Cubism and Picasso



I N T R O D U C T I O N
Picasso’s development toward cubism reached its climax with the monumental justly celebrated Demoiselles d’Avignon (1906). This painting, named for a brothel in Barcelona’s Avignon Street, depicts, in a highly stylized form, five angular nude or partially draped women grouped around an arrangement of fruit. This final, condensed version, developed through many preparatory works, was attained by gradual simplifications and eliminations of an originally conspicuous subject matter.

1. LINEAR (SHARP CONTOURS) VS PAINTERLY (LINES ARE INDISTINCT
Picasso shows a rethinking of the human body in Les Demoiselles. This ranges from a simplified naturalism, (in the centre figures) to an increased sense of fragmentation in to angular forms, each of which appears to have an independent existence. Such disjunction of body parts challenged the standards by which the human body had been constructed before. In synchronicity, the background elements of draperies and wall were fragmented, aligned with the figural handling.

2. PLANE (SPACE BULIT UP OF SEMI-INDEPENDENT PLANES) VS RECESSION (UNIFIED BY DIAGONAL PLANES)
It is quite difficult to determine whether Les Demoiselles should be catogorized as the “plane” or recession” option for the following reasons: Picasso shifted the point of view at will heads, noses and eyes are seen simultaneously in profile and full front. In other words, the vision of the spectator is enlarged to include a number of different views. As thought they were moving form point to point, looking up then down. Modern studies of perception have shown that this is the way one forms a visual image of an object. Not from one fixed all encompassing glance, but from an infinite number of momentary glimpses, formulated and unified into a whole by the spectator’s mind. Cubism introduced into painting not only a new kind of space, but also another dimension, time. Therefore one may conclude that Les Demoiselles is neither built up of semi-independent planes nor unified by diagonals.

3. ABSOULTE CLARITY (DESCIBED OBJECTS) VS RELATIVE CLARITY (SUGGESTED OBJECTS)
It is also quite difficult to determine whether this painting depicts “absolute clarity” or “relative clarity.” One might suggest that Les Demoiselles demonstrates “absolute clarity” since all objects are in plane sight, meaning none of the figures/objects are clouded by shadow. Yet, “relative clarity” is also suggested. Although the figures/objects may easily be viewed, it can, at times be hard to determine what exactly is being observed, (ie. drapery)

4. COLOUR + LIGHT ADHERES TO FROM VS COLOUR + LIGHT IS COLOUR REFRACTED/REFLECTED
There is no suggestion of either light or shadow, with the exception of the figure in the upper right corner who appears to be engulfed in shadow.

5. POTENTIALLY LIMITLESS TIME VS SINGLE DRAMATIC MOMENT
Since Les Demoiselles depicts a brothel scene one would assume that a series a lounging nude females would be common place, therefore depicting a potentially limitless period of time.




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