Pablo’s punks

It’s exactly a century since Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Jonathan Jones reveals why this explosion of sex, anarchy and violence gave birth to the whole of modern art.

From The Guardian:

LesdemoisellesdavignonModernism in the arts is 100 years old, because Pablo Picasso’s painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is now 100 years old. In 1907, the Titanic had yet to sink, cinema was a flickering newsreel of the Boer war, Scott of the Antarctic was still alive and the Wright brothers travelled to Europe to publicise their invention of powered flight. San Francisco was still shattered by the previous year’s earthquake. But in a crowded, dilapidated warren of artists’ and writers’ studios on the Parisian hill of Montmartre, home to anarchy and cabaret, a 25-year-old Spanish immigrant was creating the first, and greatest, masterpiece of modern art.

Picasso drew his first designs for what became Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in the winter of 1906-07. He developed his ideas intensively, in a programme of conscious planning that resembled the great academic projects of Leonardo or Géricault, before finally painting his 8ft square canvas in the early summer. With that painting, the nature of reality was altered as profoundly as it would be by the physics of Picasso’s contemporary, Albert Einstein.

This is one centenary worth thinking about. It’s not just 100 years in the life of a painting, but 100 years of modernism. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is the rift, the break that divides past and future. Culturally, the 20th century began in 1907.

More here.