Analytical Cubism vs. Synthetic Cubism

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Romanticism in Painting: Characteristics

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Cubism
  • 1:09 Analytical Cubism
  • 2:27 Synthetic Cubism
  • 2:59 Stylistic Differences
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Cubism is one of the most recognizable styles of Western art, but there are variations within this genre. In this lesson, we'll explore the two major kinds of Cubism and see how both strive to fulfill the Cubist ideology.


Cubism is perhaps the most recognizable art form in the world that not many people really understand. Cubism is instantly identifiable by its sharp lines, flattened appearance, and tendency to make people say ''Wait, is that a person?'' What exactly is Cubism? It's an artistic style/movement developed between roughly 1907 and 1914 by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braque. Their goal was to challenge the supremacy of representational art.

Cubism draws awareness to the flatness of the canvas by breaking from ubiquitous linear perspective and representing objects from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. This is why the images are broken up into overlapping flat planes. A Cubist painting allows viewers to see all sides of a 3-dimensional object at the same time in a 2-dimensional space. The Cubists never settled on just one way to do this. Thus, there are multiple types of Cubism, including Analytical and Synthetic Cubism.

Analytical Cubism

When the Cubists started developing their radical ideas on art, they did so by carefully analyzing their subjects. They studied the angles and shapes within their subjects and carefully, meticulously, dissected them into flat planes representing the subject from different viewpoints. It's almost like looking at an object through a crystal, with the sharp angles and broken planes. This precision is what earns the earliest phase of Cubism (roughly 1908-1912) the moniker Analytical Cubism.

Analytical Cubism is defined by the overlapping flat planes that draw attention to the flatness of the canvas. However, there are a few other key traits as well. For one, the image tends to be densest at the center of the canvas where the angles and planes converge. This naturally draws the viewer's eye into the center of the canvas. Analytical cubist art tends to rely on a very limited color palate with little tonal difference. There is minimal shading or highlighting, and the colors tend to fall along a spectrum of darker ochres and greys. The cubists weren't studying color. They were studying lines and compressed subjects in flattened planes. The limited colors serve to point the viewer to the real meaning of the painting.

Synthetic Cubism

Cubism was, by its very nature, an experimental form of art. Around 1912, the Cubists' focuses started to change, and a new style of Cubism emerged. Where Analytical Cubism features dense and complicated patterns of overlapping planes, Synthetic Cubism focuses instead on brighter colors, much simpler shapes, and lighter lines. The business, seriousness, and complexity of Analytical Cubism were replaced with a lighter, more open quality in this later style of Cubism.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account