Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon, and originally titled The Brothel of Avignon) is a large oil painting of 1907 by the Spanish artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881–1973). The work portrays five nude female prostitutes from a brothel on Avinyó Street in Barcelona. Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine. The women appear as slightly menacing and rendered with angular and disjointed body shapes. Two are shown with African mask-like faces and three more with faces in the Iberian style of Picasso's native Spain, giving them a savage aura. In this adaptation of Primitivism and abandonment of perspective in favor of a flat, two-dimensional picture plane, Picasso makes a radical departure from traditional European painting. The work is widely considered to be seminal in the early development of both Cubism and modern art. Demoiselles was revolutionary and controversial, and led to wide anger and disagreement, even amongst his closest associates and friends.
Painted in Paris during the summer of 1907, Picasso had created hundreds of sketches and studies in preparation for the final work. He long acknowledged the importance of Spanish art and Iberian sculpture as influences on the painting. The work 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 (known today as Musée de l'Homme) 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.
Its resemblance to Cézanne's Les Grandes Baigneuses, Paul Gauguin's statue Oviri and El Greco's Opening of the Fifth Sealhas been widely discussed by later critics. At the time of its first exhibition in 1916, the painting was deemed immoral. In the nine years since its creation, Picasso had always referred to it as Le Bordel d'Avignon, but art critic André Salmon, which managed its first exposition, retitled it Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to lessen its scandalous impact on the public. Picasso never liked Salmon's title, and as an edulcoration would have preferred las chicas de Avignon instead.
Background and development
Picasso came into his own as an important artist during the first decade of the 20th century. He arrived in Paris from Spain around the turn of the century as a young, ambitious painter out to make a name for himself. Although he eventually left most of his friends, relatives and contacts in Spain, he continued to live and paint in Spain while making regular trips back to France. For several years he alternated between living and working in Barcelona, Madrid and the Spanish countryside along with frequent trips to Paris. By 1904, he was fully settled in Paris and had established several studios, important relationships with both friends and colleagues. Between 1901 and 1904, Picasso began to achieve recognition for his Blue period paintings. In the main these were studies of poverty and desperation based on scenes he had seen in Spain and Paris at the turn of the century. Subjects included gaunt families, blind figures, and personal encounters; other paintings depicted his friends, but most reflected and expressed a sense of blueness and despair.
He followed his success by developing into his Rose period from 1904–1907 which introduced a strong element of sensuality and sexuality into his work. The Rose period depictions of acrobats, circus performers and theatrical characters are rendered in warmer, brighter colors and are far more hopeful and joyful in their depictions of the bohemian life in the Parisian avant-garde and its environs....