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Fascinating look at great painting
21 September 2006 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

The BBC has made a number of episodes featuring the greatest artworks of Western culture in this arts series. I will write about the Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso, one of the groundbreaking paintings of the last century. The narrator takes us through Picasso's youth and rivalry with Matisse, then relates the determination that led the painter to spend months in a dank, filthy basement studio working on the painting. When it was finished, in 1907, it was seen only by Picasso's friends and associates. It took nine years for Les Demoiselles to be exhibited in public, when it was given its name by André Salmon (Picasso had always called it Le Bordel).

The brief interviews with art historians John Richardson and John Golding are very enlightening: Picasso's fear of syphilis, his worsening relations with Fernande Olivier, who was his mistress at the time, his fascination with African folk art (and his great unwillingness to admit this influence). Fifty minutes very well spent.


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