From rose to ochre In early 1906, the paintings of Ingres, which featured in a retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1905, inspired Picasso to paint the large composition The Watering Place , which he later abandoned and for which he lifted Boy Leading a Horse . The artist’s work was imbued with a new classicism, and the Rose Period was transitioning towards ochre.
These trends became more distinct during his trip to Gósol from May to August 1906. There is a strange synergy between his work and the spectacular landscape of this isolated village in the Catalan Pyrenees. Picasso’s encounter with Romanesque sculpture and Iberian art the previous winter at the Louvre museum prompted a return to his roots which reinforced his interest in the work of Gauguin.
Over a period of several weeks, both his sculpture and paintings become characterised by an extreme simplification of form and space, forecasting and initiating the aesthetic revolutions which follow. Leo and Gertrude Stein facilitated and supported this ongoing development by providing intellectual affirmation and financial assistance.
The major turning point In Gósol, Picasso embarked on a new path, influenced by the Classical Antiquity of the Mediterranean just as by the paintings of Ingres. There, in the solitude of a summer spent with his partner Fernande, he undertook his first critique of the sensual escapism of The Turkish Bath, 1862, Paris, Musée du Louvre), beginning in a series of works on the theme of hairdressing.
When the artist returned to Paris, he refocused his attention almost exclusively on the female body, to which he devoted a number of works, rejecting illusionist techniques in favour of a new expressive language: composing images by interlacing basic shapes with a colour palette restricted to shades of ochre.
The gradual emergence of this radically new vocabulary represents the first application of Cézanne’s theory of the geometrisation of volumes. Picasso’s experimental approach, in which the relationship between painting, sculpture and engraving plays a key role, produced Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (New York, Museum of Modern Art) in 1907, which blazes the trail for the great adventure of Cubism.