The Artful Traveler: Picasso in New York
At the Lapin Agile.
Reviewed by Bobbie Leigh
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, is with us now more than ever. Visit the Met, MoMA, and the Jan Krugier Gallery and you will have begun the equivalent of Picasso 101. The next step is to read the three volume "A Life of Picasso" by John Richardson — he's now working on volume four. Then, if you want to be serious, study all the catalogues of his work. Picasso may be the most written about, studied, curated, and interpreted artist that ever lived. Some scholars have even examined his rent and laundry receipts. Yet with all that erudition, he still defies categorization and often comprehension.
One thing you can count on: Picasso changed houses, women, and styles the way most of us change clothes from summer to winter. Each mistress or wife was an inspiring muse and each new location inspired him to change course and try something new.
He was that rare master who could paint the 1932 "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" in a single day. At a May Christie's sale, it fetched $106.5 million, the most ever paid at auction for a work of art. Bidding lasted exactly eight minutes.
The Met's exhibition, Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art , consists of some 34 paintings, 58 drawings, a dozen sculptures and ceramics and some 200 prints selected from the Met's cache. In fact, the entire show is from the storage rooms of the Met. However, the museum's collection of Piccaso works had a late start with a 1947 Buddha-like portrait of the poet Gertrude Stein. Reportedly, the Met got the painting because the poet didn't like the Museum of Modern Art. The NY Times art critic Holland Cotter wasn't impressed with the exhibition because of major gaps in work after the 1930s. (The Stein is an exception. Cotter wrote that " despite some knockout items, [the collection] is stodgy and almost bizarrely lopsided." Judging from the huge crowds in front of every single painting on view, the public disagrees. Most visitors are happy to overlook that the Met had a history of "dragging its feet" and came late to collecting the master.
Standing Nude and Seated Musketeer.
The show, in fact, is riveting and very informative as the works are, for the most part, arranged chronologically. As you go from gallery to gallery, you experience the heady changes from the pensive and sad harlequins of Picasso's Blue (1901-1904) and Rose periods (1905-1907), the faceted figures that introduce the Cubist years (1909-1919), the sensual nudes of the 1930s and finally, the remarkable "Standing Nude and Seated Musketeer" of his final years. This painting demonstrates that even suffering the indignities of old age, Picasso's work had enormous vitality and originality.
Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is on view through August 1, 2010, at the Met; A Century of Picasso, Paintings, Sculptures and Works on Paper 1902-1971, through July 6, 2010 at Krugier; Picasso: Themes and Variations, through August 30, 2010 at MoMA.