Picasso and the Invention of Cubism

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9780300094367: Picasso and the Invention of Cubism

This work seeks to transform our understanding of Cubism, showing in detail how it emerged in Picasso's work of the years 1906-13, and tracing its roots in 19th-century philosophy and linguistics. Linking well-known paintings and sculptures to the hitherto-ignored drawings that accompanied them, Pepe Karmel demonstrates how Picasso's quest to depict the human body with greater solidity led, paradoxically, to its fragmentation; and how Picasso used the archaic model of stage space to free himself from conventional perspective, replacing the open window of Renaissance painting with a new projective space. Rejecting the usual distinction between "analytic" and "synthetic" Cubism, Karmel shows how Picasso's changing artistic goals were realized in the crystalline Cubism of 1907-09, the gridded Cubism of 1910-11, and the planar Cubism of 1912-13. In other chapters, Karmel discusses the empiricist philosophy championed by Hippolyte Taine, which encouraged the breakdown of painting into its abstract elements, and laid the groundwork for an art of mental association rather than naturalistic figuration. Similarly, contemporary philology provided the model for a visual language employing both metaphoric and metonymic (but not arbitrary) signs.

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"Karmel's exacting, drawing-by-drawing, painting-by-painting study of the genesis and evolution of Cubism offers revelatory insight into the mind of Picasso, and into the primal processes of modern art's creation. Deeply researched, utterly original, and written with forceful clarity, this indispensable book will establish a new basis for Cubist studies, and hugely enrich our understanding of how cultural modernity was formed"--Kirk Varnedoe

"Karmel's book... makes a new and original contribution to the study of Cubism... [his] approach provides a way for the student to follow the artist's actual procedures and to understand better the revolutionary nature of the results. I can think of no other recent book on Cubism--and there have been many--that will aid students rather than confound them."--Marilyn McCully

"This absorbing study, founded on the winning combination of sharp-eyed observation and meticulous scholarship, offers a penetrating reassessment of Picasso's Cubism. More than that, it demonstrates conclusively that drawing was tantamount to thinking for Picasso, the decisive force in much of his most innovative work."--Elizabeth Cowling

About the Author:

Pepe Karmel is Associate Professor of Fine Arts at New York University.

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Karmel, Pepe
Published by Yale University Press (2003)
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