Cubism and War. The Crystal in the Flame

Art, Painting
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Cubism and War. The Crystal in the Flame
© Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d'art moderne. Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP

Cubism and the First World War don't have anything to do with each other, except for the fact that they existed at the same time. But if that loose connection is what it takes to bring out a great exhibition, we're all for celebrating it.

In the middle of the 100th anniversary of WWI, curator Christopher Green, under the umbrella of Barcelona's Picasso Museum, has brought together 21 paintings, 8 sculptures and 39 works on paper by cubist artists resident in France between 1914 and 1918: Picasso, Braque, Gris, Rivera, Matisse, María Blanchard, Léger, Lipchitz and Severini. Some 70 masterpieces belonging to some of the world's most prestigious museums, including New York's MoMA, the Pompidou in Paris, and London's Tate. This is an event that's practically impossible to duplicate. 

There are as many types of cubism as cubist artists. This artistic movement represents perceived reality through the use of geometry, the coming-together of different points of view, and the deconstruction of composition to accommodate the internal logic of each work. The result is often lacking in sensuality as much as it is disconcerting. The old eternal conventions no longer served.

With the biggest war in the history of Europe less than 100 kilometres away, a group of expats and others unable to serve in the military – Lipchitz had a physical disability and Matisse was too old – would create one of the most interesting movements in the history of modern art, right there in Paris. One story that Green tells year after year is from the summer of the war in the final armistice, between the first collages and a certain 'return to order', the sensuality of Matisse, the amusements of Gris, the volumes of Leger and the sensuality as well of Blanchard. Nevertheless, Picasso reigned with his own light.

By: Ricard Mas

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