Les Demoiselles d’Avignon




This is slightly modified version of the statement I wrote for this piece when I first showed it at Splendorporium in August 2010:

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is Picasso’s portrait of his own preoccupation with Eros and Thanatos. Here is the original picture, transfigured into a realistic domain, where hopefully some original motifs become apparent in a different way.

From one of the many preliminary sketches for Picasso’s final painting, I restored for inclusion in this piece a window, which was an unfortunate omission from his finished work, since it has been thought by some scholars that the explanation for the disturbing physiognomies of the two right-most demoiselles is that, during his time working on the painting, Picasso had been horrified by the cases of congenital syphilis in children he saw around this time at a private tour of Saint-Lazare Prison Hospital in Paris– the medical term for the characteristic gaping facial disfigurement that afflicts its sufferers is fenestration, which is derived from the Latin fenestra, meaning window. In this version it seemed important to present decayed fruit, fenestrated also, because of its implications of fecundity and determinism.

A window also supports the main idea of the piece because it is a metaphor for revelation– we are revealed the contents of Picasso’s mind, from the inside looking out, the demoiselles and apotropaic masks looking inward toward the artist’s homunculus.

These images are cropped from the original, almost square, full-size version I did (~2.4m x 2.4m), because I don’t like the way I did the seated figure, and of course because the painting is just too damn big the way it is. Also, I was getting too many obnoxious comments about the upper-right figure’s “tits”. They were distended and asymmetrical because that’s how Picasso did it, and I wanted the pictorial elements of the paintings to sort of overlap… it is true I get carried away while painting big breasts, but I’m tired of worrying about it– the painting is far better cropped and re-stretched, making it nice and tall and lean.


One thought on “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

  1. Today, with Monique’s help, we were able to properly re-stretch this thing. I un-stretched it a few years ago because there was no place to store it, and because I was tired of looking at it. Amazingly, this is somewhat how Picasso treated his original, letting it sit in an attic for a few years— though maybe I brought this to pass since I had known this from the time I began painting it. About 18 months ago I bought new, non-homemade stretchers so I could get the painting presentable again, but while I had the canvas rolled out on the floor a dog that was in the building that day walked up and pissed on it! Even though it soaked right in, my friends insisted I rub a soapy rag on it. In utter disgust I instead took it outside where it was cold and drizzly and rolled it out on the driveway and hosed the whole thing down. Then I draped it over the Benz to drain some of the water off. I still wanted to re-stretch it though… when we brought it back inside and measured it I found that it shrank by about 8%, so the stretcher bars no longer fit. I almost threw the whole damn thing away, but instead rolled it up until today. I got new, shorter stretchers, and because I used store bought ones instead of homemade I had to find the closest increment; because of this the piece ended being essentially cropped yet again, as several inches of the image are now wrapped around the edges of the frame.

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