Early Modern Masters: Picasso and Matisse: Exploring the Figure in Modern Art

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The human figure has been a popular subject matter for artists throughout art history.  Modern artists introduced their innovative styles using the human figure.  Two early 20th century artists were Picasso and Matisse.  They were influenced by the Post Impressionists (Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne, for example.)  Select one of the two artists below, or you can select another artist from the late 19th or 20th century of your choice.  Be sure to tell us something about the contributions of the artist, their style, and select a specific artwork to discuss. Be sure to include references.

Examine and discuss Picasso’s Early Cubist painting, Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon . Answer the following questions:

  • What is cubism? 
  • What is the painting about?
  • What does the title mean?
  • Why do we see shattered forms? 
  • Is it possible to describe it from the background? 
  • What did this painting do for the art world? Use your art terminology to discuss it and its importance. 


 Examine and discuss Henri Matisse’s Early Expressionist painting, The Joy of Life, which was also revolutionary for its time. Answer the following questions:

  • How are the two significant paintings (Picasso’s and Matisse’s) different in the depiction of the human figure? 
  • What was Expressionism about?
  • What is “the Fauvist vision?”
  • What did this painting do for the art world? Use your art terminology to discuss it and its importance.

What have you gained from studying art appreciation during this course?

  • What do you know now that you did not know before taking this class?
  • If you could own any of the artworks that you have studied, which would it be and where would you hang it?

Please see these helpful art aids:


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