And while archaic and primitive sculpture came to hold a powerful romantic appeal for Picasso, it also had the signal advantage of accommodating his limitations as a draughtsman. Such sculpture, after all, typically combines geometrically rudimentary forms with formulaic outlines for anatomical features like mouths and eyes. In other words, it was precisely Picasso's post-classical academic training that set the stage for his chronic production of emphatically stylised, neo-primitive or neo-archaic figures. His Boy Leading a Horse, from 1905-06, is frontally posed, the legs rigid like those of an archaic Greek kouros. The boy's face is painted in a bright hue that evokes marble while its features are delineated in a very generic, quasi-classical manner. The horse is rendered more naturalistically, but both figures are emphatically outlined. The amorphous landscape in which they are situated is flattened in perspective. Just as the quadrifrontal kouros was conceived as a composite of distinct pictorial profiles rather than an essentially spatial entity, so the Boy Leading a Horse — in stark contrast to Michelangelo's Libyan Sibyl studies — is essentially pictorial as opposed to spatial in conception. In Picasso's revolutionary Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) the pictorial space is even more constricted. The anatomical collage of shadow, mid-tones, and highlights in the Torse Antique is replaced by a radically fragmented, polychromatic collage of simple shapes, starting with those comprising the picture's five female nudes, two of whose heads take after primitive African masks.
Picasso's training also appears to have set the stage for his cubist work. His proto-cubist Woman with Pears (1909) is much more spatial than the Demoiselles. The bust-length figure, situated in front of a still life with her head tilted to one side, is a welter of faceted planes, with her neck's extended sternomastoid a curved monolith and the compressed sternomastoid a low pyramid perched on its side. Here Picasso is exploring a new approach to the rationalisation of the human figure that, as with the Demoiselles, extends the disintegrative implications of the Torse Antique. His earth-toned palette still legibly accommodates highlights, midtones and shadows. But he soon went on to fully disaggregate the rudimentary shapes comprising his figures to produce much more abstract compositions in which lights, midtones and darks appear non-referential while the pictorial space is illegible.
The late-academic optical record, the basis of Picasso's training, thus contained the seeds of its own implosion. After all, the reality the "traditional" artist was seeking to recreate was no longer latent in the model. Reality lay rather in perception. Reality was the product of reflected light. Just how radical this development was easily escapes us when we behold historical scenes painted by Bargue's collaborator Gérôme, whose colleagues and students produced many of the drawings employed in the Cours de Dessin. Yet the photographic aura saturating Gérôme's pictures is unmistakable. The disconnect with truly classical art causes his work to be dismissed as kitsch, a perfectly defensible conclusion but also beside the point. Impressionism, for its part, simply took the recording of optical phenomena to a new extreme, dissolving form in reflected light. Perception's medium became the message.
Historically, these were the first major steps towards Modernism's sundry solipsisms, for the artist's notion of what he was about, deprived of objective grounding in classical principles of form, inevitably became increasingly subjective. Picasso was the protean exemplar of the extreme stylistic instability that was the inevitable result. And in a cultural climate that cherished novelty and originality above all, he achieved mythic stature. At least where his draughtsmanship was concerned, he was inclined to feel he deserved it.