The significance of Picasso's work between 1907 and 1914 or the out break of World War One is one of the most frequently treated subjects in the history of modern art. As Herbert Read tells us, "Picasso himself defined Cubism as 'an art dealing primarily with forms, and when a form is realized, it is there to live its own life'" (A Concise History of Modern Painting 78). For our purposes we might think of three different strands combining to produce a new way of seeing: distortion, abstraction, and collage. Relations among the forms on the plane of the canvas play a crucial role in creating a composition that draws what Picasso refers to as its "life" from the way one form speaks to or modulates other forms on the canvas. Much as the sequence of musical intervals describes a tune or motif, so then the sense of volume which fills the canvas, derives from relations between wholly or partially realized forms. Cézanne's compositions can be thought of as materialization of abstract forms. The realization of abstract forms imbues the painting with a material integrity that has value in its own right independent of the imitation of appearances.
and realization are processes exemplified
by Cézanne's composition, Le
Monte Sainte-Victoire, 1902-1904. Each brush stroke, each slab of color
in relation to other brush strokes, builds toward an integrity of form.
The pursuit of this objective has become the guiding principle of composition
for modern painting. Parallel in importance with the abstraction that gave
rise to Cubism is the distortion of form that we may associate with Van
Gogh or Munch.
In the case of Picasso, the expressive force of El
Greco or of an African mask is also a necessary stream that conjoins
with abstraction to produce a break-through work like Desmoiselles
And apart from his use of abstraction (wherein Picasso's work serves as a conduit that leads from Cézanne to Constructivism
(for instance in the hands of Mondrian)...
... Picasso's enduring contribution to the visual language (that is now everywhere available in media and the visual arts) lies in his development of collage and in his use of found objects and hybrid materials. At this point, you may wish to pause and consider the relation between the break-throughs that I have associated with Picasso's development of collage and the way in which such innovations have become in Raymond Williams words, “the easy iconography of the commercials?” (26).
Some additional key