Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Shattering perspectival space and volumetric modelling, and radically refiguring the depiction of the female nude, this painting is a momentous work in the history of art, one that destroyed centuries-old artistic traditions and heralded a brand new direction to come. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was painted in Paris in the summer of 1907. At once iconoclastic and iconic, it shocked those who saw it in Picasso’s studio; Matisse laughed nervously upon first seeing it and Braque felt it looked as if Picasso was ‘drinking turpentine and spitting fire’. As a result, Picasso rolled it up and kept it hidden in his studio, showing it once in an exhibition of 1916, and never again until 1937. It now hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art where it continues to confound and captivate, a dramatic re-beginning.
There are Picasso shows a plenty this year: Olga Picasso, at the Musée Picasso, Paris; Pity and Terror in Picasso: The Path to Guernica opens at the Reina Sofía, Madrid on April 5th; and see Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Words by Annabel Matterson. The Iris Letter April 2017.