Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

7
LES DEMOISELLES D'AVIGNON
1907

Several mysteries surround the gestation of that great painting le Bordel, whose name was much later changed to les Demoiselles d'Avignon. André Salmon was the first to speak of it, but not until 1912. He gave the picture its title in 1916, a fact discovered only in 1976. Apollinaire never used that name; we know, however, that he showed the picture to Félix Fénéon, who looked at it and concluded that Picasso had a gift for caricature. In February 1907 Pablo used a drawing to tease his friend into collaborating in the review la Culture physique. In March the Iberian sculptures stolen from the Louvre by Géry-Pièret arrived at Picasso's studio, an event witnessed by Apollinaire and Fernande. On 25 March, Apollinaire was involved in a duel, a narrow escape which prompted a new drawing pulling the poet's leg. On 15 April, he left le Vésinet and moved to the rue Léonie (today, Henner). Instead of being an hour away by train, he was now no more than ten minutes' walk from Bateau-Lavoir. His intimacy with Pablo grew accordingly. From him, silence meant disapproval. 1

With Fernande things were a great deal more complicated. She speaks of Apollinaire's move, but then her memoirs forget everything about Pablo's life until the beginning of 1908. She completely disregards the existence of le Bordel. We shall see why. Leo and Gertrude Stein—to judge by their surprise when they found it in September—were evidently unaware of the picture while it was being painted. Their departure for Italy in May provides a chronological reference.

Until the systematic exploration in 1988 of the sixteen working notebooks which deal one way or another with les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Kahnweiler's recollections—unique evidence on the creation of the Demoiselles-by referring to "two different periods of work on the picture," created more problems than they solved. 2 There had indeed been two distinct and separate periods of work, but they corresponded to two different conceptions of the project. The first, from the autumn of 1906 to the beginning of June 1907, produced a painted sketch of an introduction to a bordello. This was quickly covered over by the second version. The second

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