Picasso and the Invention of Cubism


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Pepe Karmel


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This book transforms our understanding of Cubism, showing in unprecedented detail how it emerged in Picasso’s work of the years 1906–13, and tracing its roots in nineteenth-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.

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. Combining intellectual history with close visual reading, Picasso and the Invention of Cubism opens new perspectives on the most influential movement in twentieth-century art.

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

“Karmel’s is the most serious and comprehensive account of Cubism to date and, as such, it will undoubtedly have a major impact on the field.”—Lisa Florman, Art Bulletin

"Essential reading."—James Hall, RA Magazine (UK)

"For the lay reader interested in a close examination of the greatest innovation by the last century’s greatest artistic innovator, this is a rewarding and eminently readable journey."—Ann Landi, ARTnews

“Audiences interested in the history of perception, theories of vision, and in cultural history will join art historians (especially specialists in modern art and theory) in finding much of interest here. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“The highly readable text presents impeccable scholarship and boldly addresses historical challenges with Picasso studies.”—Library Journal

“This study [is] outstanding. Cubism should never be made to seem too easy, but the exceptional lucidity of Karmel’s prose, combined with an unusually adroit use of diagrams to reveal first ideas for compositions or their underlying grids, is enlightening not only about what is represented, but also about how it is represented and why.”—Apollo

ISBN: 9780300094367
Publication Date: October 11, 2003
248 pages, 8 1/2 x 10 3/4
250 b/w + 30 color illus.
The Cubism Seminars

Edited by Harry Cooper

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