“This is an art that plays with difficulties and conquers them.”
—Guillaume Apollinaire

Cubism was the watershed moment of twentieth-century art. In about 1907 Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque broke sharply with traditions in western painting. They discarded pictorial illusionism and linear perspective to create images that reflected a new experience of everyday reality. As Picasso mused, “I wonder whether it isn’t more important to paint the things that we know rather than those that we see.” Other artists working in France—among them Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Henri Laurens, and Jacques Lipchitz—soon joined the revolution. Cubism, by no means restricted to painting, also radically transformed the arts of sculpture, printmaking, drawing, watercolor, and typography.

“Facets of Cubism” is a family affair: several major private collectors are lending rarely seen masterpieces to honor Irving Rabb and his late wife, Dolly, Great Benefactors of the MFA whose longstanding desire has been that Cubist artworks be on public view in Boston. The exhibition, which focuses on Cubism’s flowering in France up until 1920, includes outstanding paintings and sculptures and is particularly rich in works on paper.