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This work is as uncomfortable to look at as it is impossible to look away from. No other painting in the history of Western art so boldly, and baldly, confronts the viewer. Pictorial conventions are banished and idealized notions of beauty jettisoned. Picasso produced an unprecedented quantity of preparatory drawings and paintings for Demoiselles. They speak to his struggle to reinvent Western painting in his own stylistically disjunctive, spatially contradictory, aggressively confrontational terms.
It depicts five naked women with figures composed of flat, splintered planes and faces inspired by Iberian sculpture and African masks. The compressed space the figures inhabit appears to project forward in jagged shards; a fiercely pointed slice of melon in the still life of fruit at the bottom of the composition teeters on an impossibly upturned tabletop.
Picasso unveiled the monumental painting in his Paris studio after months of revision. If you notice an error, please contact us at digital moma. This work is included in the Provenance Research Project , which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
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