Cubisme et cubismes

Cottington, David (2018) Cubisme et cubismes. In: Briend, Christian , Coulandre, Ariane and Leal, Brigitte, (eds.) Repenser le Monde. Paris, France : Centre Pompidou. (In Press)


The essay draws on the author’s specialist expertise in the history and theories of the full spectrum of positions adopted by artists within the movement, and on current research into the structure and character of the Parisian avant-garde, as this formation became consolidated in the pre-First World War decade, to a considerable extent as a consequence of the activities and influence of the Cubist movement. The essay’s research question is ‘what was the spread of Cubism’s concerns, and how did the several orientations within it differ, and why?’. Its answers are based partly on research for the author’s PhD (Courtauld Institute, 1985) and published since, in three books and numerous articles, and partly on his new and current research and writing on the emergence and professional consolidation of the Parisian artistic avant-garde. The research for all of this was largely library- and archive-based, in libraries in Paris, New York and London. It is intended that the essay will further the overarching objective of the exhibition, which is to provoke a revised understanding of Cubism in Paris, challenging the predominance of a now-outdated and too-exclusive focus on ‘gallery’ Cubism (the Cubism of Picasso, Braque, and other artists of the ‘stable’ of gallerist Kahnweiler) with a presentation of the many different ideas that the ‘salon’ Cubist wing of the movement presented, in the work, among others, of Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Léger, Duchamp, Gleizes and Metzinger. Beyond this, it breaks important new ground in its characterisation of the avant-garde as an ‘alternative profession’ that challenged the liberal-bourgeois professionalism of the artistic mainstream.

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