Suzanne Preston Blier's Picasso’s Demoiselles: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece

December 2020

In Picasso’s Demoiselles: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece (Duke), Suzanne Preston Blier presents a deeply nuanced investigation into the mysteries of the links between Pablo Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, and African art and the African presence in Europe. Weaving together an intricate tapestry (genealogy?) composed of the works of other artists (André Derain, Henri Matisse) and writers (Gertrude Stein) in Picasso’s circle; the scene at his studio, Le Bateau-Lavoir, in Montmartre; then-extant collections of ethnographic photographs of nude women of color; and the African sculpture in Paris at the time, Blier makes a convincing argument that there was nothing either dismissive or even trite about Picasso’s embrace of the “primitivism” of African art. Drawing on references to his ancestral roots in Málaga, Spain, its closeness to Morocco, and even his connection

— Michele Wallace

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