PICASSO: MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEE NATIONAL PICASSO, PARIS at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to August 26. $25, stu $16.50. 416-979-6648. See listing. Rating: NNNN
The choice works in the Musee Picasso were originally donated by the artist's heirs from over 70,000 works in their collection. This show is a surprisingly intimate selection that still gives a sense of the staggering length and breadth of the Spanish painter's entire career.
Each period of Picasso's life and work has its own stylistic preoccupations and muse. From the rose and blue periods of his early days in Paris to his establishment as the sun at the centre of the art world, women invariably inspired his voracious appetite for visual innovation.
Picasso and Georges Braque invented cubism. Then he made weighty classical figuration look easy, took a stab at African aesthetics and went from sublime linear abstraction to full-tilt whimsical fusings of subjects and their surroundings.
He made canvases that resonate with virtually every era of art history, from the Neolithic to the near-present and, as this show demonstrates, transformed painting in the 20th century. He could, in fact, do anything. That was his power, and perhaps his curse.
He never fails to dazzle. Deux Femmes Courant Sur La Plage catches him in perfect balance between his earlier cubism and his later, more surreal figuration. His iconic portraits of Dora Maar seem to have completely shaped his previous stylistic gambits into something new.
The most interesting thing to me is the way he alit on Mediterranean antiquity in his last works. Starting with his later minotaur etchings and ending with his final figure studies, his last works radiate a sun-soaked, mythological aura. The female figure, the bull, the faun and the minotaur remain constant icons.
In the end, Picasso didn't stray far from his Iberian roots.
Nor from himself. Picasso was ultimately about Picasso.
He's here in all his flawed glory: masterful, lyrical, annoyingly restless, endlessly inventive and totally megalomaniacal.