Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910–1912

An exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum looks at the formative years of cubism with the early works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Through Aug. 21

For brash lads turning “the art world upside down,” Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque sure could make a revolution dull, said Stephen Becker in ArtandSeek.net. The name that’s become attached to their experimentations—“analytic cubism”—is bad enough. Then there’s the work itself, awash in drab colors. The Kimbell jazzes up this seminal period of art history, helping visitors imagine the artists’ personal lives. We see them gambling, chasing women, and knocking back copious amounts of booze. Along the way, they were also renouncing the futile game of “realistically representing the world through art.” But they were guys in their 20s, and “when you look at the works at the Kimbell in that context, it’s easy to understand why liquor bottles, playing cards, and some of life’s other comforting vices made their way into the pictures.”

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Happily, it’s only the title of this show that feels as airless as “an advanced placement course,” said Gaile Robinson in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The work itself looks way better than in textbook reproductions, which don’t do justice to the paintings’ variegated surfaces—the etched-in hatch marks, the iridescent metal filings added to the paint. The reason Picasso and Braque toned down the palette in the first place was to “separate themselves from the tutti-frutti colors” of the impressionists. Not that the works lack whimsy. “There is a great deal of playfulness in these paintings”; you just have to know where to look. In Braque’s Bottles and Glasses (1912), for instance, you can faintly make out the letters O-R-V-I-L-L and B-U-R. The artists viewed themselves as “the Wright brothers of art,” and incorporating references to that in their work was a running joke between the two pals.

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