Cubist Paintings

Famous Cubist Paintings – 10 Masterpieces of Cubism

The Cubism movement, which began in the early 20th century, was distinguished by the intense fragmentation, abstraction, and subdued color palette that was seen in the works made. Considered to be one of the most influential styles to come from that century, Cubism had a major impact on the artists of that era, which led to many notable artworks being produced. Despite its success, Cubism was relatively a relatively short-lived movement, later leading to the emergence of Futurism, Dadaism, Constructivism, and Suprematism.



What Was the Cubism Art Movement?

Spanning between 1907 and 1914, Cubism developed in Paris at the turn of the 20th century as a radical movement that broke away from the well-established traditions governing contemporary art. Pioneered by notable artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Cubism developed in reaction to Picasso’s shocking Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which he painted in 1907. This led to rapid artistic experimentation being done by both Picasso and Braque, with the latter firmly introducing the movement to the public during a one-man exhibition in 1908.

The movement was eventually given its iconic name by art critic Louis Vauxcelles who, upon seeing Braque’s exhibited works in 1908, described them as reducing all elements to mere outlines and cubes. Famous Cubism art highlighted the two-dimensional nature of the canvas as opposed to creating an impression of depth, which was the prior focus of artists.

This was achieved through using the aspects of perspective and tone in completely different ways, as well as the creation of distinct planes to show different points of view at the same time.

Cubism Artworks Femme nue lisant (Nude Woman Reading) (1920) by Robert Delaunay; Robert Delaunay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Seen as a revolutionary new way to represent reality, objects and people were generally depicted from lots of different angles to the point where a kaleidoscopic view was achieved. This led to the movement being viewed as an avant-garde movement, as artists assertively challenged Western core conceptions of graphic representation. The paintings created helped usher in the most innovative chapter of art history that was seen at the time, as Cubism artworks went on to instigate an authentic cultural awakening.

Picasso and Braque, in particular, felt that the worn-out standards of art had run their course and that an entirely new and groundbreaking movement was needed. The subsequent impact of Cubism was far-reaching, with this geometric style being divided into two distinct phases known as Analytic and Synthetic Cubism.

Thus, despite being a short movement, Cubism proved to be highly significant based on the various offshoots that occurred, as artists displayed a great interest in this advanced style of art.



Key Aspects of Cubism

Focusing on the aspect of fragmentation, Cubist artists examined, broke up, and reassembled objects and figures in new and abstracted forms. Instead of portraying subject matter from a single viewpoint, which was the standard in traditional art, Cubist paintings made use of multiple viewpoints so as to represent the subject in a greater context. By displaying several points of view at the same time, artists hinted at a possible three-dimensional nature within their works whilst also showing off the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas.

Famous Cubism Art La table du musicien (The Musician’s Table) (1926) by Juan Gris; Juan Gris, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As artists went on to develop their own type of terminology of cones, cubes, spheres, and cylinders, their paintings abandoned the element of perspective which was previously used to define pictorial space. In addition to rejecting perspective, Cubism artists portrayed and manipulated light and shadows in a variety of ways so as to effectively break down objects into several flat planes.

When viewing Cubist paintings, no realistic scenes were portrayed as artists chose to explore the space in which the figures and objects existed instead.

Another important aspect of Cubism was the emphasis placed on architecture, structure, and form. These two elements were crucial within Cubist paintings, as a very analytical and geometric approach was taken when representing subjects in these works. Rather than being formed to fit into an illusionistic space, figures and objects were portrayed as dynamic and lively compositions made up of volume and planes. This allowed the background and foreground in Cubism paintings to merge, which was seen as very futuristic at the time.

Cubist Portraits Homme assis (Seated Man) (1914) by Roger de La Fresnaye; Roger de La Fresnaye, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As Cubism directly challenged the Renaissance’s depiction of space, many artists experimented with the idea of non-representation in the paintings that were produced. This even led artists to incorporate elements of collage and sculpture into their paintings, which was most notably demonstrated by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Picasso made use of sculpture in his Maquette for Guitar (1912), while Braque is widely considered to have produced the very first paper collage in his Compotier et verre (fruit dish and glass) (1912).



Our Top 10 Most Famous Cubist Paintings

Despite only lasting seven years, Cubism proved to be an incredibly influential movement, as seen by the paintings that were produced during its peak. While many artworks were made, a handful has managed to stand out as truly iconic Cubism paintings. Often produced by the same artist, these paintings were created by several painters who emerged as the leading pioneers of the movement.

Below, we will be going through our list of the top 10 most famous Cubism art pieces to exist.


Les Demoiselles d ‘Avignon – Pablo Picasso

ArtistPablo Picasso
Date Painted1907
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions243.9 cm x 233.7 cm (96 in x 92 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

Out of all the paintings that Pablo Picasso produced during his career, Les Demoiselles d ‘Avignon exists as an iconic piece. Painted in 1907, just as the Cubism movement began, this painting shocked the public and Picasso’s close friends due to its unusual content and formal experimentation. With the subject matter consisting of stylized and seemingly abstracted nude women, Picasso demonstrated his interest in distortion and the great influence that African art had on his painting technique.

What stunned audiences about this painting was not the nudity that was shown but the fact that Picasso chose to portray these women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual poses. This was a novel idea at the time, as subjects of this nature were generally not depicted within traditional art society. The blatant sensuality seen within Les Demoiselles d ‘Avignon was further highlighted by the mask-like faces of the women, which implied that their sexuality was incredibly primitive in addition to being hostile.

Distinct features of Cubism were seen through the unusual elements and sharp contrasts created by the bodies, which all added to its shock value.

Picasso abandoned the concept of depth within this painting, as he presented a drastically flattened picture that was broken up into geometric fragments making up the women’s bodies. By abandoning all accepted forms governing traditional art, Picasso pioneered using unusual geometric shapes to portray the human form, making Les Demoiselles d ’Avignon the most famous example of Cubism.


Houses at I‘Estaque – Georges Braque

ArtistGeorges Braque
Date Painted1908
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions40.5 cm x 32.5 cm (15.9 in x 12.7 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Fine Arts, Bern

An important work in the foundation of Cubism was Houses at I ‘Estaque, painted by Georges Braque in 1908. The artworks produced by Braque between 1908 and 1912 so closely resemble that of Picasso’s, that their Cubism paintings were often indistinguishable. Houses at I ‘Estaque inspired the name of the movement, as art critic Louis Vauxcelles commented that Braque reduced every element within this painting to mere “cubes”, which came to be later known as Cubism.

Within this painting, Braque demonstrated noticeable influence from Picasso through his extreme reduction of form and the use of geometric shapes to define objects.

Simply painting the outside of houses and their surrounding landscape, Braque overlapped the object and background to the point where both aspects fully occupied the entire foreground of the canvas. Due to the flat and level spacing, no horizon line or vanishing point could be seen within Houses at I ‘Estaque, which further added to the two-dimensionality of the work.

Additionally, the shading used by Braque was extremely untraditional, as it made no effort to add any depth and perspective to the objects. When considering this famous Cubism art piece, Braque’s decision to break imagery into dissected parts became clearer, with the subtle and earthy color palette further separating the different elements in his work. While there is debate as to whether Houses at I‘Estaque can be seen as the first Cubist landscape, the elements within this painting went on to form the basis of the Cubist style.


Tea Time – Jean Metzinger

ArtistJean Metzinger
Date Painted1911
MediumOil on cardboard
Dimensions75.9 cm x 70.2 cm (29.8 in x 27.6 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Jean Metzinger was known for bringing Cubism to the attention of the public during the movement’s time, with his paintings extending more to the avant-garde side of the style. His 1911 painting, titled Tea Time, was one of his most well-known works from the movement, as it later went on to be known as “The Mona Lisa of Cubism”. Portraying a seated woman holding a teaspoon hanging between her cup and mouth, Metzinger made use of various Cubist techniques to create an entirely fragmented representation of a figure.

Cubism Artists Portrait photograph of French Cubist painter Jean Metzinger, 1912; Pierre Choumoff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What makes Tea Time one of the more interesting Cubist paintings is that while other artists were working towards the dematerialization of figures, Metzinger demonstrated a commitment to achieving some form of precision and distinctness within this painting. Despite making use of irregular shards and planes to depict a woman, the subject matter within Tea Time is instantly recognizable at first glance, despite its geometric environment.

The most discussed aspect of this painting is the split focus that Metzinger used to depict the teacup and the woman’s face.

Abandoning the single point of view that was popular during the Renaissance, the teacup was seen in profile and from directly above, so as to demonstrate the new techniques of Cubism. Despite these different perspectives, Metzinger achieved a startling level of realism despite the work being made up of abnormal shapes and angles, with the softer colors used placing more emphasis on the nude female figure sipping tea.


Man with a Guitar – Georges Braque

ArtistGeorges Braque
Date Painted1911
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions116.2 cm x 80.9 cm (45.7 in x 31.9 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

Another significant Cubist painting by Braque is his Man with a Guitar, painted in 1911. Considered to be his most influential work, it formed part of the Analytic Cubism period, as Braque challenged the concept of illusionistic space within the work. In order to create this artwork, Braque rendered nails and ropes on a canvas to depict the outline of a man busy playing guitar. However, the outcome of Braque’s technique was a nearly indecipherable portrayal of a man, as the focus of the work fell on the jagged and intersecting cubes.

Famous Cubism Artists Photograph of Georges Braque, 1908; Photographer non-identified, anonymous, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Noted by the majority of critics and viewers to be barely recognizable, Man with a Guitar is instead appreciated for the spatial elements that can be seen. Due to this, the painting is considered to be a masterpiece that has the ability to play on the human mind in the same way that a musician would strum a guitar. Within this work, Braque disputed the long-held view that art had to stick to certain shapes and forms, with Man with a Guitar purposefully challenging viewers to make sense of the vaguely depicted angles, shades, and tiny details.

When viewing this work, many have stated that it appears to be ever moving.

As it was a busy painting, each aspect demanded a significant amount of attention to be properly inspected, so that the meaning of the work could become clearer. By ignoring the conventional use of perspective, Braque was able to challenge viewers to try and understand a painting that had been broken down to its most basic geometric elements.


Ma Jolie – Pablo Picasso

ArtistPablo Picasso
Date Painted1911 – 1912
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions100 cm x 64.5 cm (39.4 in x 25.4 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

One of the other popular Cubist paintings created by Picasso between 1911 and 1912 was Ma Jolie, which translated to “my pretty girl” in English. Inspired after watching a musical performance of the same name, Picasso nicknamed his lover, Marcelle Humbert, Ma Jolie and went on to depict her in this painting. Vaguely building her figure up in this artwork through using signature shifting planes made famous by Analytic Cubism, Picasso created a portrait that did not resemble a person at all.

Famous Cubist Artists Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, in front of his painting The Aficionado (Kunstmuseum Basel) at Villa les Clochettes, Sorgues, France, summer 1912; Anonymous Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Within this work, Picasso built upon overlapping and geometric shapes to create an extremely fragmented representation of a person, with the loose outline of the strings of a guitar being found in the middle of the composition. Moving in the direction of abstraction, Picasso limited his color palette in Ma Jolie so as to create the impression of a low-relief sculpture, further accentuated by the light and dark tones of the cubes.

The angular shapes and their dreary colors seem to express a deeper meaning, as the central figure all but vanishes into the depths of the work.

Building on his previous Cubist paintings, Picasso demonstrated a more blatant move towards fragmentation and abstraction through the muted colors that are juxtaposed against the seemingly assertive shapes. Thus, despite being intended as a portrait, Ma Jolie represents Picasso’s move to a more non-representational context, as no discernable image can be made through the network of cubes and angular lines.


Still Life with Chair Caning – Pablo Picasso

ArtistPablo Picasso
Date Painted1912
MediumOil on oilcloth over canvas edged with rope
Dimensions29 cm x 37 cm (11.4 in x 14.6 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMusée Picasso, Paris

The last painting on our list by Pablo Picasso is his Still Life with Chair Caning, which was produced in 1912. Thought to be one of the most easily recognizable pieces from the Cubism movement, this artwork is celebrated for being seen as modern art’s first-ever collage piece. Within this artwork, Picasso worked to reintroduce color to his art and went on to experiment with multiple perspectives. Attaching several objects to his canvas, Picasso incorporated a playful yet clear intention with this artwork, as it was made to resemble a chair.

When looking at Still Life with Chair Caning, the image of a café tabletop comes to mind. Objects such as pieces of fruit, wine glasses, and knives can be seen from various viewpoints in the top right of the artwork, which were depicted by Picasso through both paint and collage. While the chair caning seen in the bottom was made from a piece of printed oilcloth as opposed to an actual piece of caning, the rope surrounding the canvas was real.

Through using a found object, its purpose was to suggest the carved border of a café table for viewers.

As the only printed words within Still Life with Chair Caning, “JOU” acts as a focal point in the artwork. Its inclusion was thought to spell out the first three letters of the French word for newspapers, as Picasso attempted to refer to the act of reading that was generally done at Parisian cafés. Existing as the first artwork to incorporate collaged elements into a work of high art, Still Life with Chair Caning referenced the volatile and precarious political situation in Europe at the time, as well as Picasso’s own revolutionary inclinations.


Conquest of the Air – Roger de La Fresnaye

ArtistRoger de La Fresnaye
Date Painted1913
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions235.9 cm x 195.6 cm (92.8 in x 77 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

One of the other well-known Cubism artists was Roger de La Fresnaye, who painted the iconic Conquest of the Air in 1913. Considered to be one of the most memorable Cubist paintings in existence, this work proved to be incredibly popular amongst French artists at the time.

This was because La Fresnaye’s vivid and optimistic paintings helped popularize Cubist portraits and paintings before the start of World War Two.

Within Conquest of the Air, La Fresnaye portrayed himself with his brother, Henri, sitting at a table outside. In the distant background in the top left corner, a yellow hot-air balloon can be seen. This was thought to reference the Gordon Bennet cup, which was the oldest balloon race in the world at that time. In 1912, a French grew won the race, which explains the inclusion of the slightly fragmented but celebratory French flag on the right-hand side of the canvas. By using broken-up blocks to make up the flag, La Fresnaye added the element of motion to the material, as the flag appears to be blowing gently in the wind.

Cubism Paintings La Conquête de l’Air (Conquest of the Air) (1913) by Roger de La Fresnaye; Roger de La Fresnaye, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Showing influences from both traditional Cubism and Orphism, developed by fellow artist Robert Delaunay, La Fresnaye depicted the figures within his work using bright and colorful geometric shapes. A circular feel can be seen through the placement of the shapes in the middle of the canvas, which lent itself nicely to the characteristics of Orphism.

This painting played upon the belief that every natural element adhered to vague geometric perfection, as every aspect within this painting was depicted by sharp and triangular qualities.


Electric Prisms – Sonia Delaunay

ArtistSonia Delaunay
Date Painted1914
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions250 cm x 250 cm (98.4 in x 98.4 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedThe Centre Pompidou, Paris

Another exceptionally colorful famous Cubism art piece was Electric Prisms, which was painted by Sonia Delaunay in 1914. Along with her husband, notable artist Robert Delaunay, she developed a completely non-objective style of art which eventually transformed itself into a mixture of Post-Impressionism and Fauvism. Delaunay’s innovative explorations with vibrant colors were fully realized in Electric Prisms, as it exists as a meticulous example of how she was able to combine her signature and colorful style with the ideals of Cubism.

Considered to be a grand celebration of color, the focus of Electric Prisms is around the two large and overlapping circles. These were essentially created by curves of primary and secondary colors placed beside one another, while the rest of the canvas was covered in a variety of other colors and shapes. Abstracted forms such as rectangles, arcs, and ovals are joined together to form a mixture of tones, as each fragmented shape carries the connotation of being sewn together, just like a tapestry.

Within Electric Prisms, Delaunay demonstrated her fascination with geometric forms and flattened perspective. However, this Cubist artwork also showcased her abstract interest in color and concept, as her bright blocks of paint went on to suggest that a possible fourth dimension was visible the longer one stared at the work.

Said to be representative of the dynamic movement of electricity, Delaunay was inspired to capture the striking glow of light after viewing the new electric laps along the boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris.


Still Life Before an Open Window, Rue Ravignan – Juan Gris

ArtistJuan Gris
Date Painted1915
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions115.9 cm x 88.9 cm (45.6 in x 35 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

An artist whose Cubist paintings were often considered to be closest to that of Picasso and Braque was Juan Gris, who painted the well-known Still Life Before an Open Window, Rue Ravignan in 1915. Painting with vibrant and compatible colors in contrasting combinations, this artwork combined Gris’s interest with indoor and outdoor views on the same canvas. Through blending scenes from the interior and exterior, Still Life Before an Open Window, Rue Ravignan exists as a great example for Cubism artworks through the techniques used.

Famous Cubist Paintings Still Life before an Open Window, Place Ravignan (1915) by Juan Gris; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to the artwork’s title, it featured some traditional objects associated with still life, such as a bowl of fruit, a bottle and glass, as well as a book and newspaper. Represented by the most colorful section on the canvas, these objects were shown to be carefully arranged on a table at a balcony window. Additionally, this fragment of the painting appeared to be light up by the moonlight coming in from outside, which was implied by the blueish squares depicting an exterior scene.

While the subject matter in Still Life Before an Open Window, Rue Ravignan might have been common and unsurprising, its abstract arrangement was incredibly innovative. Gris was more artful than any of the other Cubist artists at the time, as his structured grid of overlapping planes created a delicate balance and counterbalance between the different areas of the canvas.

Effortlessly changing between light and dark, positive and negative, as well as monochrome and color, Gris’ entire work was considered with a type of classical precision.


Three Women – Fernand Léger

ArtistFernand Léger
Date Painted1921
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions251.5 cm x 183.5 cm (99 in x 72.2 in)
Where It Is Currently HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

The final famous Cubism art painting that we have included on our list is Three Women, which was painted by Fernand Léger in 1921. Produced a while after the Cubism movement had ended, this artwork offered a more up-to-date image of a time-honored subject within art history, which was the reclining female nude. Demonstrating influences from both Cubism and Futurism in this painting, Three Women provided a modern vocabulary to accompany the nude form.

Cubist Artists Portrait photograph of Fernand Léger, 1936; Carl Van Vechten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Based on Cubist aspects, Léger depicted three figures drinking tea or coffee and lounging around in a very modern apartment by using solid geometric forms. However, the immaculate colors that were used in the shapes lent themselves to Analytic Cubism, as they do not overlap in the foreground but rather help in the creation of a type of three-dimensionality. Due to this, the bodies of the women, the furniture they sit on, as well as the spaces between them appeared incredibly well defined and easily distinguished.

Despite the nude being a common subject throughout most of art history, Léger’s figures were more polished and refined than any figures that were seen in other Cubist portraits. These seemingly elegant figures demonstrated a return to order and normality, which was a pervasive theme in French art after the turmoil of the Second World War. Using a precision that was likened to a machine, Léger presented simplified women that were rounded and completely dislocated from reality, which stood as a symbol for the modern world then.


Cubism proved to be one of the most prolific art movements of the 20th century, with both Picasso and Braque working together to fully establish and spread the ideals of the style. Therefore, many artworks are thought to be great examples of Cubist paintings, with our list above capturing the most well-known paintings of the time. If you have enjoyed reading about these artworks, we encourage you to explore other Cubist artists and their iconic works, as many notable Cubist portraits and paintings exist. 



Take a look at our Cubist paintings webstory here!


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Famous Cubist Paintings – 10 Masterpieces of Cubism.” Art in Context. August 13, 2021. URL:

Meyer, I. (2021, 13 August). Famous Cubist Paintings – 10 Masterpieces of Cubism. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Famous Cubist Paintings – 10 Masterpieces of Cubism.” Art in Context, August 13, 2021.

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