Give you an understanding of the prevailing attitudes towards other cultures before and during the 19th century.Provide an account of the background for ‘primitivism’ in art, Develop a nuanced, critical reading of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon.
Modernism is also partially a response to mass dislocations of population due to war, empire, and immigration. This dislocation resulted in the unprecedented close quartering of different classes and ethnicities in rapidly expanding citiesCivic and ethnic nationalism developed in part as a response to population shifts, often with disastrous consequences. As Picasso’s Guernica shows, modernism investigates how individual identity functions as part of larger economic, political, and bureaucratic systems-often dislocated from regions that defined group and individual identity for other movements.One consequence of this is clearly evident in the influence of African art on Picasso. From our position we can see that this was often with a patronisingprimitivist view, which was typical of the mind set of this European avant-garde generation.
But before I get to that I want to discuss the influence of Paul Cezanne.
Cezanne was the preeminent French artist of the Post-Impressionist eraHe studied in a small academy in Paris. (He had applied to study in the official art academy, but was rejected.) He met the Impressionist painters, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and others. His early style was the complete opposite of the official, academic style - it was rough, unrefined, comprised of thick brushstrokes and wild colour, with rather passionate, even somewhat erotic, themes. Compared with the bland, smooth brushstrokes, lofty subject matter, and muted color of the academic artists, his work was a rude shock, and perhaps meant to be so.
As we saw last week, new ideas of painting were in the air. Courbet and Manet were painting with realism (with a small r) and boldness of subject matter and style, in a more contemporary manner. The young student friends were soaking up these new ideas, as well as studying the masters in the Louvre, the French art museum. They did not want to paint like the academicians - they wanted to paint outside, from life, not in their studios; they wanted clear, bright colour, not the browns and grays of established painters. They wanted to paint with small, visible strokes, not 'Victorian smoothness.' And, they wanted to paint modern life, not scenes of history or classical Greece. Pissarro, particularly, influenced Cezanne's way of thinking and working. He urged Cezanne to paint landscapes from nature, to discipline himself by studying the landscapes in front of him. Cezanne's undisciplined style became more steadied under Pissarro's influence; he became much more focused with his energy. His colour became more subdued, with earth colors, rather than the blacks, whites, and reds of his early work. He painted with the group that was to become the Impressionists.
Even at this stage, however, his work remained somewhat different than Monet and Renoir. Their tiny strokes were rounded, soft; his were square, more blunt, more structural. While they were more interested in colour and light, he was still concerned with form and structure; these differences put Cezanne in the category of Post-Impressionism, along with Gauguin, Van Gogh and others, which means that as a group they were much influenced by Impressionism, but their work moved forward from it to other artistic concerns.
In a formal (pictorial values) sense, Cezanne's great contribution was that he invented a new kind of space in painting. In the 400 years prior to the late 19th century, space in painting was Renaissance space - which was illusional space, linear perspective, trying to depict the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. The canvas was like a window looking out onto the real world, with parallel lines meeting at a point on the horizon line. After 1850, certain artists (Manet, for instance) began to gradually see the canvas not as a window on the world, but its own world, with its own laws. They did not want to depict space in terms of perspective, but more as a flat surface. And, rather than smoothing over the brushstrokes in order to model three dimensions in objects, they chose to paint in separate touches, or facets, of objects, not blending them together. Also, instead of the chiaroscuro (light and dark shading) from the Renaissance, they used color as much or more than value to depict volumes and space.
Cezanne carried this further by constructing the objects or landscape into a pictorial structure, or architecture, and leaving it exposed in the work. What he did was to combine both the Renaissance notion of deep space, with the modern notion of the flat surface. This combining caused his paintings to have both flatness and three-dimensional space; the forms have both volume AND flatness. This combining of two types of space also accounts for his distortions of objects and perspective; depicting the "correct" perspective would destroy the visual integrity of the flat pictorial surface/space. This new space has been much discussed in artistic circles, and is perhaps the biggest influence on modern art of the 20th century. In Cezanne's paintings, even a simple apple might display a distinctly sculptural dimension. It is as if each item of still life, landscape, or portrait had been examined not from one but several or more angles, its material properties then recombined by the artist as no mere copy, but as what Cezanne called "a harmony parallel to nature." It was this aspect of Cezanne's analytical, time-based practice that led the future Cubists to regard him their true mentor.
The limitations of perspective were also seen as an obstacle to progress by the Cubists. The fact that a picture drawn in perspective could only work from one viewpoint restricted their options. As the image was drawn from a fixed position, the result was frozen, like a snapshot - but the Cubists wanted to make pictures that reached beyond the rigid geometry of perspective. They wanted to introduce the idea of 'relativity' - how the artist perceived and selected elements from the subject, fusing both their observations and memories into the one concentrated image. To do this the Cubists examined the way that we see. When you look at an object your eye scans it, stopping to register on a certain detail before moving on to the next point of interest and so on. You can also change your viewpoint in relation to the object allowing you to look at it from above, below or from the side. Therefore, the Cubists proposed that your sight of an object is the sum of many different views and your memory of an object is not constructed from one angle, as in perspective, but from many angles selected by your sight and movement. Cubist painting, paradoxically abstract in form, was an attempt at a more realistic way of seeing.
Cezanne ultimately came to regard colour, line, and "form" as constituting one and the same thing, or inseparable aspects for describing how the human eye actually experiences Nature.Unsatisfied with the Impressionist dictum that painting is primarily a reflection of visual perception, Cezanne sought to make of his artistic practice a new kind of analytical discipline.A huge number of 20th century artists, many of whom were its most influential, claimed a major debt to Cezanne. Modernism is often characterised by a stringent concern with formal qualities (space, color, composition, etc) that is attributed to Cezanne.Cezanne's structural facets led Picasso and Braque to Cubism. Modern art began with Manet and the discovery of flatness as a value in painting. It reached a new clarity of purpose with Cézanne and exploded into full existence in Picasso's 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'AvignonThat is to say, that lthough Cézanne made the great leap to free art from a single perspective point, he remained rooted in the nineteenth century.It was in 1907 withLes Demoiselles d'Avignon, that Picasso brought art into the twentieth century.
Landmark changes in Picasso’s work, and early signs of African influences can be seen simultaneously in his 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon where a departure from classic Western art styles is clear. As the title suggests, the painting is about a brothel (Avignon was a street in Barcelona that was famous for its brothel). The painting depicts five different nude female figures representing prostitutes. Initially this picture was to be a narrative brothel scene with five prostitutes and two men – one a patron surrounded by the women and a medical student holding a skull, in the end Picasso painted out the two men and have the five prostitutes looking out at the viewer. The prostitute on the right holds back the curtains to reveal the other four prostitutes coming from or with white cloths. There is a table in the foreground with fruit on – suggesting that this show is for the viewer sitting at the table. The bodies are angular, yet suggest the female form with some smooth curves. The two women in the centre have faces that suggest Iberian masks, the other three have African mask like faces. As the canvass was around eight foot square, the whole effect is very menacing as the mask-like faces on the right are hideous. The colours used for this painting range from off-white to brown, with areas of blue in the middle. On closer inspection, the canvas is split in two down the middle by the female nude with both arms outstretched and the table in the front. In this painting, Picasso seems to portray different ideas of beauty by contrasting the hideous faces on the right to the two in the centre. By comparison the two central female nudes are more aesthetically pleasing. The two central figures also make use of cloths and drapes – a classical prop to show off the enticement of the female nude. Picasso may have modelled the middle figure on the famous Venus de Milo. Picasso describes this painting as his first “exorcism” painting.
The Cubists believed that the traditions of Western art had become exhausted and another remedy they applied to revitalize their work was to draw on the expressive energy of art from other cultures, especially African art. However, they were not interested in the true religious or social symbolism of these cultural objects, but valued them superficially for their expressive style. They viewed them as subversive elements that could be used to attack and subsequently refresh the tired tradition of Western art.
Term used to describe the fascination of early modern European artists with what was then called primitive art. This included tribal art from Africa, the South Pacific and Indonesia, as well as prehistoric and very early European art, and European folk art. Such work has had a profound impact on modern Western art. The discovery of African tribal art by Picasso around 1906 was an important influence on his painting in general, and was a major factor in leading him to Cubism. Primitivism also means the search for a simpler more basic way of life away from Western urban sophistication and social restrictions. This inspiration to cross-reference art from different cultures probably came from Paul Gauguin, the French post-impressionist artist, whose paintings and prints were influenced by the native culture of Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands where he spent his final years.Gauguin is credited as being the first artist to develop the idea of primitivism in art. Indeed the current exhibition at Tate Modern is titled Gauguin: Maker of Myth, reinforcing the idealism of his view of ‘the Other’. Picasso took the use of the primitive a step further than Gauguin; where Gauguin was inspired to depict ‘exotic’ lands and the ‘noble savage’, Picasso was inspired to incorporate the very spirit of ‘exotic’ artifacts into his work, regardless of subject. This is how a painting of Spanish prostitutes became the turning point in modern art. Les Demoiselles d’Avingnon is the work that marks the transition from Picasso’s realistic paintings into the revolution that was Cubism
Although the painting is seen as the first Cubist work, before beginning the Cubist phase of his painting, he spent several years exploring African art. During this time the French empire was expanding into Africa, and African artifacts were being brought back to Paris museums. Colonisation is clearly an important part of the context here.This ‘scramble for Africa’ meant Europeans had had an increasing presence in the continent and were bringing artifacts back to their countries to display as exotica or ‘ethnographic artifacts’. “Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition… Out of imperialism, notions about culture were classified, reinforced, criticised or rejected.” Said, Edward W. Culture and ImperialismThe modern period, brought on by mercantilism and exploration, is under-written by relationships between European and non-European peoples.
From our postcolonial, postmodern position we can scrutinise the context within which artists of this period were working, significant is of course the reverberations of Darwin’s theory of evolution.“Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution lies behind many early anthropological and sociological definitions of the primative. It is significant however, that what were originally essentially mecanistic principles of biological transformations were quickly translated into philisophical proof for new versions of the medieval idea of a vertically orientated ‘Great Chain of Being’ […] a ‘ladder’ on which men were arranged in ascending order of importance according to ‘race’ (and often class).”
“There had been, from the beginning of classical speculation, two contrasting opinions about the natural state of man [...] One view, termed "soft" primitivism [...] conceives of primitive life as a golden age of plenty, innocence, and happiness -- in other words, as civilized life purged of its vices. The other, "hard" form of primitivism conceives of primitive life as an almost subhuman existence full of terrible hardships and devoid of all comforts -- in other words, as civilized life stripped of its virtues.” (Panofsky...)
The common response in all societies to other cultures is to judge them in terms of the values and customs of their own familiar culture. This is ethnocentrismThe belief that one’s own group or culture is superior to all other groups or cultures.The tendency of most people to use their own way of life as a standard for judging others; now also indicates the belief, on the part of most individuals, that their race, culture, society, etc., are superior to all others “Many people never acknowledge how their day-to-day behaviors have been shaped by cultural norms and values and reinforced by families, peers, and social institutions. How one defines ‘family’, identifies desirable life goals, views problems, and even says hello are all influenced by the culture in which one functions”
Contained within the categorizations are binary oppositions. These are terms that derive their meaning from there relationship to another, exclusive term. In 19th century discourse it is apparent that these terms were not seen a equal, but one was always privileged.
In short, Primitivism in 20th Century Art, coupled so-called tribal artifacts with modern works in order to show a correlation between the two. The status of tribal artifacts has been forced to shift and deviate from their original classification as remnants of an ancient past with anthropological definitions, to those with more modern, aesthetic definitions.Picasso first encountered forms of African art around the turn of the twentieth century when ‘exotic’ items were imported by sailors from French occupied Africa and displayed in European museums. From here on evidence of the appropriation of elements of African art can be found in Picasso’s work.
Picasso’s appropriation of the African mask is one example of hybrid forms of expression that beg, borrow and steal from elsewhere. In doing so they raise the question about the significance of power relations in doing soThe notion of universality is a European invention. As asserted by Edward Said, Europe had only considered its own culture and its peculiar expressions as universal in contrast with the so-called indigenous cultures, considered as regional phenomena. Since the 19th century, art and culture were comprehended through a euro-centric point of view, while the claim for universality made this eurocentricity unconscious for most people.
Picasso continued to create art with ‘primitivist’ influences into the mid 20th century in works such as Woman’s Head (1909), Woman in an Armchair (1909-1910) and Negro Dancer (1937).
Braque’s approach was more analytical and would impact Picasso’s thinking when the two finally met in 1909, thanks to Apollinaire, a writer and promoter of Cubism. Picasso, the inventor of Cubism, and Apollinaire, the inventor of Surrealism, met in 1905, forged a close friendship, and between them laid the foundations of modernism in twentieth-century art and literature.
The general line of argumentation among art historians is that the roots of cubism are in Cézanne and primitive art. This view discounts completely how astounding developments in science, mathematics and technology contributed to the very definition of "avant-garde." It has long been known that the roots of science were never totally within science itself. Why then should the roots of the most influential art movement of the twentieth century lie totally within art? By widening our viewpoint of the origins of Picasso's Demoiselles to include science, mathematics and technology, we gain another perspective.We have previously touched upon the fact that the intellectual climate at the beginning of the twentieth century, was an era of genius unmatched since the Renaissance. Cubism can be seen to be a response to the dramatic changes sweeping across Europe like a tidal wave.At the epicenter of these enormous transformations was the debate about representation versus abstraction. In art, there was a strong countermovement to the figuration and perspective that had held center stage ever since the Renaissance, which surfaced most forcefully in the postimpressionism of Paul Cézanne. New developments in technology such as airplanes, wireless telegraphy and automobiles were altering everyone's conception of space and time.
Picasso was at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900, where he would have seen a host of early films displayed, as well as the “Serpentine Dance” of Loie Fuller, which itself became a popular subject to depict on silent reels. When he meets Georges Braque, the two find more common ground in their love for cinema than in their current artistic styles (interestingly, Braque found Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon to be offensive). As they develop the style that would come to be known as Cubism, they incorporate much of the techniques on display in the local cinema house.It is certainly fair to say that technology played a role in Picasso's development of cubism, as we see from his adroit use of photographs as models for paintings and his interest in cinematography.
The multiple images in the pioneering cinematography of Eadward Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey permitted change with time to be portrayed either on successive frames of film or on a single frame, in addition to depicting different perspectives on serial frames. In science the discovery of X rays seemed to render inside and outside ambiguous, the opaque became transparent and the distinction between two and three dimensions was blurred. Radioactivity, with its apparently limitless amounts of energy, seemed to prove that space is full of alpha, beta, gamma and X rays flying everywhere and opening up everything. Even more abstractly, mathematicians mused over exotic new geometries that could be represented in dimensions greater than three. People were especially fascinated by the idea of four-dimensional space, with its implication of motion in space or time.
All of this was discussed in newspapers, magazines and cafés, as well as in elegant and accessible philosophical writings…These developments and what they meant were debated among the tight group of friends known as la bandeàPicasso…Ideas were everywhere and so was the desire for change. Alongside the developments in mathematics, science and technology was the discovery of the conceptual quality of African objets d'art. All of these ideas helped Picasso to free himself from earlier modes of thinking. Everyone involved in cubism considered it a highly intellectual adventure with the specific goal of reducing forms to geometry. Picasso's exploration of space in his groundbreaking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon employed notions of four-dimensional space…the cubism of Georges Braque and Picasso dethroned perspective in art.
Picasso‟s Exorcism: Fear of „Primitives‟ and „Prostitutes‟ Week firstname.lastname@example.org
Aims of the lecture• Give you an understanding of the prevailing attitudes towards other cultures before and during the 19th century.• Provide an account of the background for „primitivism‟ in art• Develop a nuanced, critical reading of Picasso‟s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon.
Modernism is also partially a response to mass dislocations of population due to war, empire, and immigration. Thisdislocation resulted in the unprecedentedclose quartering of different classes and ethnicities in rapidly expanding cities.
Paul Cézanne Pablo PicassoStill Life with Fruit Dish The Reservoir, Horta de (1879–80) Ebro (1909)
Cezanne‟s early style was the complete opposite of the official, academic styleCezanneA ModernOlympia c.1873-74 William-Adolphe BouguereauCezanne The Birth ofThe Venus (1879)Abduction(1867)
Cezanne PissarroThe Bridge at Maincy Small Bridge (1879-80) (1875)
Impressionism Monet RenoirWater-Lily Pond Lakeside Landscape (1897) (1889)
Cezannes great contribution was that heinvented a new kind of space in painting.Previously space in painting wasRenaissance space - which was illusionalspace, linear perspective, trying to depictthe illusion of space on a two-dimensionalsurface.
PrimitivismPicassos African-influencedPeriod - 1907 to 1909 Picasso Dan Mask Head of a Woman (1907)
Gauguin: Maker of MythReinforcing the idealism of his view of „the Other‟ Paul Gauguin Nave, Nave Moe (Miraculous Source) (1894)
Colonisation: a key feature of modernity“Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act ofaccumulation and acquisition… Out ofimperialism, notions about culture wereclassified, reinforced, criticised or rejected.”Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism Pitt Rivers Museum
Progress and evolution“Charles Darwin‟s theory of evolution lies behindmany early anthropological and sociologicaldefinitions of the primative. It is significanthowever, that what were originally essentiallymecanistic principles of biological transformationswere quickly translated into philisophical proof fornew versions of the medieval idea of a verticallyorientated „Great Chain of Being‟ […] a „ladder‟ onwhich men were arranged in ascending order ofimportance according to „race‟ (and often class).” (Rhodes 1994, p. 14)
Modernity and Colonialism“There had been, from the beginning of classicalspeculation, two contrasting opinions about the naturalstate of man [...] One view, termed "soft" primitivism [...]conceives of primitive life as a golden age ofplenty, innocence, and happiness -- in other words, ascivilized life purged of its vices. The other, "hard" form ofprimitivism conceives of primitive life as an almostsubhuman existence full of terrible hardships and devoidof all comforts -- in other words, as civilized life strippedof its virtues.” (Panofsky...)
“Many people neveracknowledge how theirday-to-day behaviorshave been shaped bycultural norms and valuesand reinforced byfamilies, peers, and socialinstitutions. How onedefines „family‟, identifiesdesirable life goals, viewsproblems, and even sayshello are all influenced bythe culture in which onefunctions”(Cross, 1988, p.2)
Otherness – binary oppositions in the 19th Century world view. Culture > Nature Rationality > Irrationality (emotion) Western > Non-Western Man > Woman Civilized > Primitive
The “discovery” of primitive art by Picasso and Co.around the turn of the 20th century
Picasso‟s appropriation of the African mask is one example of hybridforms of expression that beg, borrow and steal from elsewhere. In doingso they raise the question about the significance of power relations indoing so. Picasso Mask from Anonymous Picasso Sitting Nude Baule in Ivory artist, South Woman with (1908) Coast Africa Joined Hands (1906)
Woman‟s Head Woman in an Negro Dancer (1909) Armchair (1909-1910) (1937)
“Primitivism in Modern Art is predominantly aboutmaking the familiar strange or about maintaining thestrangeness of unfamiliar experiences as a meansof questioning the experiences as a means ofquestioning the recieved wisdom of WesternCulture. This contrasts with the general trend inEuropean Art since the Renaissance, which hassought to render the experiences of new cultures ina visual language that contains and neutralises thethreat of the unkown by absorbing it into recognisedsystems of representation.” (Rhodes 1994, p.75)
The poet Guillaume Apollinairein Picasso‟s atelier, 1910 – byPicasso
Correspondences between Cubism and early cinema Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies (Dir. Arne Glimcher, 2010) proposes that: •Cubism, the revolutionary abstract painting and collage style pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, grew out of a reaction to cinema •the neutral tones and deconstructed forms that defined Cubist painting were an attempt to convey motion in the manner of a film‟s rolling celluloid
Correspondences between Cubism and early cinema Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon The serpentine dance of (1907) Loïe Fuller (1896)