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DEMOISELLES AVIGNON Picasso and the Young Ladies of Avignon in 1907

demoiselles avignon, picasso, matisse, derain, braque, appolinaire,
Written by Marc Pagnier Published Jan 18, 2015 Marc Pagnier

Rédacteur en Chef des titres en anglais, français et chinois.

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Demoiselles Avignon : Picasso in 1907 gives names to The Young ladies of Avignon ,an oil painting on the cloth of very large format (243,9 × 233,7 cms). Finished in Paris, the oil painting begun during the winter of 1906 . However with a totally different name and meaning.

demoiselles avignon, picasso, matisse, derain, braque, appolinaire,

Demoiselles Avignon : the painting is considered as the starting point of the cubism. It is one of more important of the painting history because of the stylistic and conceptual idea breaks in two, thanks to him. The work was acquired by the Museum of modern art ( MoMA) of New York in 1939.

Demoiselles Avignon : face, back and profile

Five women, partially naked, are on a stage in front of a theater curtain and occupy the whole painting. In the bottom and middle stay a cup of fruits. Five women are painted in a the faded flesh color which contrasts with the blue, the white and the chestnut color of the curtain. The women in the middle attack the attention the spectators with her bulging eyes. The face is drawn by the shape of theface but their their noses of profile. The woman on the right, squatted ,turns her back. The body of these women are represented by their profile, by three quarters, by face and by back. The outlines consist of right segments and lively angles. Picasso ignores the academic rules. The painting does not contain narrative and perspective subject. Neither realism nor naturalism resides in the execution of the models.

demoiselles avignon, picasso, matisse, derain, braque, appolinaire,
Demoiselles Avignon

In its preparatory sketches, Picasso planned an extra sailor and medical student holding a skull in the hands. Five women had to eat fruits in the basket . Picasso made finally only the painting that as we know.

The young ladies of Avignon: a sweet name …

At 19-year-old, Picasso leaves Barcelona for Paris in 1900. The international Exhibition selected one of its paintings. Four years later, he settles down in the Bateau-Lavoir, an art studio situated in Montmartre. The painting begun in winter, 1906 and is “finished” in July, 1907. It bears originally the name of ” El Burdel de Avi ñ ó n “, in memory of Square of Aviny ó (the street of Avignon). It is a lively street of Barcelona near where young Picasso lived. For the Salon of Antin in July, 1916, the painting takes its final name of ” Young ladies of Avignon “, given by André Salmon. The most surprising thing for the that period, it is not the subject which is shocking but its realization.

The history of the painting

Following the advice of Breton André, the fashion designer and the sponsor Jacques Doucet buys the picture(board) on December 12th, 1924 for 25 000-franc. In a letter, Breton announces immediately his satisfaction: ” this is the major event of the 20 th century. Here is the painting in which people walked, as former the Virgin of Cimabue, in the streets of our capital, if the skepticism did not lie in some particular virtues by which our time agrees to be, nevertheless. It seems for me impossible to speak it about otherwise than in a mystic way. [] it is a pure symbol, as the Chaldean painting , an intense projection with this modern ideal which we only manage to seize only by fragments “. In 1937, the widow Doucet sells the painting(cloth) to the gallery Jacques Seligmann for150 000 francs. Two years later, the antique dealer exports the painting in his gallery Jacques Seligmann and Company in the New York. Alfred Bahr buys it in 1939 for Museum of Modern Art for the 200 000-franc .

Matisse, Derain, Braque and Appolinaire: acerbic critics

demoiselles avignon, picasso, matisse, derain, braque, appolinaire,
Juan Gris : Picasso, 1910

Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque and Guillaume Apollinaire discover this painting and perceive it as an act of “terrorism”. Derain even tells the collector and the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler: ” one day, we shall learn that Picasso hung himself behind his big painting”. The original perception of the work is the body of the prostitutes, seen mutilated.

This painting meets both the influences of the Cézanne of the Big Swimmers and the African statuary. The work required very numerous trials,more than a hundred sketches were listed. Picasso shows an intense research on the nature of the thought and performance of the creator. Besides, it is possible to find a mythological interpretation , which is the judgement of Pâris.

To see :

Musee Picasso Antibes

Demoiselles Avignon Demoiselles Avignon Demoiselles Avignon Demoiselles Avignon


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