Picasso Revealed and Revered at the Met
You think you've seen it all? Not a chance. Picasso may be the most researched artist of all time, even his laundry receipts have been studied, but the new exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art yields something new at every turn. "Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" showcases some 300 works, the museum's complete collection of the artist's paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, and works on paper.
The show's magic comes from its all encompassing range starting with a 1900 self-portrait of Picasso at 19 (and yes, he was a knockout) and ending with an exuberant musketeer, painted when he was 87. What's totally new and positively riveting are a series of10 videos that demonstrate how Picasso worked, reworked, and revised. Just one example is his melancholy 1901 "Woman Ironing," depicting a sad-faced woman pushing down vigorously on one of those heavy irons that had to be heated on a hot stove. The Met's technical team revealed that originally her knuckles were visible and the slope of her neck was amended. The scientific analysis also showed that there is a totally different composition beneath the final painting. One theory is that either Picasso or another artist painted the earliest version. Now, totally restored, it is a supreme example of Picasso's one time conviction that "art emanates from sadness and pain."
Only happiness of the most erotic sort emanates from his 1932 painting, "The Dreamer." Who knows why Picasso often painted his plump mistress Marie-Therese Walter catnapping. Here, her flesh is a pinky lavender while the very green grass beneath her is sprinkled with little white flowers.
A few ornery critics claim the Met was saving money by going into its own basement and selecting 300 works, rather than borrowing from collectors and other institutions. True, the Met did avoid hefty insurance and transportation costs, but it took a veritable battalion of conservators, scientists, researchers, and curators to create this landmark show. Add to that the cost of mounting and reframing several hundred works, a gargantuan job as many originally hung in collectors' living rooms within frames far too decorative an not at all what Picasso had in mind. The new frames are a triumph as now paintings that belong together are members of the same "framing" family. This is a run, don't walk show. Don't miss it.
On view: April 27-August 1, 2010 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.