Modern art in France

With the efforts of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin the doorway had truly been opened to the modern art of the 20th century.

The next tidal wave of originality in art came with Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso (Spanish but living mainly in France) and Georges Braque, and also the work of Fernand Léger and the surrealist world of Marcel Duchamp.

Each of these artists in their own way pushed the frontiers of what was considered to be art, rejected more and more of the established art scene, and set the scene for the art of the 20th century.

The cubism of Picasso and Braque was a direct descendent of the work of Gauguin; expressionist art followed naturally from Van Gogh's exuberance; and the use of large flat areas of colour and very 'simplified' painting followed from Gauguin and the paintings he made following his visits to Tahiti and his studies of primitive art.

The traditional art of other countries also played an influential role, as example the simple flat designs of traditional Japanese art, and the tribal African art that had started to reach France.

The 'dancers' of Matisse is a particularly good example of how art was developing. It uses simple lines and few colours, but captures the energy of the dancers in an extraordinary manner. (see 'dancers' by matisse)

Pablo Picasso

Picasso created what might be the two greatest works of art of the 20th century: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Guernica. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon incorporates much of what had gone before - it uses large areas of flat colour; the use of a tribal mask for two of the faces; the removal of shadows and the flattening of perspectives, and gave a hint of what would come later with some of the 'dissecting' techniques that would later be used in cubism. (see les demoiselles d'avignon)

Painted 30 years later, Guernica marks the German bombing of the Spanish town during the Spanish Civil War.  Every detail in the picture successfully conveys the horrors of the attack, evoking an emotional response in a way that the formal paintings of the classical period could never approach. (see guernica)

(Note: these Modern French classic paintings can not be replicated here because of copyright)