There have been many exhibits through the years of Picasso’s artistry in various countries, including ones I saw in Paris in 2008-09 in three museums running related shows. The Metropolitan Museum has one of the richest collections of Picasso’s work and it has reached into its Picasso treasury to display 300 Picassos in a sure-to-be popular show titled “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” (April 27-August 1, 2010).
The collection of the Met includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and prints, and spans the artist’s various creative periods, with the collection built by the museum either through its own purchases or generous donations over a period of 60 years.
Strolling through the display, as I did in a press showing, was a stunning experience. The artist’s work is arranged sensibly. One is struck by his early work, which captures the achievements of the young Picasso, and moves through his Blue and Rose periods. One sees his liking to paint subjects associated with the music halls and the theater world. One sees the veering toward cubism, and notes the strength that still exists in is later years. It reminded me in some ways of a 1970 exhibit at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, overwhelmingly wall-to-wall with large works that Picasso had painted in the last two years when he was nearly 90, yet reflected much physical as well as creative strength.
The current exhibition is intriguingly displayed, providing the opportunity to study the work. One will find in the show his “The Actor, ” the painting that was defaced but has been restored. It is a sensitive, graceful work suggesting unusual movement of its subject. There are also many portraits, and a controversial painting of a man resembling the painter himself receiving oral sex. At first Picasso said it was not painted by him, but was a joke by his friends. However, it’s authenticity as a Picasso was subsequently established.
Other famous works you will see include “Seated Harlequin,” which he did in 1901, and “At the Lapin Agile,” painted four years later. Jumping ahead to the year 1939, there is “Dora Maar in the Armchair.” There are also drawings related to what he ultimately did with “Guernica.” In short, don’t miss this landmark show. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue. Phone: 212-535-7710.