While Pablo Picasso
painting Les Demoiselles D'Avignon
was reviled by most of the French
artistic community, it won him a new friend in Georges Braque
. Braque was intrigued by the way it broke with Western European art
istic conventions with its use of using broken
and flattened form
s. He had previously been developing ideas from the flattened space and reduction of form in the works of Paul Cezanne
, and his Houses at L'Estaque
(1908) ended up on display at Picasso's studio
. Together, Picasso and Braque experimented with levels of abstraction
and various methods of displaying figures on a two-dimensional surface
in an attempt to create a new style of art.
By 1910, the two artists had developed what today is recognizable as Cubism. Many regard these works as attempting to show every side of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimesional palette, but the actual motivation was not quite that simple. The goal was to break up the colors and lines of the form and rearrange them into a new image that analyzed the formal elements of the object. The result was often completely unintelligible to the average viewer; the paintings appeared to just be various shades of boxes assembled in a haphazard manner. For instance, in Braque's Candlestick and Playing Cards of 1909-10, a cursory glance offers little hope of recognizing any portion of the work; a bit of close inspection reveals a few blocks that suggest a candlestick, along with a few boxes that suggest playing cards. The objects Braque was painting from are completely obfuscated; the only remaining elements are those the artist wanted viewers to analyze.
In this way, Cubism is often regarded as the first truly modern art. At its height, Analytic Cubism came very close to complete abstraction of the subject. The objects supposedly being depicted did not matter to the artist as much as how he rearranged them to present to the audience. The artists began to look at their work much as a composer of symphonies: the individual parts do not matter as much as how they comprise the whole. It's likely that they thought a bit too much about this analogy, as most of the work of 1910-1912 was of various musical instruments. Braque did numerous pieces featuring a violin with an assortment of other objects, and both artists had a painting of a Man with a Guitar (Braque, 1911), or in Picasso's case, the non-gender-specific Guitar Player (1910).
Picasso also did a number of paintings that claimed to depict individuals. I definitely would not call them portraits (though they are generally termed as such), as part of the point of that class of art is to allow identification of the subject. Each work clearly shows a person and the manipultion of the form and colors suggest various characteristics of the subjects, but gives only an impression of what they may have looked like.
In 1912, before they went any further along the road to complete abstraction, Picasso and Braque reversed themselves and started depicting more recognizable objects in a new phase of cubism that has become known as Synthetic Cubism.