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Though the backbone of art was formed by academies that graduated classical artists, some of the most influential artists broke away from such academies to change the rules. Impressionists, led by Claude Monet, formed a group of artists originally rejected from the academies to paint in their own "objective reality. " They painted art as sifted through their senses; taking into account the environment's affect on an object or placing the focus on everyday activity, the impressionists helped redefine art. While they started the process of the transformation of art, Pablo Picasso advanced it many times over. Though classically trained, Picasso painted art by what views he saw in his head and imagination, not by how his eyes or other senses interpreted a scene. He shamelessly broke all the classical rules of three-dimensional space, colors, figures and subject matter. Distinguishing his work from that of a camera and of other artists, Picasso redefines art for the future in a method called "cubism. " In Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, he paints his initial attempt at breaking all classical rules and distinguishing himself from every other artist in history.
One aspect of Pablo Picasso's art that distinguishes him from earlier artists is the lack of three-dimensional space displayed in his art. In Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, the five lady figures seem to be enveloped in what might be construed as the background. In contrast to earlier Raphael paintings for instance, where red drapery serves as a frame for Mary and baby Jesus, Picasso's figures appear to be actually wearing the drapery. The far woman on the left appears without clothes, except for the piece of red drapery strewn across the right side of her body.
Each successive figure shows her full body with the exception of where the drapery covers her. By redefining the three-dimensional space and forcing the characters to take on the full focus of the viewer, Picasso forces the observer to take an undiluted look at the women without the comfort of a beautiful landscape on which to fall back. While the women and the background mold into one, the only indication of any three-dimensional space is a small fruit basket in the foreground. Containing grapes and two apples, the fruit basket sits on either a little table or stool just in front of the ladies. The fruit give the observer a sense of intrusion; it seems as if the observer has entered a private party of prostitutes and that we have interrupted their eating. While the bowl, coupled with the women's stares, serves to engage the viewed in the work, Picasso also might mean for the still life to mock earlier artists.
While it used to be considered a necessity for artists to prove their ability in the academies by perfectly capturing still lives, Picasso's sarcastic portrait of the fruits could be a message to classical artists that there is more to art than the ability to paint fruit. Similarly, Picasso adds few aspects of shading to keep his mostly two-dimensional space. However, the shading he does add points out that like all great artists, he can perfect shading, although he is content to create his own rules. Pablo Picasso further distinguishes himself from other artists with his portrayal of the human figure by breaking up traditional forms of the body. In creating the figures of five naked women, Picasso rejects all classical teachings; he showed angular breasts without nipples, knees at sharp angles, a nose that resembles a triangle, off-center eyes, no navel, and no pubic hair on any of his models. In short, he seems to reject any mildly photograph-like portrayal of his women.
For instance, the woman on the far right has a face of silver colored with green and the woman to our left of her is colored blue from her nose to her chin that reflect his interest in African art. Picasso paints his models how he feels they should look, not how they would really look if one saw them on the street. With the emergence of the camera, there was not a need to paint exact replicas of the women. Therefore, Picasso decides that instead of painting a classical from of reality, he paints the reality that exists only in his head. Also, he chooses to arouse the viewer's interest in their view of beauty. By having his models shamelessly exposing themselves and their distorted bodies, Picasso forces the critic to reexamine whether his or her conventional view of beauty exists in his art world.
Besides their obvious exposing of their bodies, Picasso's models also engage the spectator in eye contact. Each women makes eye contact with the viewer, although not all of their bodies actually face the audience. He makes the audience become an integral part of the work, as the interaction between the women and the viewer make the viewer shy back from the cold stares in the party that he has interrupted. Also, Picasso forces his audience to ask why these unconventional women embrace their nakedness and revel in their self-confidence.
In turn, he trounces previous models of beauty and makes one wonder that if the women are satisfied with themselves as they are, does it matter whether the viewer sees them as "pretty" or not? Pablo Picasso chooses, as his five models for his first cubist work, women who employ themselves as prostitutes. To compliment his breaking of the rules of art, Picasso might have found it easier to distort women whose morals were already distorted in the public mind. This being his first foray into the act of breaking all the classical rules for art, Picasso can easily show unflattering views of women who were not previously thought of as high class ladies. While such women were morally questionably, their beauty usually was not questioned. Therefore, Picasso can show the beauty that he sees in his mind on women who the public already views as pretty; the audience does not have to stretch its mind as much.
To further distinguish his art from art of the past, Pablo Picasso chooses highly unconventional colors for both the figures and the drapery behind the women. To display the women, he uses light blue, silver, green, dark blue, and gold. Classically trained artists do not use such colors to paint a human figure; the colors would be more fitting of a landscape. To show the drapery, he uses maroon, pink, light blue and gray-white.
Not only does Picasso violate all rules of what colors on the palate to use, he also paints with colors that do not necessarily agree with each other, nor are they pleasing to the eye. Besides succeeding in painting his recital of the women, but he also shows classical artists that he can paint with whatever rules he wants and still accomplish his task. His breaking of the mold of the classically correct colors to use serves to further distinguish his new brand of art from the classical works. Picasso's application of paint also diverts from such classical painters as Rembrandt who painted so the viewer could see each individual brush stroke through its texture. While Picasso's viewer can see each brush stroke, it is not from its thick texture. Instead each deliberate stroke stands out as a broad stroke, not a heavy stroke that builds up on the canvas.
In fact, the crayon-like strokes are angled and sharp, not blended in to show some classical beauty. Pablo Picasso, in Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, takes his maiden attempt at breaking all the rules of classical art and training. He uses different colors, shapes, dimensions, and figures. While he is capable of painting in a classical style, Picasso paints how the women appear in his mind, not how they "should appear, " nor how they appear as filtered through his eyes. By shattering art's rules and codes, Picasso forces his audience to reexamine their views of beauty and to decide whether what their view of beauty is matters or not. In turn, the observer must re-access what has previously been considered beautiful in previous art works.
While his subject matter is important and thought provoking, it truly does not matter what the overall message of his art is. The real impact of Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon lies just in the fact that he painted a work to break all the previously laid out, classical rules. By redefining the rules of art by breaking each rule, Picasso succeeded in distinguishing himself from every other artist in history. Bibliography:
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