Culture Spotlight: Cubsim Leonard Lauder

These days the potential and possibilities of contemporary art seem boundless, but it was Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s break from the rules and figurative traditions that left the door wide open for Modernism.  Now through February, visitors to The Metropolitan Museum of Art can get a unique and elaborate look at the movement that changed the trajectory of art at the start of the Twentieth Century in a show that not only highlights the organic development of the style, but also sheds light on the art of art collecting.

‘Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection’ brings the former head of Estée Lauder’s historically unparalleled Cubism collection to the public for the first time, tracing the pioneering art movement through the work of it’s four most preeminent artists, Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, and Fernand Léger.  The show begins with ‘The Trees at L’Estaque,’ a painting of Braque’s that shows the very start of a break with traditional ideas of pictoral space, a new direction Braque took after studying Cezanne’s emotive landscapes, first exhibited in 1908 when critic Louis Vauxcelles unintentionally coined the movement, referring to the ‘bizarreries cubiques’ in the work. The landmark show heralded the start of Braque’s and Picasso’s exploration that would become known as analytic Cubism, with the artist’s breaking down and rearranging objects in abstract form in order to show multiple facets of the subject in the same composition.

The movement then further challenges the precedent of painting when both artists began to incorporate mixed mediums and objects into their works, playing with the viewer’s eye and expectations.  Working unexpected and certainly untraditional materials such as newspaper, sand, and rope into works, synthetic Cubism further challenged the definition of painting.  The artists mixed the real materials with realistic painted and drawn interpretations, forcing viewers to question which was which and what the role of painting itself was.

When asked why he chose to amass a collection of the early modernist movement, Lauder said “Cubism was something I was able to relate to. I liked the concept of looking in depth at a moment in history.”  The Met exhibition coincides with Lauder’s promise of his esteemed collection to the museum, a gift to his fellow New Yorkers. “Now I have something that I can share with the world, and that’s my great thrill.”

‘Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection’ is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 20, 2014 to February 16, 2015.

About the Author

Sarah Bertness is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer covering the arts, music, fashion and culture. She has a love for all things avant-garde, late night rock and roll, wanderlust, and a good dose of fringe and gold sequins. You can follow her musings on Twitter and Instagram @sarahbertness.