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Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
(1881 - 1973)

Regarding the canon of art history, no other artist has exerted such influence as Pablo Picasso.

Frequently dubbed the "dean of modernism," the Spanish artist was revolutionary in the way he challenged the conventions of painting. His stylistic pluralism, legendary reconfiguration of pictorial space and inexhaustible creative force have made Picasso one of the most revered artists of the 20th century.

Influenced by symbolism and Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso developed his own independent style in Paris during his renowned Blue Period (1900-1904): motifs from everyday life...

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Picasso - Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Title: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Medium: Lithograph in Colors
Size: 29" x 21.5"
Year: circa 1955


   

This lithograph, printed and signed in 1955, is of the painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso. The painting itself, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has long been identified as the first cubist painting, and has inspired numerous pieces of art. Picasso started the work in 1906 after moving from his home in Spain to Paris. There, after mastering classical forms of art, Picasso began his search for new ways to represent form. The result was Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
This piece has a colorful history. The image depicts five prostitutes in a brothel on Avignon Street in Barcelona. Originally the painting contained two male clients and Picasso’s focus was on the interaction between the men and the three prostitutes. However, by its completion Picasso had eliminated the two men and chose to solely focus on the simplicity of the setting and the women within the space. He replaced the two male figures with two females. Picasso fully immersed himself in finding new ways to represent the five female figures in their profession. The faces of the five prostitutes become the focus of the painting. Picasso breaks apart the female form, fracturing their shapes and interlacing them with the equally jagged background that stands behind. In doing so, Picasso creates a tension between representation and abstraction. Picasso’s three earlier women have rather stoic faces. Their bodies are much more recognizable as female. The two figures on the right demonstrate much more abstraction as their flesh is more severely diced into fragments amidst the background. As Picasso became more comfortable in his new style it is obvious that he continued to push the idea of the abstract female form even further.
Picasso looked to ancient Iberian sculpture from his home country and other primitive forms of art for inspiration. During the height his career, museums emerged across Europe dedicated to these non-western arts. Picasso was an “enthusiastic” collector of primitive art. Many Avant-Garde artists “reveled in the energy and freshness of non-western images and forms. These different cultural products provided western artists with new ways of looking at their own art.” The three female figures on the left show direct correlation to Picasso’s interest in Iberian Sculpture, while the two on the right demonstrate Picasso’s later attraction to African masks.
In this piece we see a first-person narrative of the artist’s inspiration. Picasso himself stated of this piece, “The masks weren’t just like any other pieces of sculpture. Not at all. They were magic things…mediators between humans and the forces of evil and [he] sought to capture their power as well as their forms in painting. I understood why I was a painter…All alone in that awful museum, with masks, dolls, les Demoiselles d’Avignon must have come to me that day.”
Picasso did not simply paint as the world is, but as he saw the world. “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies…They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern paining. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of nature.”
Christine Poggi writes, “The evolution of cubism was impelled by a realization of the conventional rather than the imitative nature of representation.” Picasso explained this new genre; “Cubism has kept itself within the limits and limitations of painting, never pretending to go beyond it. Drawing, design, and color are understood and practiced in Cubism in the spirit and manner that they are understood and practiced in all other schools. Our subjects may be different, as we have introduced into painting objects and forms that were formerly ignored… In our subjects, we keep the joy of discovery, the pleasure of the unexpected: our subject itself must be a source of interest.”
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon stands a revolutionary piece that changed the world artistically. It opened doors for artists to start expressing the world through a voice that was uniquely their own.

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