It was with this stunning canvas that Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) heralded the arrival of Cubism. The austere simplicity of the work, painted in 1907, incorporates Picasso's discovery of African and ancient Iberian art: it features five nudes, four of whom are standing, and three of whom have mask-like faces.
Surprisingly, given that the painting has become such an icon of modernism, the work was not reproduced until 1925 and not exhibited in public until 1937. The title was jokingly given to the work by the critic André Salmon, who suggested that the young ladies in the painting might be demoiselles ('young ladies') in a brothel in the Carrer d'Avinyo (Avignon Street) in Barcelona.
From CREDO Les Demoiselles d'Avignon: Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable.