Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 by Pablo Picasso

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 by Pablo Picasso
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 by Pablo Picasso

This painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, was painted in 1907 and is the most famous example of cubism painting. In this painting, Picasso abandoned all known form and representation of traditional art. He used distortion of female's body and geometric forms in an innovative way, which challenge the expectation that paintings will offer idealized representations of female beauty. It also shows the influence of African art on Picasso.

This painting is a large work and took nine months to complete. It demonstrates the true genius and novelty of Picasso's passion. He created hundreds of sketches and studies to prepare for the final work. Some critics argue that the painting was a reaction to Henri Matisse's Le bonheur de vivre and Blue Nude.

Its resemblance to The Large Bathers of Paul Cezanne, Statue Oviri of Gauguin and Opening of the Fifth Seal of El Greco has been broadly talked about by later critics. When it first exhibited in 1916, the painting was regarded as immoral. After nine years of the painting being created, Picasso had always referred to it as Le Bordel d'Avignon, but art critic Andre Salmon, who managed its first exhibition, renamed it Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to reduce its outrageous effect on general society. Picasso never liked Salmon's title, and as a compromise would have preferred las chicas de Avignon instead.

In 1972, art critic commentator Leo Steinberg in his article "The Philosophical Brothel" set an entirely distinctive clarification for the extensive variety of expressive characteristics. Utilizing the prior portrayals - which had been overlooked by most pundits - he contended that a long way from proof of a craftsman experiencing a quick expressive transformation, the assortment of styles can be perused as an intentional endeavor, a cautious arrangement, to catch the look of the viewer. He takes note of that the five ladies all appear to be frightfully detached, to be sure entirely unconscious of one another. Rather, they concentrate singularly on the viewer, their dissimilar styles just advancing the power of their glare.

Museum Photo of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Museum Photo of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

According to Steinberg, the reversed gaze, that is, the fact that the figures look directly at the viewer, as well as the idea of the self-possessed woman, no longer there solely for the pleasure of the male gaze, may be traced back to Olympia, 1863 of Manet.

A great part of the critical debate that has occurred throughout the years focuses on endeavoring to record for this multitude of styles inside the work. The predominant understanding for more than five decades, embraced most eminently by Alfred Barr, the first chief of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and coordinator of significant profession reviews for the craftsman, has been that it can be translated as proof of a transitional period in Picasso's specialty, a push to associate his prior work to Cubism, the style he would help design and grow throughout the following 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 d'Avignon.

10 Facts You Might not Know about the Masterpiece

1. Picasso kept "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" in his Montmartre, Paris studio for years after its completion in 1907, due to the mostly negative reactions of his immediate circle of friends and colleagues. The public was first able to view the painting at the Salon d'Antin in 1916, although a photo of the work appeared in The Architectural Record in 1910.

2. The art world did not begin to embrace the painting, Picasso's nascent Cubist work, until early in the 1920s, when Andre Breton republished the photo and the article entitled, "The Wild Men of Paris: Matisse, Picasso and Les Fauves."

3. Picasso prepared over six months for the final creation of "Les Demoiselles" by making hundreds of sketches, drawings and paintings. His preparatory work was perhaps more comprehensive than that of any other artist in history for a single artwork and certainly more intensive than for any other artwork he produced.

4. When colleague and competitor Henri Matisse saw Picasso's painting, he reacted violently. Matisse thought "Les Demoiselles" was a criticism of the modern art movement and felt that the painting stole the thunder from his own Blue Nude and Le Bonheur de Vivre. He called the figures in the painting hideous whores.

5. One reason "Les Demoiselles" is revolutionary is the artist's omission of perspective. There is no vanishing point, nowhere for the eye to move beyond the women and their pointed glances.

6. By reducing his figures to a combination of geometric shapes, Picasso runs counter to centuries of artistic tradition in which the human form is deified, anatomically duplicated and/or romanticized.

7. The masks in the painting reflect Picasso's obsession with primitive art, not only of African origin but also the art of ancient Iberia, or modern-day Spain and Portugal. The simple forms, angular planes and bold shapes used in primitive art were instrumental in the artist's restructuring of artistic conventions.

8. In an earlier sketch of "Les Demoiselles," the figure to the left was a male medical student, skull in hand, entering the brothel, but the artist decided that such a customer added an element of narrative that would detract from the overall impact of the scene.

9. Picasso was deeply impacted by Tahitian journals of Paul Gauguin and his 1906 art exhibition. Gaughin's sculpture of the Tahitian goddess Oviri inspired Picasso to try his hand at ceramics and woodcuts in 1906. Art historians attribute the strong element of primitivism in Gaughin's work as a significant influence on "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon."

10. In the title of the artwork, "Avignon" refers not to the city in Provence but to the name of a street in Barcelona in a district known for prostitution.