It is rare, if not unheard of, that a turning point in the history of art can be pinpointed specifically. Unlike the styles that preceded it, which often sprang up as one style moved gradually into or away from another, the origins of Cubism are rather succinct. Inspired by African sculpture and the works of Paul Cézanne's (1839-1906) later era, Pablo Picasso (1882-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963) became the founders of a movement that would burn out relatively quickly (the movement would last only from the late 1900s to the mid 1920s) but would prove to be one of the most influential shifts in ideas in the history of art, paving the way for many of the movements towards the abstract in modern art and in such schools as Precisionism, Futurism, and Constructivism, all of which would appear later. Additionally it would also, in many ways, bend the course of the grand movement of Expressionism as well.
It may come as little surprise that a movement so clear in its history finds another large part of its origin in a single phrase, a single idea. For when Cézanne in 1904 uttered the idea that artists should treat nature, "in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone- he would, for all intents and purposes, be laying out the mission statement of what would become Cubism. Cubism, in many ways a rejection of the impressionist movement that focused mainly on color and light, believed that true beauty was only perceived when a subject was deconstructed, analyzed, then reassembled in a manner that offered multiple points of view simultaneously. Interestingly, for a movement so reliant and focused on the three dimensions of nature, in its rearranging of that nature into individual facets, Cubists would at the same time be emphasizing the two dimensionality of the artistic plane of the canvas.
If Picasso and Braque are the two clear fathers, African sculpture and Cézanne's late work the two clear inspirations, and Cézanne's idea the clearest ideological statement, then Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) is the single painting that would mark the beginning of the movement itself.