Picasso’s African Period (1904-6)

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Head of a Sleeping Woman, Picasso
During the early 1900s, the aesthetics of traditional African sculpture became a powerful influence among European artists who formed an avant-garde in the development of modern art. In France, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and their School of Paris friends blended the highly stylized treatment of the human figure in African sculptures with painting styles derived from the post-Impressionist works of Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

The resulting pictorial flatness, vivid color palette, and fragmented Cubist shapes helped to define early modernism. While these artists knew nothing of the original meaning and function of the West and Central African sculptures they encountered, they instantly recognized the spiritual aspect of the composition and adapted these qualities to their own efforts to move beyond the naturalism that had defined Western art since the Renaissance.
[Source: .pablopicasso.org]


Image source: Wikimedia commons
In May or June 1907, Picasso experienced a “revelation” while viewing African art at the ethnographic museum at the Palais du Trocadéro. Picasso’s discovery of African art influenced the style of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (completed in July of that year), especially in the treatment of the two figures on the right side of the composition.

Picasso continued to develop a style derived from African, Egyptian, and Iberian art during the years prior to the start of the analytic cubism phase of his painting in 1910. Other works of Picasso’s African Period include the Bust of a Woman (1907, in the National Gallery, Prague); Mother and Child (Summer 1907, Musée Picasso, Paris); Nude with Raised Arms (1907, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain); and Three Women (Summer 1908, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).
Head of a Sleeping Woman ((Study for Nude with Drapery)1934Oil/CanvasPortrait
Picasso, Pablo1881 – 1973, aged 91Spanish painterAfrican Period
MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA61 x 47  

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