girl with Mandolin / Right: Georges Braque - Mandora. Images via

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