Mythic narrative in Les demoiselles d'Avignon
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Radical as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was in 1907 and challenging as it remains today, it was neither a complete break with tradition nor divorced from the personal life of the artist. This thesis is an investigation of the artistic and personal sources which formed Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Its goal is the establishment of a coherent theme which places the painting in the context both of its time and of the preoccupations of Picasso's entire oeuvre. That theme is the "mythic narrative" referred to in the title of this study. The formative experience of Pablo Picasso comprises a logical starting point, when they can be seen in his art. His intimates, including Fernande Olivier, Gertrude Stein, Carlos Casagemas and Guillaume Apollinaire, contributed to the young man's understanding and expression of the drama of sexuality. By the late months of 1906, as a survey of that period will show, Picasso was preoccupied with this theme, and the struggle for appropriate form is evident in the preparatory drawings for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Because the artist changed his original thought so thoroughly after completing the drawings and continued the process of exploration in the first stage of the painting, the best source for understanding Les Demoiselles is the painting itself. Picasso's use of various prototypes in his painting offers insight into his theme; an understanding of his synthesis of those source materials will be offered in this paper. But Les Demoiselles is more than pastiche, as will be shown by the examination of the exact means Picasso used to produce the particular effects which make Les Demoiselles the powerful painting that it is. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was Picasso's first important and successful treatment of the theme of death and transformation through the agency of woman. The nature of the five women in the painting can be understood by breaking down the format of the painting into a dual scheme of gestalt and narrative and reintegrating this understanding into an awareness of the meaning of his brothel. The heart of the present study is the exegesis of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon as a representation of the myth of the journey of the hero. The discussion of the impact of the experience of painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon will be discussed, and his decision to join Braque in the formal experimentation of Cubism will be briefly touched upon, in light of the psychological foundations of Les Demoiselles.