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Prolific, Polychromatic Picasso at the AGO

Among Picasso's sombre blue-period worksis the haunting La Célestine (La Femme à la taie), painted in 1904 (© Picasso Estate/SODRAC, 2011)

MAY 1 TO AUGUST 26 Quick! Name the world’s greatest collector of artwork by Pablo Picasso. Was it Gertrude Stein, the American expat who became one of Picasso’s early champions in Paris? How about Heinz Berggruen, the German-born gallerist who befriended the artist in 1949 and would go on to purchase more than 130 of his paintings? Or perhaps the title has now passed to some art-minded billionaire?

It turns out that none of these collectors can hold a candle to Picasso himself. Ridiculously productive, he sold hundreds of works yet kept thousands more—everything from informal sketches to some of his greatest masterpieces. Now, nearly 150 of these paintings, drawings and sculptures are on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, underlining the protean breadth of Picasso’s creative genius.

Drawn from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, the unique exhibition of “Picasso’s Picassos” comprises exemplary visuals from every stage of the Spanish-born artist’s seven-decade career, including his blue, rose and African-influenced periods, his groundbreaking foray into cubism, and those points at which he expanded the possibilities of expressionism, neoclassicism and surrealism. Among the highlights: The Death of Casagemas, one of the first works painted by Picasso after his emigration to Paris (and an important example of his famed blue period); the cubist landmark Man with a Guitar; The Matador, a late self-portrait; and varied sculptural pieces that add an extra dimension to Picasso’s celebrated oeuvre.

Thematically, there’s very little that hasn’t been said about Picasso’s inspirations, techniques, even his private life and political views. An exhibition of this nature need not get too analytical. Instead, the AGO treats its visitors to a straightforward yet still colourful showcase: a survey of many of the early 20th century’s major artistic developments, as depicted (and, in some cases, created) by one hugely talented man.

—Craig Moy

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