a look at

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon


Picasso’s artistic oeuvre has been distinguished by various phases, namely his Blue Period, Rose Period, African-influenced Period, and then his Cubism Period.

work in context

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon has often been regarded as the precursor to Cubism, identified as a Proto-Cubist painting. This is not just any “proto” type of Cubist artwork, but a revolutionary depiction of art that signified the new Modern era.


In the painting, Les Demoiselle d’Avignon Picasso upended what was deemed traditional in painting, for example, the more realistic portrayals of figures and natural environments.

historical overview

When Cézanne’s The Large Bathers was exhibited in 1907 as part of an honorary exhibition for the artist, this influenced Picasso’s style. He was also inspired after viewing Matisse's Bonheur de Vivre (1905 - 1906).


This artwork was painted in 1907 during Picasso’s African period. Picasso was apparently influenced by the African masks he saw when he visited the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro.


It depicts several prostitutes who were reportedly from a brothel in Barcelona in Spain on a street named Carrer d’Avinyó. Apparently, Picasso originally titled the painting Le Bordel d’Avignon (The Brothel of Avignon).

beginning of cubism

Many believe that Les Demoiselles d’Avignon set off the beginnings of Cubism. The work can be viewed as a precursor to what Cubism came to be and stylistically stand for.

subject matter

Picasso presents us with five nude women, four are standing and one is sitting. The women are all looking directly at us, the viewers. This was undoubtedly also directed at the assumed client, which would have been a male visiting the brothel.


Picasso utilized a neutral color scheme, we see the dominant pink peach colors of the women’s skin tones alongside the white and blue from what seems to be the drapery or sheets around them.

perspective and form

It is almost as if perspective and form go together here in Picasso’s work. His form informs the perspective, but it also adds to the unique quality of the painting and what makes so many believe this as a precursor to Cubism.

preparatory sketches

Picasso apparently made numerous preparatory sketches, one of these has been widely studied. It depicts two men in the scene. Picasso decided to exclude these figures in the original painting.