Cubism as a Catalyst in Design
Kirsten Conover, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
Whoever said Cubism was just an early 20th-century phenomenon? Certainly Picasso led the pack with his vibrant abstract works in the early 1900s. But after the intellectual fencing had run its course and popular culture cast an eye on the avante-garde, the "spirit" of Cubism trickled down into the decorative arts.
French designers took the cue, and before long, furniture and fashion began to show up with a new look that harks back to the works of Cubist painters.
The Portland Museum of Art in Maine presents an exhibition that clearly illustrates this exquisite borrowing process: 'Picasso, Braque, Leger and the Cubist Spirit, 1919-1939.' In an effort to dispel the perception that Cubism was only a pre-World War I phenomenon, it features more than 100 works by Cubists and Cubism-inspired artists who worked in France between the wars.
During that time, Cubism's influence on the decorative arts showed up nearly everywhere. As curator Kenneth Wayne writes, "This new aesthetic pervaded design in all of its manifestations: architecture, furniture, objects, textiles, graphics, jewelry, and even movie sets and costumes. …