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Picasso, child prodigy turned legend introduces the birth of cubism

By Thilak Palliyaguruge
Pablo Picasso, the creator of ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,’ an oil painting measuring 244 x 230cm, was born in Spain in 1881.
As a child, Picasso could gain admission to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona on the same day of the examination, because he could complete in one day the subjects which the art candidates had normally been allotted one month to complete.

In 1900 he left for Paris with some of his close associates. While residing in Paris, he developed his creative faculties by familiarizing himself with the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and other contemporary artists. After making a few trips to Barcelona and back in 1904, he returned to Paris never to leave.

His first exhibition was held in 1900 and since then he passed through various periods of his career in art, such as ‘Blue Period,’ ‘Rose Period’ etc. During the years 1906 – 1907, Picasso’s paintings have undergone fundamental changes. The portrait of Gertrude Stein is significant in this context. ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’

In 1907 Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Young Ladies of Avignon) the title of which was given by the French writer André Salmon. It was not fully completed when this painting was rolled up and kept in his studio till 1937. The birth of this painting caused the overturning of all previously existing values and earned a legendary reputation for Picasso, which ultimately led to cubism, one of the great revolutions in 20th century art.

Many preliminary studies were done before executing the final painting of ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.’ There are five figures in the composition. The two figures at the right appear to be somewhat strange when compared to the other three standing female figures. Critics maintain that the influence of Iberian sculpture is quite evident in the three standing female figures on the left. Picasso got the opportunity to study these sculptures in the Louvre Museum.
The two figures on the right, one crouching and the other, standing and drawing back the curtain are obviously influenced by traditional African Negro sculpture.

The subject of the painting, ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ is a brothel parlour in Barcelona. There is a possibility that one of the reasons which led to the painting of ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ was the death of Cézanne on October 22 in 1906.
After viewing this revolutionary painting, Picasso’s fellow artists expressed their fears that the birth of this painting was Picasso’s suicide. It was also regarded as a radical painting done by Picasso. However, it is now considered a great masterpiece of the 20th century paintings and the boldest and most challenging act in the history of art.

Gertrude Stein insisted that only Picasso could portray the 20th century reality through paintings. Through his creative work he led the way to achieve this reality as an artist. Soviet art historian Vitali Alexandrovich Suslov says “With ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,’ Picasso demolished century old traditions and conventions and created an image that epitomized modernity. In spite of the apparently trivial subject which initially inspired ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,’ it was prophetic work far ahead of its time.
“This painting gives a message of rejecting the past and illuminating the birth of a new era. The group of figures in the painting in various moods is gazing at a new horizon.”

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ predicted the imminent birth of cubism.
Georges Braque, a painter who had been exhibiting at the gallery of D. H. Kahnweiler had been introduced to Picasso, who subsequently became a close ally and worked together. Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Juan Gris and a host of young contemporary artists who were on the path of searching for new concepts embraced the finer points of cubism. Cubism is two fold, analytic and synthetic. After 1910 it gradually spread towards Asia.

Echo in Asia
When discussing the domestic art scene, the Ceylon Society of Art formed in 1891, committed to the promotion of academic and studio easel paintings, solely dominated the artistic activities of Sri Lanka in the early part of the 20th century. C. F. Winzer, a German painter, came to Sri Lanka in 1920 and assumed duties as the Inspector of Art in the Department of Education and worked till 1930. He was a contemporary of Picasso, Modigliani and also a close friend of Matisse. In addition to Winzer’s remarkable contribution to the field of art education, his painstaking commitment to the development of modern art movement on our soil, which was in its embryonic stage, is praiseworthy.

Lionel Wendt, the doyen of Sri Lankan art, while studying law in England was in the habit of bringing colour reproductions of modern art and journals relevant to them and distributing them among the young artists who were starving for new vision, especially George Keyt, Geoffrey Beling, Justin Deraniyagala, Richard Gabriel and a few other young artists. They were fascinated by the pictorial grandeur of Matisse, Picasso and Braque.

The Group of 43 formed in Sri Lanka in the year 1943, was a major 20th century event in Sri Lankan art. The conventional mirror cracked and new ideas emerged. Cubism played a lead role as the forerunner.

Dr. Hugh Modder, George Keyt’s cousin, who worked as a surgeon in England sent prints of early 20th century paintings and Cahiers d’Art journals to Sri Lanka for the benefit of these young artists who experienced a continuous thirst for modern art. Justin Deraniyagala brought international acclaim to his country winning an UNESCO award, the highest international honor won by a Sri Lankan painter, selected from among 4728 works, exhibited at the 28th Venice Biennale in 1956.
George Keyt gained renown in India and in England.

Richard Gabriel was commended as a result of his contribution to Venice Biennale in 1956. City of Paris bought canvases of Ivan Peries and Richard Gabriel which were placed in the Petit Palais.
Picasso 1907 – ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’
Picasso 1907 –‘ Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (Young Ladies of Avignon and the birth of Cubism) an exhibition of paintings with large reproductions of related paintings of Picasso and Sri Lankan artists, will be held from October 27 to November 5, at the auditorium of Alliance Française de Kandy, No 642, Peradeniya Road, Kandy.
The exhibition will be declared open by Cultural Attaché, French Embassy, Yves-Alain Corporeau, on Friday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m.
An art workshop for selected students from 11 schools in Kandy and the region will be held on October 27 and 28 as a parallel discipline.
Apollinaire and Picasso, an evening of poetry and music will take place on Friday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.

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Shakespeare Centre commemorates Bard with Hamlet

Supports ‘Stand Up’ Guinness World Record attempt

The Shakespeare Centre Sri Lanka, in commemoration of William Shakespeare, brings Hamlet, an outstanding work of the Bard of Avon, on stage at the Lumbini Theatre on October 24 and 31.
The Shakespeare Centre is a non-commercial organisation, which works hard for promotion of Shakespearean theatre and theatre-in-education among children. It has its wings and influence spread outside Colombo, in such districts as Badulla, Hambantota, Bandarawela, Monaragala, Kurunegala, Kandy, Galle, etc.
Workshops, seminars and production of stage plays have been conducted by the Shakespeare Centre regularly for the benefit of theatre enthusiasts of all ages.

The centre also organised another showing of Hamlet at Sudharshi Hall, Colombo 7 on October 17, to support ‘Stand Up,’ which is the first ever attempt to set an official Guinness World Record for the most number of people to ‘Stand Up Against Poverty’ and ‘Stand Up for Millennium Development Goals.’
These goals were agreed to by 189 world leaders in the year 2000 and are aimed at eliminating the root causes of poverty by 2015.
‘Stand Up’ is jointly organised by United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) with all interested partners worldwide such as religious institutions, UN offices, schools, universities, NGOs, CBOs, etc.
GCAP Sri Lanka with SUNFO and CCF Sri Lanka is coordinating the ‘Stand Up’ event in Sri Lanka.

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Painted in dance

By Kushali Atukorale
A unique exhibition of paintings by Mohan Sudusinghe, ‘Rhythmic lines II,’ is scheduled for October 20-22, 2007 at the Harold Peiris Gallery at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. The event is organised by Lak Uruma Arts Foundation. The exhibition also includes paintings of his son Senuka.

Mohan Sudusinghe started his artistic career as a dancer. He built up a name for himself as a professional dancer and choreographer over a span of 15 years.
“My first step towards dancing was taken during the time I spent at the D.S. Senanayake Vidyalaya. I began my career in 1986 with the school dancing troop, which won many awards at All Island Dancing and Ballet competitions. In the beginning, it was a hobby but in 1988 it turned to be my profession,” Mohan explained.
It was a knee injury that gave Mohan time to take up painting seriously. Being closely associated with dancing, Mohan’s paintings mainly comprise images of dancers and instruments.

“My first encounter with the Lak Uruma Arts Foundation was in 1999. In 2002, I started working with ‘mixed media’ using acrylic, paper, cloth wire, gum etc. I have successfully held five exhibitions of my paintings in Sri Lanka. I am a self-taught artist and I enjoy working in a field that is closely associated with dance. My paintings mainly comprise sculptural col1ages with images of dancers and instruments,” he added.
Mohan invites all art lovers to attend the event.

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