Cubism and Color: An Untold History

KATO Yukiko

Cubism was born in France around 1907, when “color art,” such as Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, flourished. Many painters who have been called “Cubists” used the technique of “color art,” or the use of multi-colored confetti as a fundamental element of spatial expression. However, in his Der Weg zum Kubismus (1920), influential art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler denied the influence of color art on Cubism and asserted that the pure structure - expelling the elements of color - was the only and foremost element of significance in Cubism. Since then, literature discussing Cubism has ignored the function of color.
This research has examined the little-studied role of color in Cubism by referring to the works of contemporary French theorists and artists, including Henri Bergson, Fernand Léger, Jean Metzinger, and Guillaume Apollinaire. According to works such as Bergson’s Time and Free Will (1889), Metzinger’s “Cubist Technique”(1913), and Apollinaire’s The Cubist Painters (1913), these thinkers regarded color as a fundamental element of spatial expression. Through this examination, this study illuminates the contemporary genealogy of “color art” in Cubism, which Kahnwelier disregarded, and demonstrates the fundamental role color has played in the formation of the space of Cubism.

Keywords: Cubism, color, Henri Bergson, Jean Metzinger, Guillaume Apollinaire