Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 by Pablo Picasso
This paintings was painted in 1907. It was called the most innovative painting since the work of Giotto, when Les Demoiselles d'Avignon first appeared it was as if the art world had collapsed. Known form and respresnetation were completely abandon. The reductionism and contortion of space in the painiting was incredible, and dislocation of faces explosive. Like any revolution, the shock waves reverbetrated and the inevitable outcome was Cubism.
This large work, which took nine months to complete, exposes the true genius and novelty of Picasso's passion. Suddenly he found freedom of expression away from current and classical French influences and was able to carve his own path.
Picasso created hundreds of sketches and studies in preparation for the final work. It was painted in Paris during the summer of 1907. Demoiselles was revolutionary and controversial, and led to anger and disagreement amongst his closest associates and friends. Picasso long acknowledged the importance of Spanish art and Iberian sculpture as influences on the painting. Demoiselles is believed by critics to be influenced by African tribal masks and the art of Oceania, although Picasso denied the connection; many art historians remain skeptical about his denials. Several experts maintain that, at the very least, Picasso visited the Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro in the spring of 1907 where he saw and was unconsciously influenced by African and Tribal art several months before completing Demoiselles. Some critics argue that the painting was a reaction to Henri Matisse's Le bonheur de vivre and Blue Nude.
Picasso drew each figure differently. The woman pulling the curtain on the far right has heavy paint application throughout. Her head is the most cubist of all five, featuring sharp geometric shapes. The cubist head of the crouching figure underwent at least two revisions from an Iberian figure to its current state.
Much of the critical debate that has taken place over the years centers on attempting to account for this multiplicity of styles within the work. The dominant understanding for over five decades, espoused most notably by Alfred Barr, the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and organizer of major career retrospectives for the artist, has been that it can be interpreted as evidence of a transitional period in Picasso's art, an effort to connect his earlier work to Cubism, the style he would help invent and develop over the next five or six years.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted an important Picasso exhibition on November 15, 1939 that remained on view until January 7, 1940. The exhibition entitled: Picasso:40 Years of His Art, was organized by Alfred H. Barr (1902–1981), in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition contained 344 works, including the major and then newly painted Guernica and its studies, as well as Les Demoiselles.