If Picasso wasn’t indispensable, it wasn’t for lack of aspiration. Tallying his works is like counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. During his lifetime, he produced hundreds of sculptures and paintings, thousands of drawings, and tens of thousands of prints, to say nothing of his tapestries, rugs, and ceramics. That an astonishing portion of these works are masterful, and most of the others are very, very good, is as an uncontroversial a statement as an art critic can make. Even more astonishingly, they’re all vastly different. It would take an exceptionally keen eye to deduce that Portrait of a Bearded Man (1895) and Sitting Musketeer with Sword (1969) were painted by the same hand.
Is it any wonder, then, that Picasso pairings are inexhaustible? His body of work is so rich and varied that you can’t help but uncover some semi-fruitful analogy. The best of these analogies challenge the conventional, deadening view of Picasso as an infallible genius. The 2002–03 touring blockbuster “Matisse Picasso,” which debuted at Tate Modern and ended at theMuseum of Modern Art
, found room for all sorts of productive, surprising juxtapositions of its two subjects. It explored their experiments with
, their fascination with
, etc. The show was effective in no small part because
and Picasso were friends and rivals
for 50 years.