Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Young Ladies of Avignon)

By Pablo Picasso - Museum of Modern Art

Date: 1907
Original Medium: oil on canvas
Original Size: 8 ft. x 7 ft. 8 in.

Famously known as one of Picasso’s best examples of Cubism from his African Period, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon portrays five nude female prostitutes from a brothel on Carrer d’Avinyó in Barcelona. The work was repeatedly redrawn, as it took the Picasso about a year to finish the painting in its entirety. Even after numerous changes had been made, the women were eventually turned into raw statuettes;  their faces savagely deformed, resembling faces of African gods (particularly noticeable in the two women on the right). Here, the fondness and commonality of depicting beauty in the female body inherent in artists of the previous eras was replaced by a radical distortion of the body. The deformation of shapes and the schematic representation of the grotesque faces was considered an act of misogyny, causing a sharp rejection in people who were the first viewers of this controversial work of Picasso.