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Salon Cubism

Salon Cubism Collage

Started: 1910

Ended: 1918

"Painting is a language - and it has its syntax and its laws."

Jean Metzinger Signature

Summary of Salon Cubism

The Salon Cubists, a group of avant-garde French artists, who lived and worked in Paris and its environs, built upon the early Cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, but they intentionally steered a different artistic path. Compared to Picasso’s and Braque’s small, intimate works with the subdued palette of browns and greys, Salon Cubists painted large scale works in vibrant colors and grounded their aesthetic theories with references to mathematics and vitalist philosophy.

The term Salon Cubists was adopted following the 1911 Salon des Indépendants to distinguish them from the "gallery Cubists," Picasso and Braque, who showed with the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. While Picasso and Braque are now the most famous Cubists, it was the Salon Cubists who established Cubism as an identifiable movement and introduced it to the general public through their exhibitions in notable Paris Salons between 1910 and 1913.

Key Ideas

Picasso and Braque formulated the foundations of Cubism in artistic conversations in their studios; with the stipend provided by their dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, they were able to experiment out of public view. The Salon Cubists, however, exhibited publicly in the Salons and felt a greater desire to communicate their aesthetic ideas with the public and were more attuned to public reception.
The idea of simultaneity, or mobile perspective, was a main tenet of Salon Cubism. The goal of the painter was to give the viewer the most information about an object by depicting multiple vantage points at the same time. Eschewing traditional one-point perspective that had ruled Western painting’s depiction of reality, the Salon Cubists depicted reality with fragmented, overlapping, and translucent planes to suggest a higher reality, a fourth dimension. This distortion also suggests that space and form are inextricably bound.
Simultaneity was also closely linked with Henri Bergson’s notion of duration, or psychological time, which highlighted the subjectivity of experience. Bergson held that consciousness of an object or an experience consisted of "several conscious states...organized into a whole, permeat[ing] one another, [and] gradually gain[ing] a richer content." Salon Cubists encouraged the subjectivity of experience by requiring the viewer to complete, to resolve the various perspectives, into the "total image," as Jean Metzinger referred to it.
While Salon Cubists helped to move painting further into abstraction, their paintings were never completely abstract. While they still painted portraits and genre scenes, their subject matter tended to be more "epic" and more allegorical, pointing to Cubism’s ability to merge traditional ideals and modern life.
Salon Cubism Image


The story of Cubism usually begins in the studios of Pablo Picasso and George Braque, who were looking at African sculpture and Paul Cézanne's late landscapes and still lifes, which reduced form to geometric cubes, pyramids, and cylinders. Picasso and Braque took Cézanne’s geometry even further, creating scenes from faceted planes of monochromatic color. There were other artists, however, who were similarly experimenting with form. Jean Metzinger and Robert Delaunay were longtime artistic colleagues who painted in the radical Neo-Impressionist style and were influenced by the color theories of Georges Seurat. Metzinger was also influenced, as were most of the Cubists, by the works of Cézanne, which had been exhibited in major Salons in Paris from 1904-1907. Cézanne’s work became the bridge between Metzinger’s earlier Neo-Impressionist work and his Cubist fracturing of the image into multiple perspectives.

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