Picasso, unveiled in 1907 one of the most famous works of modern art, both in its overwhelming aesthetic for the time and the subject itself: Les demoiselles d’Avignon.
An artistic renewal
Pablo Picasso was the first artist exhibited at the Louvre Museum during his lifetime. He owes this success to his talent of course, but above all to his ability to invent new forms of representation and renew his work. In 1906, Picasso had the impression of having made the rounds and of having gone to the end of his inspirations. With the deep desire to renew himself, he looks around him and sees boiling in his mind the possibility of breaking with everything that has been done in painting before. Inspired by the primitive arts of Spain and Africa, he will draw on these new resources to carry out his work of pictorial research. “The Turkish Bath” by Ingres (1862) or “Le Bonheur de Vivre” by Matisse (1905-06) or even the great retrospective of Gauguin also participate in this artistic renewal.
Les Demoiselles weren’t from Avignon
Picasso painted ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon‘ while he was living in France, in a studio in Montmartre to be precise. It would therefore seem logical that Avignon should refer to this commune of Vaucluse, in the south of France where the artist settled. But, the young ladies do not take their name from the French city with the famous bridge but from a street in Barcelona, that of Avinyo. A street near which the artist lived as a child, famous for its prostitutes. It was to avoid censorship that Picasso had to change the name of his work, now known as Demoiselles d’Avignon for posterity. The painting is deliberately provocative for the time.
A rivality with Matisse
Picasso is an ambitious painter, who wants to create something new and make a big impact on the artistic world. His rivalry with Matisse, who had just produced his innovative painting Joie de Vivre, fueled his desire to surpass himself. Picasso conceives the young ladies of Avignon as a will to fight on the one hand, against socially accepted art and on the other hand, against this French society where inhumanity bursts in 1907 with the bloody repressions. It is as if this work had been painted on a wall.