Cubism can be defined as an advanced art movement that modernized European painting and sculpture in the early 20th century. The core essence of cubism is that instead of viewing subjects from a single, fixed angle, the sculptor breaks them up into a multiplicity of aspect so that several aspects or features of the subject can be seen simultaneously. It is a wonderful way to express the complexity and depth of world in a simplified manner.

Cubism is a unique format where square shapes are formed together. In cubism, the square shapes are also often softened with curves. In the artworks of a cubist, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form. The artist depicts the subject of his painting from a massive number of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint.

One of the distinct characteristics of Cubism is that the background and object planes interpenetrate with one another to create the shallow ambiguous space. The Cubist style emphasizes on the flat and two-dimensional surface of the picture plane. It rejects the traditional techniques of perspective, foreshortening and disproving the time-honored theories of art as the replication of nature. A cubist painter presents a new reality in paintings that depicts radically fragmented objects, whose several sides can be seen simultaneously.

The chief creators or innovators of Cubism were Picasso and Gorges Braque. In the year 1908, the term cubism was first used by the French art reviewer Louis Vauxcelles. After some years, the term was in wide use but the two creators of cubism avoid using it for a long time. Cubism seems to be uniquely adjusted to the busy dynamic of contemporary life. Cubism consists of both theoretical and practical forms; practical form being more dominant.

Formal characteristics of the work

Picasso was a painter as well as a sculptor. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was the most significant work of Picasso in the development of Cubism. Picasso uses angry definitive lines and a great concept of light and shadow. With his artwork, Picasso was also a free thinker. He had a unique style and due to this unique style, he became the first artist to have fame during his lifetime.

The painting is more a record of an artist in the process of changing his mind than a resolved composition. The forms are dislocated and inconsistent in style. In fact, they seem to be unfinished. It is a painting with overthrowing perspective, single viewpoint, local and decorative color and integral form.

Picasso uses darker colors on the left side of the painting and warmer colors on the right side of the painting. The painting is slightly buff as compared to the paintings of Cezanne. The strong, harsh and different coloring has given the painting a different look in the cubist era.

Larger social/political context

The painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” was painted during the summer of 1907 by Picasso. According to Picasso, the cubism has come in a time period when the world was experiencing modernization in technology and medicine; and the societies were rapidly growing and developing as well (Picasso, 1996). The meaning of the painting in English was the Young Ladies of Avignon; it depicted five prostitutes in a brothel. It is one of the most important paintings in the genesis of modern art. There is a strong similarity in the dramatic clashing of light and dark tones and the overhead light source.

Depictions of prostitutes and the theme of sexuality had been the subject of paintings in the past, but Les Demoiselles left an impact because of Picasso. He had portrayed the prostitutes in erotic poses with their arms recognizable positioned above their heads in order to show off their feminine but offensively distorted female framework.

His works are often categorized in periods and each period is different in style and themes than the other. Picasso’s paintings are like pages from his diary (Picasso, 1996). He believed that painting is another way of keeping a diary. Picasso says that painting brings him a great pleasure and release. For him, painting is an extremely hard work.

In the year 2007, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was described as the most influential work of art of the last 100 years. Picasso had the ability to interpret the most complex images in his own language. There were many painters who could transform the sun into a yellow spot, but Picasso was the one, who with his art and intelligence could transform a yellow spot into the sun. The movement also inspired about the modern architecture, sculptures, clothes, and even literature.

Interpretation by two art historians

The cubist painting constitutes a unique kind of matter, which imposes a new kind of integrity and continuity on the entire canvas. Each individual figure is united by a general geometrical principle, which overlays its own laws onto the natural proportions and merges almost completely with the background (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 2008). There are no differences of light and darkness that might lend shape to the women’s bodies and with the combination of several perspectives; this contributes to a general impression of perplexity in space.

Picasso was not interested in describing tone, depth or form of some of his painting. He expressed his indignation by making the use of imagination like the bull, the dying horse, a fallen warrior, a mother and dead child, a woman trapped in a burning building and a figure leaning from a window and holding out a lamp. The painting represented a revolutionary breakthrough in the history of modern art (Art of Picasso, 2008). The nudes that frame the composition already demonstrate the decisive change of direction in Picasso’s art. In terms of Cubism, this painting is of a seminal importance.


Cubist painting is an art form created through a modernized approach to the expression of the mind’s interpretation of the natural world. Cubist art is a form based on art. Cubism is a unique format where square shapes are formed together. The artist depicts the subject of his painting from a massive number of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint (Meighan, 2008). Picasso was a very good painter and sculptor. The painting had the meaning and was different to others. He used to paint his own experiences and believed the painting should have some meaning. He used to create paintings with a connection to reality.

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