African Period (c. 1907)
Picasso's African-influenced Period (epoque negre), during which he was inspired by African tribal art, begins with the two figures on the right in his painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, which were inspired by African artifacts.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was a landmark painting in the development of modern art which signalled a radical departure from the artistic ideas of the preceding ages and heralded the coming of a new artistic movement (Cubism) as well as the birth of modern abstraction. The influence of Paul Cezanne and African sculpture is visible in its fragmented forms and unprecedented distortions. For more, see: Primitivism/Primitive Art.
The painting depicts five prostitutes in a brothel in the Avignon Street of Barcelona, portraying them from several angles, which became one of the characteristic features of Cubism. The picture marked a fundamental break with the principles of traditional naturalistic art - in particular, it rejected the use of perspective - and was an entirely different way of painting. Picasso's predecessors - whether painting portraits or landscapes - remained focused on portraying nature as they saw it, whereas in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon Picasso sought to represent three dimensional objects on a flat two dimensional canvas.
The relative lack of roundedness in the forms and the jigsaw-like fragments indicate the abstract direction that his painting was now taking. Meanwhile, another painter was having similar thoughts: his name was Georges Braque. the two met in Paris in 1908 and collaborated closely for several years.
Birth of Cubism (c.1908-9)
In 1908, influenced by Paul Cezanne's geometric-style landscape paintings of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, as well as his masterpiece The Large Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) Picasso and Braque executed a series of landscape paintings that were very similar to Cezanne's, both in their colours (dark greens, light browns) and simplified geometrical shapes. They painted houses in the form of 3-D cubes. It was these paintings that the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles was referring to in 1909, when he used the expression 'bizarreries cubiques', which led to the adoption of the word Cubism. This style was then further refined and duly evolved into Analytical Cubism.
It was about this time that Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) became Picasso's art dealer and agent. Later he would be superceded by Leonce Rosenberg (1879-1947) and his younger but smarter brother Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959).
Analytical Cubism (c.1909-12)
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (1910) was one of the first full-blown examples of the new austere Analytical Cubism. In this painting, Picasso disassembled a human figure into a series of flat transparent geometric plates that overlap and intersect at various angles. Now, suddenly all the 'cubes' of the earlier proto-type Cubist painting have disappeared.
Analytical Cubism - a most challenging form of art - is the most austere and intellectual stage of the Cubism movement. During this period, the forms of the objects portrayed are fragmented into a large number of small intricately hinged opaque and transparent planes that fuse with one another and with the surrounding space. Analytical Cubist paintings are typically executed in monochrome, with no bright colour.
Synthetic Cubism (c.1912-19)
During his Synthetic Cubism phase, Picasso's forms became larger and more representational, with flat, bright decorative patterns replacing the earlier, more austere compositions. New techniques adopted by Picasso in his art of this period included the pasting of cut paper fragments (eg. wallpaper or pieces of newspaper) into compositions, marking the first major use of collage and papier collé in fine art. Examples of his Cubist works at this time include: Still-Life with Chair-Caning, and The Guitar. By this period, the new style had caught on with a number of other talented Cubist painters.
Inscription: Signed and dated in black and orange paint, upper left: Picasso/ 1915
the artist, Paris and elsewhere (1915–30; sold on July 31, 1930, to Rosenberg and Wildenstein); [Paul Rosenberg, Paris, in joint ownership with Georges Wildenstein, Paris, 1930–at least spring 1934]; [Galerie Pierre (Pierre Loeb), Paris, 1934–40; consigned, through Käte Perls, Paris, to Perls Galleries (Klaus G. Perls), New York, stock no. 1074; consigned by Perls on November 14, 1940, to Matisse; sold on December 21, 1940 (in full on June 30, 1941) for $3,500 to Matisse]; [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1940–44; stock no. 1027; sold on January 17, 1944, for $8,500 to Marx]; Samuel and Florene Marx, Chicago (1944–his d. 1964); Florene May Marx, later Mrs. Wolfgang Schoenborn, New York (1964–d. 1995; on extended loan at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from 1971; her bequest to MMA)
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