Art Term

Synthetic cubism

Synthetic cubism is the later phase of cubism, generally considered to run from about 1912 to 1914, characterised by simpler shapes and brighter colours

Juan Gris, ‘The Sunblind’ 1914
Juan Gris
The Sunblind 1914
Tate
Pablo Picasso, ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’ 1913
Pablo Picasso
Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper 1913
Tate
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2017
Pablo Picasso, ‘Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle’ 1914
Pablo Picasso
Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle 1914
Lent by the National Gallery 1997
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2017

In an attempt to classify the revolutionary experiments made in cubism by Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, historians tend to divide cubism into two stages, analytical and synthetic.

Synthetic cubism began when the artists started adding textures and patterns to their paintings, experimenting with collage using newspaper print and patterned paper. Analytical cubism was about breaking down an object (like a bottle) viewpoint-by-viewpoint, into a fragmentary image; whereas synthetic cubism was about flattening out the image and sweeping away the last traces of allusion to three-dimensional space.

Picasso’s papier collés are a good example of synthetic cubism.

Related glossary terms

Cubism
Analytical cubism
Collage
Papier collé