Analytic and Synthetic Cubism

Artistic Movements, Periods and Styles in 5 Points

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Fundamental Differences between Analytic and Synthetic Cubism


  • Cubism is the movement of Picasso and Braque (the starting point, les Demoiselles d’Avignon, by Picasso, is from 1907). It proposes representing the image by “flattening” it on the canvas, and then “dismantling” it in its different components, which are simplified and geometrized, and can be seen from different points of view at the same time.
  • Cubism has two stages: Analytic Cubism evolved into Synthetic Cubism. We should consider what was before: the anticipation of Cézanne, who inspired everything by simplifying, geometrizing and using different points of view at the same time. Some people call this stage “Proto-Cubism.”. And afterwards, other artists added vitality and dynamism to their compositions. For example, Cubists of the Puteaux Group and the Futurist and Vibrationist artists.
  • A fundamental difference between Analytical and Synthetic Cubism is that the first one “dismantles” each figure (to the point that sometimes what the artist has represented is not understood) to reorder it from multiple perspectives. For example the front and side of a face can be seen at the same time. Instead, in Synthetic Cubism, the artist only decomposes the figures in its most representative parts. It is simpler and as the represented figures can be distinguished, we can say it is “more figurative.”
  • Another difference is color. Analytical Cubism is not “distracted” from its purpose of decomposing figures to reassembly them and uses one color or very few dark, dull colors with greys and ochre. In the second stage instead, more colors are used.
  • In addition to oil, in many paintings of Synthetic Cubism, we can see pieces of newspapers, music scores, cloth or wood. The first Western collages were born. In the East, the technique was already being used about two thousand years ago.


Image: Mandolin and Guitar (1924). Picasso. Synthetic Cubism.


Recommended links:

Fundamental Paintings to Understand the History of Painting: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso.

Fundamental Paintings to Understand the History of Painting: Mont Saint-Victoire, Cézanne.


The Series of Picasso that Continues the Guernica.

Picasso and the Portraits of Marie-Thérèse.

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