ARCHIVE 250 – PABLO PICASSO: LES DEMOISELLES D’AVIGNON

 

 

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UPDATE:  I mentioned Picasso and Les Demoiselles in the post before last and so thought to show this post again too.  In the selfie above I’m not looking totally at ease and, although still The FATman, there is now a lot less of me than is shown here.  But, there are Les Demoiselles (and they are shown in more detail below), and there is the corner of what we rather grandly know as our “Breakfast Room” where FATman Photos is created and posted.   You can’t see much really, which is just as well as the room is a complete mess, but years ago I used to lead bird and wildlife safaris in Kenya, and there up on the wall are pen and ink drawings of a lynx and an owl given to me by a grateful client from Michigan, in 1989.

And as for what follows about Picasso’s painting and Picasso too, my feelings have not changed one bit.

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Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is certainly my most favourite painting, for two quite different reasons. Firstly, of course, I like its appearance, I like it as an image. But my second reason for liking this work is certainly stronger – I love this work because I find it hugely exciting and inspirational.

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Ten or more years ago, when photography was becoming a serious interest, I attended Adult Education classes on Modern Art, which were run by Bristol University. I’d been photographing for years in an instinctive way and so that was not so new, but the “World of Art” was totally new, it gripped me and it has never let me go – and I could see that looking at art would be a help in creating photographs.

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I saw Picasso’s image and was transfixed, and these feelings only increased when our teacher described it as “the first picture painted not to be liked”. Here was an image that was not supposed to provide enjoyable viewing but, rather, to shock and outrage audiences – Picasso was showing the world what he could do, and firmly establishing himself in the most modern reaches of Modern Art. As Wikipedia says, “With the bizarre painting that appalled and electrified the cognoscenti, …… Picasso effectively appropriated the role of avant-garde wild beast—a role that, as far as public opinion was concerned, he was never to relinquish.”.

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Yes, I very much like this as an image, but I like it even more for what it represents, which is pure genius, the creation of a person with vast abilities, the creation of a person not at all afraid to be different from everyone else. This painting and what it represents both excites me, and provides me with vast and ongoing inspiration and courage. The courage and motivation to keep looking through the viewfinder, to keep on making pictures, to always be trying to think of differing approaches to pictures – and the courage to post these pictures out into public view on this blog.

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And this painting is always with me, inspiring me, as I have a large framed edition of it up on the wall beside the desk and computer where FATman Photos first sees the light of day – see the photo above.

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Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Pablo Picasso; 1907.

So, after all that, what does Les Demoiselles actually show? I am certainly not vastly knowledgeable about this work of art, but here’s how it seems to me. It shows a group of prostitutes in a brothel but, while the title suggests the brothel to be in France, I think I recall reading that it was in fact in Spain. To me, the picture consists of two parts. The five women inhabit one, and crushed up against this image, right in the foreground, there is a little, triangular table with some fruit on it.

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The portion of the image containing the women can itself be divided into at least three parts, on the basis of how the women and their surroundings are depicted. The lady on the left is tinged reddish and seems to be a part of the red left hand edge of the image. Moving right, the next two women are perhaps the most “normally” presented, with more realistic skin tones, “alluring” poses, and mostly set against a pale bluish background. To me, their sadly staring eyes are the image’s strongest point – I can feel those sad gazes boring right through me!

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Lastly, there are the two ladies on the right, who are set against darker blue, and whose faces are thought to be derived from Picasso’s interest in African tribal art. And finally, to complete the weird atmosphere this image conjures, the woman at lower right is seated facing away from us but, despite this, she has turned her head through 180 degrees to stare at us directly over her back, just as owls do – but just as you and I don’t!

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You may not like this picture, for reasons that may include the nature of the subjects that it depicts and the style in which they have been depicted. However it was, in today’s parlance, a real Game Changer. After this, Art would never be the same again – and for that reason I view this image with a mixture of awe, vast excitement and profound respect.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

11 Responses to ARCHIVE 250 – PABLO PICASSO: LES DEMOISELLES D’AVIGNON

  1. Meanderer says:

    Ah, yes – I remember this post from before! I love the idea of featuring an object one likes and explaining why.

    Like

  2. LensScaper says:

    What a joy to have this hanging in your home, Adrian. I have visited many houses as a GP and always thought houses without pictures were so bare. Pictures turn a house into a home.
    And the paragraph about the courage and motivation of looking through the viewfinder is so true and apt. Picasso was a pathfinder. He dared to be different. And that’s what we all need to attempt to be – different. Photography today is so easy, but also so difficult if you want to separate yourself from the many and be ‘different’. Vive la difference as the French would say.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Andy, thank you for your very positive thoughts. Yes, having this picture hanging here is an ongoing source of inspiration. I had thought about hanging over the fireplace in our living room, but its about 3 feet square (incl the frame) and my wife thought it might be a trifle overpowering set so directly in front of us and in our gaze!!!

      This thing about trying to be different is very true – and my mind boggles at the thought of photographers who go to photograph very well known (and photographed) landscapes and landmarks, I think its much more rewarding just to wander off and see what appears. I read somewhere that photography makes the ordinary look extraordinary, and I think this very true. As you say, vive la difference! 🙂

      Like

  3. paula graham says:

    Picasso’s beauties…yes a brilliant work , a brilliant man, although I do not understand all his works, this one is very famous and understandably so. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Like

  4. Good story, Adrian.

    Like

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