Picasso began painting one of his most famous works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, in early 1907. When Picasso first started working on the painting, it was meant to be a brothel scene of five women and two men. In the finished version, the men are not present. What remains are the five women gazing out at the viewer, in a clear state of sexual anxiety. Picasso’s artistic style is uniquely his own, however, his style is not without influence. In this painting, Picasso embraces and departs from the Renaissance and Baroque practices.
In Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso embraces both the Renaissance and Baroque practices. Both practices are known for dramatic and selective illumination of figures emerging from deep shadow. In Picasso’s painting, the female figures are emerging from a rather dark background and have a very distinct illumination. The Baroque style also realistically presents models of lower classes, unlike the other styles that were known for depicting religious idols and royalty.
The Baroque period placed an emphasis on everyday life, which coincides with Picasso’s depiction of prostitutes in the painting. Prostitution was a very common profession for women in his time, and one the public did not look highly upon, which is why the painting was deemed immoral at its first exhibition in 1916. However, in Baroque fashion, Picasso took the profession and depicted them in his own brand of beauty, placing them on a pedestal that had been reserved, in other times, for deities and queens. Picasso also departs from the styles.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon shows how African art had strongly influenced Picasso. The African influences can be seen in the flatness of the figures, as well as the women’s mask-like faces. It is possible that Picasso felt that the mask motif was quite fitting for a brothel scene when women take on the role of sexual objects rather than the roles they play on a daily basis. Many art historians refer to this time period as his “Negro Period. ” This painting also shows Picasso dabbling with the beginnings of Cubism, which becomes a very popular style of art in years later.
Picasso’s manner of sticking to the rules of his time while going out on a ledge and making a style of his own is part of what makes him so special as an artist. In Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, it is possible to see both the past and the present, making Picasso an artistic bridge of sorts. In this painting, the viewer sees Picasso’s time period, the Baroque style, the African rage that French imperialism in Africa contributed to, and the beginning of the future.
Perhaps that is why Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is one of the most famous and important paintings Picasso ever created. Works Referenced Brenson, Michael. “Art: Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles’. ” 08 2 1988. New York Times. 8 Dec 2008 <http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=940DE6DF153EF93BA35751C0A96E948260>. Frey, Julia. “Anatomy of a Masterpiece. ” The New York Times. 30 April 1995. Green, Christopher. “Les demoiselles d’Avignon. Paris, Musee Picasso. ” The Burlington Magazine 130(1988): 2
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