During the early 20th century, the European cultural elite were discovering African , Micronesian and Native American art. Artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were intrigued and inspired by the stark power and simplicity of styles of those cultures. Around 1906, Picasso, Matisse, André Derain and other artists in Paris had acquired an interest in primitivism, Iberian sculpture ,  African art and tribal masks , in part because of the compelling works of Paul Gauguin that had suddenly achieved center stage in the avant-garde circles of Paris. Gauguin's powerful posthumous retrospective exhibitions at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1903 and an even larger one in 1906 had a stunning and powerful influence on Picasso's paintings.
That summer, he executed some pastel drawings of nude figures in the manner of Pissarro and those by Degas exhibited at the 1886 eighth Impressionist exhibition. He mainly painted landscapes such as La Bergère Bretonne ("The Breton Shepherdess"), in which the figure plays a subordinate role. His Jeunes Bretons au bain ("Young Breton Boys Bathing"), introducing a theme he returned to each time he visited Pont-Aven, is clearly indebted to Degas in its design and bold use of pure color. The naive drawings of the English illustrator Randolph Caldecott , used to illustrate a popular guide-book on Brittany, had caught the imagination of the avant-garde student artists at Pont-Aven, anxious to free themselves from the conservatism of their academies, and Gauguin consciously imitated them in his sketches of Breton girls.  These sketches were later worked up into paintings back in his Paris studio. The most important of these is Four Breton Women , which shows a marked departure from his earlier Impressionist style as well as incorporating something of the naive quality of Caldecott's illustration, exaggerating features to the point of caricature.