Les Demoiselles d'Avignon y las fotografías de Edmond Fontier

"Joseph Deniker también era un reconocido antropólogo y experto en religiones orientales. Otra de sus publicaciones importase es Les races et les peuples de la terre [Las razas y los pueblos de la tierra], de 1900, donde estudia las costumbres y la organización de social de los pueblos de todos los continentes, incluido el europeo, para cuestionar la validez de las divisiones de los seres humanos en «tipos» raciales, ya que «cuanto más civilizados son los pueblos, más se mezclan unos con otros, dentro de ciertos límites territoriales».1 Sistemáticamente aduciendo semejanzas entre los europeos y otros pueblos, Deniker subrayaba la realidad e importancia de las mezclas sociales, culturales y étnicas. Con ello refutaba las teorías de Gobeneau y, más recientemente, de Gustave Le Bon, quien en 1894 había publicado Les Lois psychologiques de l'evolution des races  [Las leyes psicológicas de la evolución de las razas], donde postula la división inalterable de los grupos raciales y la preeminencia de los rasgos físicos y psicológicos sobre las influencias sociales e institucionales. La postura de Deniker también era diametralmente opuesta a la de monárquicos y nacionalistas como Charles Maurras y Maurice Barrès, promotores de un ideal exclusivo de identidad cultural y pureza racial de los franceses mantenida a lo largo de la historia, y asimismo a la de republicanos como Jules Ferry, que había puesto la idea de las razas europeas «superiores» enfrentadas a las no europeas «inferiores» al servicio de la política colonial de Francia. 

Christopher Green se ha referido a los escritos antropológicos de Joseph Deniker como un elemento fundamental del medio intelectual en el que Picasso se movía, sobretodo en el caso de Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, un cuadro que puede ser considerado una manifestación experimental de hibridez racial y cultural, «una obra que revuelve todos los códigos» mediante una combinación de normas convencionales de composición y representación del arte occidental y elementos de las culturas de África y Oceanía. Como sugiere Green, es probable que Picasso nunca leyera Les races et les peuples de la terre de Deniker, pero sí pudo, también en este caso, estar enterado por los hijos de Deniker de la obra etnográfica de su padre; tal vez por el más joven, Georges Deniker (…). El hecho de que Picasso coleccionara postales con fotografías de Edmond Fortier en las que aparecen tipos étnicos de Senegal, Sudán y otras partes de África occidental aporta una confirmación de su interés por la iconografía antropológica.2 Si Picasso conocía la refutación por Deniker de la idea de las categorías raciales inmutables, no podía mas que contemplar con ironía aquellas imágenes, adornadas con leyendas alusivas a los «tipos» étnicos de las mujeres de las diversas regiones. (READ, 2011, p. 171-173) 


"Not only int he case of Demoiselles, but in most of the other cases that Baldassari has shown of probable borrowings from his (Picasso) ethnographic photographs, Picasso erases all traces of the Africans (or Egyptians or others) whose poses he has adapted. Unlike Fortier, he seems as a painter working with these ethnographic sources to ace no interest in the specific character of the African subjects involved. Fortier's African 'female types', when they become Picasso's 'demoiselles", are given pink European bodies, even those that don 'African' masks. And yet there is one fact about the collection Picasso formed from Fortier's series that suggests he was interested in these postcards as African images: there is not a single one that includes a European colonists. He picked out only 'pure' African subjects. 

Fortier's photographs convey instantly the control of the European relationship with the colonized. It signalled by the very poses and groupings into which these Africans are frozen; by their conformity with European ideas of art and beauty. But it is all above in those photographs, available everywhere in the popular illustrated magazines as well as on postcards, which bring the colonists and the colonized into direct confrontation, that the controlling force of the relationship is signalled, along with the belittling fall of the colonized into decency: in the mixed genre of photograph not found in Picasso's collection.

(…) Picasso knew Africa entirely from what he could read about it, from such images as these, from his postcard collection and from the African art he saw at the Etnographic Museum of the Trocadéro and begun to collect around 1907. If, in his postcard collection, he avoided the crass extremes of colonial domination conveyed especially where the colonized and the colonizers were photographed together, he did not, of course, avoid confrontations of African or Oceanic and European art. It is on a cultural level that the European and the non-European clash most obviously in the Demoiselles." (GREEN, 2005, p.49-50)


"(Picasso saying of the African masks:) 'They were magic things… The Negroes pieces were intercessors, mediators… I understood; I too am against everything, I too believe that everything is unknown, that everything is an enemy! Everything! Not the details-women, children, babies, tobacco, playing-but the whole of it! To help people avoid coming under the influence of spirits again, to help them become independent. Spirits, the unconscious…, emotion-they're all the same thing. I understood why I was a painter. All alone in that awful museum, with masks, dolls made by redskins, dusty manikins. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon must have come to me that very day, but not all because of the forms; because it was my first exorcism-painting -yes absolutely!'" (MALRAUX, 1976)


"Malraux's way of taking magic into a universalizing pan-cultural vision of art, and so placing the Demoiselles in his 'Museum without Walls' is very much his own, but that wish to find a sameness underlying difference that brings cultures together is manifest earlier in the twentieth century not only in Einstein's Negerplastik3, but in the way very many collectors besides Picasso brought together the European 'modern' with the African and the Oceanic in their homes. Malraux suggest that Picsso understood and supported the 'Museum without Walls' as he formulated it, but it is important to realize that it was impossible to embrace African and Oceanic sameness on one level as European art, while still insisting on difference, to bring out sameness on one level, but to see only difference on another. 

The cubist sculpture Jacques Lipchitz contributes the following statement to an inquiry into African and Oceanic art published in the little magazine L'Action in 1920: 'Certainly the art of the blacks has been a great example for us. Their true understanding of proportion, their feeling for design, their sharp sense of reality have made us try out, dare even, many things. But it would be wrong to believe that our art as a result has become mulatto. It is very white.'4 Like Braque, Derain and Matisse, as Picasso is reported remembering Malraux, Lipchitz was prepared to look African and Oceanic art in pan-cultural terms as sculpture (and indeed he collected it himself); but that did not mean he ignored the distance between it and modern european art.5 Moreover, he was prepared, with a directness that seems crude now, to articulate that distance in racial terms. Art, for him, was black and white." (GREEN, 200, p.56)


1 «Plus les peuples sont civilisés, plus ils sont mélangés entre eux dans certaines limites territoriales.» Joseph Deniker,  Les Races et les peuples de la terre. Eléments d'anthropologie et d'ethnographie. Paris, Schleicher frères, 1900, p.4. El libre comprende 176 ilustraciones y dos mapas. 

Anne Baldassari ha sugerido que estas fotografías sirvieron de modelos para Les Demoiselles d'Avignon y otras obras. Veáse Anne Baldassari, Picasso and Photography: The Dark Mirror [cat. expo.]. Houston/Paris, Museum of Fine Arts/Flammarion, 1997.  

Carl Einstein, a close friend of Kahnweiler (...) publish Negerplastik in Leipzig in 1915. (...) it was the first study of African sculpture to attempt look at it outside a European frame of reference. Einstein's analysis was strictly formal. This needs, however, to be qualified with the point that such a strictly formal analysis itself is the product of a European set of priorities with European philosophical foundation whose implications are pan-cultural and universalist. See Lilian Meffre, Carl Einstein et problématique des avant-gardes dans les arts plastiques (Berne, 1989), pp. 49-50.

4 (...) Jacques Lipchitz in Action, no. 3 (Paris, June 1920), p. 25. The little magazine Action ran an issue in 1920 that brought together the statements of many avant-garde artists on 'art-nègre'. It was here that there appeared Picasso's famous rhetorical untruth: 'L'art nègre? connais pas!' Among the other contributors were Juan Gris and Lipchitz; Lipchitz's statement appears immediatally above Picasso's. In the same issue, incidentally, a piece by Malraux appeared on Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror.   

5 Letters sent to Léonce Rosenberg by Lipschitz in 1916 show him acting, in fact, as an intermediary between a collector of 'art nègre' willing to sell 'quatre petites statuettes des íles marquises de premier ordre et deux de la Nouvelle Caledonie', and Rosenberg. He had already begun collecting. Service de Documentation, Musée d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, C1 9600.1011 C2 9600.1012


READ, Peter (2011). "Todos los campos del conocimiento. El arte de Picasso y el ambiente intelectual de sus primeros años en París." En: McCULLY, Marilyn (ed). Devorar París. Picasso 1900 - 1907. Bruselas-Ámsterdam-Barcelona, Mercartorfonds-Van Gogh Museum- Museu Picasso, pp. 171-173.

MALRAUX, André (1976). Picasso's Mask. New York: Holt, Rienhart and Winston, pp.10-11.

GREEN, Christopher (2005). Picasso: Architecture and Vertigo. London, Yale University Press, pp. 49-50, 56.

BALDASSARI, Anne (1997). Picasso and photography : the dark mirror. Paris, Flammarion. pp. 52-57.

Catalogo Modernismo e arte negro-africana: exposiça︣o no Museu de etnologia (1976). Lisboa, Museu de etnologia.



STEINBERG, Leo (1972). "The philosophical brothel". 

Self portrait, Picasso. 1907

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