Cubism—“conceived rather than perceived reality”

As we begin to leave Vienna and the Secession Movement, we find ourselves confronting a new approach embraced by experimental artists regarding the process of fixing something into visual form.  This new approach, called Cubism, may be best understood by the following words offered by French poet, playwright, novelist and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire:  “The art of painting original arrangements composed of elements taken from conceived rather than perceived reality.”  (Guillaume Apollinaire, The Beginnings of Cubism, 1912).  Within this context offered by Apollinaire, what are your initial thoughts on Cubism?

Guillaume Apollinaire photo


Photograph of Guillaume Apollinaire


Photograph of Guillaume Apollinaire wounded in WWI



28 thoughts on “Cubism—“conceived rather than perceived reality”

  1. My initial thoughts on cubism after reading Apollinaire’s quote is that cubism isn’t base on what is seen in reality, but what an artist sees in their point of view that has been rearranged. I see cubism as art that has elements that have been rearranged to impossible positions, yet it is still recognizeable. Unseen or impossible angles of elements incorporated is what I perceive the most when I think of cubism.

  2. I prefer to take things from conceived reality, because it allows me to think outside of the box. I remember in my Drawing I, Drawing II, and Life Drawing classes, we had to draw still lifes and figures exactly as they were. With the Advanced Drawing class, we still were assigned to do certain things, but there were no boundaries for those things. We were free to do what we wanted beyond the assignment requirements. In the other drawing classes, it was just the assigned requirements–and nothing else. Cubism allows us to bring anything into visual form. It also brings abstraction into the picture.

  3. I don’t think you can argue with the statement. Cubism is a calculated dissection and rearranging of an object’s parts. My ambivalence toward cubism is that I think of it as a drawing or painting exercise not as art for it’s own sake. I think it was a technique that later became an art form as different artists experimented with the ideas and made statements using it as a visual language, but I’ve always found the beginning pieces to be experiments that should not have been considered final works.

  4. I don’t agree with Apollinaire’s because, in relation to cubism, as I look at Picasso’s work (mostly of women he knew); he perceives them using his eye; but conceives them when he reassembles them for the final product.

  5. I do agree with Guillaume Apollinaire’s quote, although I would like to juxtapose it with another quote from Pablo Picasso: “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” Picasso, who was undoubtedly the most prominent Cubist painter of the 20th Century (possibly of all time!), was known for painting objects and figures on a whole other dimension. Like Apollinaire had mentioned, Cubism relies upon a perceived reality, which is dependent on the artist’s perception of the subject. Certainly, anyone who has seen some of Picasso’s work in the latter half of his career can attest to the unusual shapes he breaks objects and figures down to. I believe that Cubism heavily relies upon how the artist looks and thinks of a scene, later bringing it to life on canvas or other mediums. When looking at Cubism from Apollinaire’s point of view, there really is no one right or wrong way of creating art; your creation is merely a reflection of how you perceive this reality and the objects occupying it.

  6. This quote really describes the idea behind cubism. Cubists wanted to show all part of the object/person, rather than only what is seen. It is a very cool and innovative idea that I find extremely intriguing. The artwork itself may not be considered “beautiful” because of the hodge-podge of shapes smashed together, but I feel like it really brought out a new dimension of art that people really did not think about before. Also, the art may not be perceived as beautiful because of the linearity of the shapes rather than them being shapes with beautiful organic curves, but I hope that anyone who learns about the movement can at least appreciate it for what it is, because showing everything that is there, rather than only what is seen, is a extremely difficult concept to achieve.

  7. After reading the quote, I agree with everyone’s comments that Cubism shows what the artist wants to see rather than what he/she sees. I think it represents a fundamental shift in how we think about art and artists. I wonder how to understand the relationship between perception and conception in the context of WWI.

  8. Cubism is a form of art that is more concerned with what an artist pictures in his or her mind rather than what appears in real life. Instead of creating an exact representation of a subject, an artist could be more imaginative and use unique forms and colors to illustrate how they perceive the subject. The only Cubist artist I am familiar with is Picasso and from what I have seen of his work, I can say that the women in his paintings are quite obviously recognized as women, even though they are not depicted in a traditional way. Cubism is a fascinating approach to art, because it forces critics to think outside of the box. Art does not always have to be a precise replica of reality. Sometimes what is found in the imagination is far more interesting.

  9. Cubism allows for a different mode of expression for an artist. I personally think that it is refreshing and innovative way to paint a perceived reality. At the time, society must have been extremely exhausted in seeing the same artworks from the old masters. People can now breathe and know that an artwork doesn’t have to conform to strict guidelines to be beautiful. Cubism explores the possibilities of innovative thinking instead of being restricted by the formal and conservative traditions.

  10. Cubism allows to take one’s conceptualizing of whatever is being painted, for instance, and visualize it in a manner that you find to be a deeper understanding. Composition influences the painting and how specific details are represented and so a Cubist painting’s composition will not be the same as a still life or real life observational painting. It does not matter if the final outcome looks like a visual replication because to a Cubist painter it is a replication, it just expresses a different understanding and instead represents that understanding from what the mind and inner thoughts have seen as opposed to what the eyes have.

  11. Cubism was a mystery to me until my undergrad art history prof explained the art movement’s conceptual principle of showing simultaneous, multiple perspectives of planed surfaces. It is nothing short of amazing what the progenitor artists, Cezanne, Picasso and Braque, were proposing in their time. When taken in to consideration with S. Hawking’s contemporary theories on the time-space continuum, Cubism’s revolutionary ideas were astoundingly prophetic. Apollinaire is accurate in defining Cubism as the art of depicting phenomena, not with the perceived reality of the senses i.e. Realism but, through the formula of a conceived reality of the mind: Cubism–its simultaneous, multiple perspectives in pictorial form.

  12. I have not studied cubism before and frankly didn’t understand what it was the artists were doing. It was a different way of perceiving structure which made it different than traditional representational art. Artists learn to “see” by observation (perception), then take that perception adding creativity with their brain/artistic vision and applied work ethic to “conceive” of something new. Cubism was/is representational yet allows the artist to put different perspectives into a unique compositions.

  13. Parts of Cubisim has a sort of vague abstract feel towards the audience that cannot fully understand the meaning of the piece but to either observe it well or appreciate its concrete beauty. The way that Guillaume Apollinaire talked about how Cubism is ”The art of painting original arrangements composed of elements taken from conceived rather than perceived reality” to me sounds like it is a mosaic. How shattered glass of different colors from different sort of arrangements can be used to put together a wonderful piece from thousands to millions shards of glass. That is what I see from Cubism, a sort of scattered meaning from one part of the painting to the next that makes up into one meaning that will make sense if the audience takes a close look at the scattered meaning. It is the art of paying attention or the audience will never seem to figure out its true meaning.

  14. I believe that Cubism is an art form that not many people understand. Within the context of Apollinaire I agree that the cubist painters do paint elements that are taken from different imaginary ideas. They don’t paint the perceived reality because that is something that everyone can understand and is aware of.

  15. Within the context of this quote, Cubism rejects the convention that art should realistically portray nature. Instead of looking at objects from a traditional perspective, objects and elements should be separated and viewed in different and unique ways. It’s more about how the artist feels something should look like rather than what it actually looks like.

  16. I agree with what Apollinaire’s statement about Cubism; it is conceived rather than perceived. As Cubism is a form of art, and like art, it is created from ones mind. Yet like all other forms of art, although it is conceived, it can only be perceived once it has been created.

  17. Cubism when approached from the thought of it being conceived rather than perceived. makes a lot more sense. Apollinaire’s statement is very accurate and it clears up a bit of confusion when it comes to cubism. I never understood cubism until realizing that it was an object but viewed simultaneously from different sides, and styles. Imagining cubism through a conceived reality I can put the subjects back together in a way that makes sense and can appreciate cubism more.

  18. Cubism is an interesting representation of art, and I believe it is difficult for many to understand. I was always intrigued by cubism and works by Picasso, even before I ever understood what Cubism was. There was always something mysterious about the pieces I’ve encountered, by the way the shapes were composed and jammed together. When showing Cubist art to my friends and relatives, I always heard harsh criticisms about it. To put it simply, from my personal experience, no one liked it. Was it because people are just not understanding the work? Or is it that some of us aren’t looking carefully? No one is obligated to like every specific style in the world of art, and there is an argument on whether or not one has to understand a work to like it. Picasso is not showing us the world that we see and like to see. His vision is broken, distorted, and skewed. Is our vision like Picasso’s? Though everyone perceives the world somewhat similar, the way that we conceive varies. Perhaps Picasso is accessing those visions of thoughts that we often deny.

  19. I think the cubists painted what they saw, but it turned out as what they had imagined. If they painted their subjects just as everyone else could see it, it probably would not be called cubism it would be more like realism.

  20. My thoughts on Cubism is that it isn’t what you just see with your eyes but what you may feel as you see the image and put it onto a canvas. I feel that Cubism is taking an image and adding a sort of feeling to it. The image is still recognizable but it has been shaped, molded and warped to a degree so that a viewer can somewhat feel what the artist is trying to express in their artwork.

  21. My initial thoughts on Cubism after reading the context by Apollinaire, is that Cubism comes from what you see within your personal thoughts rather than what you see right in front of you in reality. Cubism is used by taking your ideas of what something should look like rather than what something really does look like. It is brought up as something unique that can only be done by you and nobody else, because they wouldn’t know what your point of view would be since it hasn’t been brought up before.

  22. Upon initial inspection, I have to confess a lack of knowledge concerning the Cubist movement, and the pieces produced accordingly. However, based on the quote, I think that Cubism will be inherently uncomfortable to my visual-palate. The caveat of rendering from life, is the incredibly narrow or nonexistent space for imagination. That is why I hail realism as the discipline that demands the most technique– as an example of life, our eyes would automatically trace and dissect any flaw or lack of realism. To be a realist is to be more honest than anyone else. Given the school of Cubism, however– there lies an opportunity for an undulating tension: a rendering from imagination, of observation. I can respect the prospect in renouncing the conventions and rules of this artistic discipline, but I can absolutely understand and almost foresee a bitter, jarring experience with the idea.

  23. My initial thoughts on Cubism is that of seeing reality through a broken window. All the pieces are there and the entire picture makes sense to me as a viewer, but the way the glass has shattered has morphed and distorted certain aspects in just the right places. In that way, “Conceived rather than perceived reality” is a grand way to describe Cubism. After all, it is not how you see it that it appears.

  24. I enjoy cubism because it is abstract expressionism and surrealism. It was a fresh and forward thinking way to paint the perceived reality. It was different from the works of the masters and the classical tendencies still taught in art schools, so cubism was the breathe of fresh air in the art world. It was able to go against the guidelines but still have guidelines and that is what makes it beautiful.

  25. I really appreciate Cubism as well the corresponding experimental movements in Modernist literature that occurred around the same time. I enjoy considering different ways of thinking and looking at the world. Works like James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” as well as the innovative writings of Virginia Woolf (“The Waves” has been one of my favorite novels since high school) and Gertrude Stein, who’s abstract poem “Tender Buttons” was presented in class, all seem to be adopting a similar style.

    Cubism also makes me think of quantum mechanics. Our perceptions don’t always reflect reality. Theories of time suggest that it is not constant, that space time is a fabric which is not uniform but accelerates according to the mass of objects moving through space. Others suggest that time is like a grooved record with all moments existing always. I probably butchered this explanation, being that I am an art major, not a science major, but I think these ideas are important to consider. In light of these considerations, perceived reality is no less real then conceived reality.

  26. I feel that Apollinaire’s quote really gives more context into Cubism as a whole. I think most people just think of cubism as just simple geometric shapes and nothing more but it really is about going deeper from what the eye can see and delving deeper into a different perception. Many artists were tired of painting how things looked in the physical realm and wanted to expand onto that. I would say I definitely was more on the former of my thoughts on cubism, I didn’t really know too much about it but I knew that there was certainly more to Cubism than just shapes and weird proportions.

  27. I agree with Apollonaire’s statement. Cubism is entirely a construct of the human mind. The portraits and other paintings using the style of cubism do not occur naturally. It also is different from movements such as Expressionism because Expressionist artists are trying to express their thoughts/emotions from what they see, whereas Cubism seems to be more of an active construction of a new reality through art. Cubism is interesting, but it does seem to be more of a practice in technique for selected artists, not a fullblown art movement. This should not discount its influence, however.

  28. Apollinaire’s quote ”The art of painting original arrangements composed of elements taken from conceived rather than perceived reality.” provides a good foundation to understanding Cubism. my initial understanding of Cubism is alternative way of preceving the world through an almost kaleidoscope gaze

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