Art is always subjective but the way it has developed in recent years does show a certain tendency for the cubist and realist elements to be at the forefront. However one can observe how art changed from the middle 19th century to the avant garde preoccupations of Picasso which have demonstrated the changing face of art. We have also moved on to the modern exhibits such as those of Andy Warhol who demonstrates an original way of depicting artistic visuals.
The change can be seen by comparing Gustav Courbet’s ‘The Meeting’ with Picasso’s ‘Le Demoiselles de Avignon’. The figures in the former painting are almost static and the attention to detail is quite fastidious as both men seem to be relieved to see each other with the figure in the background resigned and lowering his head. What one can also observe is the way the landscape is painted and the attention to detail again is quite fastidious and realist. All this changes considerably with Picasso’s painting. The torsos of the females in the painting take on an erotic tendency and the bold strokes as well as brushwork show that the artist is not afraid to employ daring and modern techniques. This is very effective in the manner with which one views the painting.
Georges Braque’s Houses at L’Estaque’ is another example of the effectiveness of cubism. Here the artist is concerned with the portrayal of three dimensional houses. This is a typical example of postmodern art where the shapes and forms take on a whole new dimension of their own and almost leap out of the canvas. Perhaps when compared to Courbet’s paintings, the latter may seem to be too ‘picture postcard’ to be realist but artists like Braque and Picasso take the debate to a wholly new level.
Paul Cezanne was actually known as the father of cubism and his style focused on several factors. The simplification of painting as well as other approaches regarding a binocular approach is emphasised in Cezanne’s paintings. This is amply demonstrated in Mont Saint Victoire where the two dimensional imagery fairly leaps out of the page. Everything comes together in a succession of lines and drawings which reaffirm a certain sense of realism accordingly. In a way Cezanne turns full circle in his portrayal of cubism and art in general.
However there is also the notion of popular art which also takes on a whole new dimension. Andy Warhol’s works especially those with a populist theme such as the Marilyn Diptych create controversy in more ways than one. First of all, how can you describe a whole host of Marilyn Monroe stills as art? Is there any creative impulse in it? However, even if these questions remain unanswered, there is still the debate on its effectiveness which is undoubtedly quite powerful.
Yet again, we can go back and discuss other cubist works to appreciate how post modernism changed the world of art. Picasso’s ‘Still Life with chair Caning’ is an interesting combination as it shows how the combination of materials can create imagery with a realist tendency in it. The argument once again goes back to realism and the sadly lost ‘The Stonebreakers’ by Gustav Courbet. Yet again here we have several realist attributes such as the sweaty palms of the workers as they endure their back breaking work in the quarries. Their suffering is excellently portrayed with the torn clothes also very reflective of the suffering that they are going through. The comparison with George Braque or Pablo Picasso’s style is also very instructive as it shows that a development took place in the way art is depicted.
However there is a demonstration that pop art has broken away from modern art especially in Andy Warhol’s exemplary work. We have already discussed the Marilyn Triptych but another example is the Soup Cans exhibit which consists of nothing more than 200 soup cans. Yet again the argument arises if this is art or not but the way the cans are symmetrically arranged demonstrates a sense of uniformity. There are traces of cubism in such exhibits that also show great imagination and vision. This populist for of art certainly appeals to the masses and is a far cry from the realism of Georges Courbet or Jean Francoise Millet.
Finally the Green Car Crash collage by Warhol is a series of images showing a car crash in 1963. This is powerful imagery in every sense of the word and also demonstrates a sense of fatalism in the series entitled ‘Death and Disaster. It shows the power of combining some shocking images into a whole which creates a sense of disaster. This shows that art has moved on from the still lifes of Courbet and Millais to the powerful artistic statements of Picasso and Andy Warhol. One can debate if art has developed in the right direction but there is no denying the capacity to thrill provided by pop art.