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Cubism emerged largely from the experimental collaboration of Picasso and Braque between 1908 and 1914. In cubist paintings, figures and objects are broken down into overlapping planes. Multiple viewpoints are combined into a single image to emphasise the mobility and composite nature of vision.

This new approach to painting was influential around the world: for many, cubism became synonymous with modernism. By the late 1920s, the painter André Lhote claimed: ‘There are a thousand definitions of cubism, because there are a thousand painters practising it.’

In the 1920s Australian artists travelled overseas to acquire, as Dorrit Black stated, ‘a definite understanding of the aims and methods of the modern movement and in particular the cubists’. Black and her Sydney colleagues, Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar, studied under Lhote and Albert Gleizes in France in the 1920s. Frank Hinder and Eric Wilson discovered cubism in America and Britain respectively. On their return to Sydney, these artists disseminated cubist ideas and methods, influencing both figurative painters and the emerging practitioners of abstraction in Australia

Questions and activities

  • Find an everyday object from your classroom and draw a series of drawings from different angles. Combine elements of each drawing into one final drawing that explores the object from all viewpoints at once. Discuss the challenges of this activity. Did it make you look more closely at the object?
  • Develop a case study on cubism. Research ideas and cultures that influenced its approach. Choose a few artists – Australian and international – to consider in more depth. How did cubism affect future approaches to art-making? Why did it become synonymous with modernism?
  • In 1929 Lhote stated: 'A cubist painting is a veritable conglomeration of objects [making] an inseperable whole from which nothing can be taken away and to which nothing can be added without destroying it.’ Do you agree with this statement? Make reference to particular works in your argument.