Picasso meets the Übermensch on the ground of Les Demoiselles

Four women stand still. They are staring at you. Someone may say that they are pure forms. I state, instead, that they are the most expressive beings in the whole history of modern art.

As history shows, the best way to innovate and to revolutionize a previous system of ideas is not to delete it, yet to maintain its previous form. A striking example is given by how Christianity had literally transformed Roman and Greek iconography, in order to build a new one, yet on already solid fundaments.

Les Demoiselles staring at a visitor at MoMA, courtesy of the Museum

This kind of refuse can be sociologically explained with the refuse to reject the usual and to embrace the new. This is typically human, and this is what makes us look at this deconstruction-and-reconstruction as a ‘sugaring-the-pill’ process. In other words, a conceptual and ideological revolution must be based on tradition in order to make itself more comprehensible and acceptable.

Unlike ancient Romans and Greeks, thought, twentieth century man navigated through inextricable intellectual debates upon religion and art. Among them, the übermensch philosophy was largely acknowledged by artists and intellectuals of the time, who did feel the need of a renovation of values.

Among many European circles of intellectuals there was that attended by Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, completed in July 1907, not a case one of the most (if not the most) revolutionary masterpiece of the whole history of art, are the most direct application of Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch.

Pablo Picasso, Study for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, pencil and pastel (courtesy of Basel Kunstmuseum)

Through Les Demoiselles Picasso makes the most powerful attack on Western mimetic art ever. As Malraux writes, “It was in that day thatLes Demoiselles d’Avignon might have come into my mind: not by virtue of the forms, but because it was my very first exorcism canvas” (La Tête d’obsidienne, Editions Gallimard, 1974). The canvas becomes the place of power.

Art is regarder as neither a means nor experiment for a revolutionary style, but a mirror of it. The painting is a mirror of what the übermensch must act like, and not look like; of what, transcending the representation, society must look like in this precise historical period.

One must take an already solid fundament in order to make the revolution more visible to the majority of people. Picasso took the whole history of art. He took Ingres’ art — as emblem of Western ideal of beauty — and made it ugly “in the name of authenticity” (Leighten, Patricia “Colonialism, l’art négre, and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”) which he does not criticize neither share, but does show as a means for power, a kind of power that European society had lost the contact with, yet which shared on an unconscious level.

Beauty is useless. Power has taken its place.

Originally published at uberaura.wix.com.

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