The First Modern Painting

Is this the first modern painting?

”The picture… constitutes a summit of achievement.” 
Pierre Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, p. 66

“This new world began with an explosion, for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, projected in 1906 but worked on mostly in the spring of 1907, appears to be the thunderous outburst that released the latent forces of the preceding year.” 
Robert Rosenblum Cubism and the Twentieth Century, p. 15

There is so much to say about this painting, I can only make a few points.  In terms of calling this the "first modern painting,"  I do so because it expressed, in one canvas, the break with previous painting tradition in key ways:  Perspective, modeling, stylistic coherence, subject matter, beauty, and willingness to confront the unknown. 

Of course, it has precedence, both in Picasso's time and before.  However, there is no denying that this work, this one canvas, launched a new era.

This last quality -- confronting the unknown -- is one that defines the true artist in the modern era. That, and the willingness of the artist to find  their own voice. 


“A vital reason for insisting on the importance of the Demoiselles is that in this picture Picasso for the first time became entirely himself.” 

Roland Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, p. 131

Picasso made many preliminary sketches, in oils and otherwise, and many, many alterations to this painting.  To the left above is another canvas from 1907, Nude with Towel, and, to the right, one of the heads from Demoiselles influenced by African masks.  The painting's "dissonance and barbarity," as was seen by many in its early days, was simply not understood.  In fact, Picasso himself did not show this for years and kept it rolled up in his studio.  Later, of course, it was recognized to be a masterpiece and, I would argue, both the culmination of much work that came before and a breakthrough for all modern painting, not just Cubism, for years to come.

I have provided a link, below, to a more extensive discussion and interesting video from Widewalls on this painting.
This is my oil painting "Adam and Eve." I am in the process of putting more of my original art on my gallery.  Please check back there -- link below -- from time to time to see them.
Stephen Gerstman's Original Oil Paintings
Discussion & Video on "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon"
Copyright © 2021 Stephen Gerstman, All rights reserved.

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