Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece MoMA.org: The Museum of Modern Art Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece
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History of the Painting
Historical Significance

In 1907 Picasso was working in Paris, in his Montmartre studio known as the Bateau-Lavoir. At this time his work was evolving from the structural, Cézanne-inspired figures exemplified by Two Nudes (Spain, 1906) into a new pictorial language Painting: Pablo Picasso. Two Nudes. 1906.that he and Georges Braque would further refine and transform. One Picasso scholar has described the paintings of these early years as a progression from "outer presence to inner shape, from color to structure, and from modified romanticism to a deepening formalism (Schwartz, Cubism, p. 15)." Les Demoiselles d'Avignon churned together Picasso's earlier subject matter, specifically the classical nude, with Iberian statuary—ancient pre-Spanish sculpture—and African art, beloved for its seemingly abstract simplifications. The painting has also been viewed as the young Picasso's brutish reaction to Henri Matisse's bold and idyllic 1906 masterpiece, Le Bonheur de Vivre (Barnes Foundation). Picasso evidently provoked his fellow artists and critics with the monumental bordello scene, formerly titled The Philosophical Brothel, in which five prostitutes seductively invite the viewer into a splintered and faceted space that confounds our understanding of the image.

Pictured above:
Pablo Picasso. Two Nudes. 1906. Oil on canvas, 59 5/8 x 36 5/8" (151.3 x 93 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of G. David Thompson in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. © 2003 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Copyright 2003 The Museum of Modern Art