Helen Gramotnev | The anatomy of the cubist violin | University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam school for heritage, memory and material culture | Supervisors: Prof. Gregor Langfeld & prof. Julia Kursell | December 2020 – December 2024 | h.gramotnev[at]uva.nl
This PhD research analyses the persistent use of the violin motif by Cubist artists, both from an art historical perspective within the visual work itself, and in the context of the social history of the instrument, of the music forms and practices at the time, and of the increasing amalgamation of visual art and music on the backdrop of the development of new art forms.
In Cubism, the interruption and the deconstruction of the apparent stability of the violin form allows it to become an artwork through the destruction of its own imagery. While logically destroying sound, the multiple viewpoints offered by the Cubist representations are rhythmic and, therefore, musical in themselves. I analyse this phenomenon with respect to classical music structures, and how these are reflected in the Cubist depictions of the instrument.
I address the question of the prominence of the violin in Cubism, and whether the Cubists relied on the instrument’s classicism to reach a wider audience, or whether they were responding with a radical aesthetic to the attempts to impose modifications to the violin’s design in their (re)-presentation of the familiar. I also address the question of whether the violin’s solo appearance in Cubist art encourages its bohemian, avant-garde status, or whether its classicism elevates Cubist art to a higher status.
In addition to art historical and musicology academic writings, I am relying on Theodor Adorno’s aesthetic theory, most notably his relationship between import (Gehalt) and function (Funktion), and consequently the relationship between the hermeneutic approach (emphasising the meaning and cultural significance) and the empirical approach (focussing on the connections between artworks and the associated social/political/economic factors).