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Exhibition of masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris on view in Sydney
A visitor uses his iPad to take a photograph of a painting titled "The Kiss" at an exhibition showcasing works by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. REUTERS/David Gray.

SYDNEY.- The Art Gallery of New South Wales is hosting the most significant exhibition of Picasso’s art ever held in Australia. 150 important paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings created by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) have come from the artist’s personal collection – works he was determined never to relinquish.

Picasso: masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris is the most ambitious exhibition ever undertaken by the Gallery. Jointly organised by Musée National Picasso, the Art Gallery of NSW and Art Exhibitions Australia (AEA), the exhibition is part of the Sydney International Arts Series, bringing the world’s outstanding exhibitions to Australia. The exhibition was conceived, curated and mounted by Anne Baldassari, general commissioner and president of the Musée National Picasso and one of the world’s leading experts on the artist’s work.

The international tour was initiated and created by the Musée National Picasso, the largest and most significant repository of the artist’s work in the world. Since 2008 works have travelled to cities including Madrid, Tokyo, Moscow, Seattle and San Francisco. This unprecedented opportunity to bring this exhibition to Sydney is possible because the Musée is closed for renovations. The tour extends the Musée National Picasso’s highly valued collaboration with AEA, Australia’s leading manager of exhibition tours, which over the past six years has organised tours of two of their previous exhibitions.

The exhibition fills most of the Gallery’s ground floor and include works ranging from informal sketchbooks to finished masterpieces. This magnificent survey of ‘Picasso’s Picassos’ proves the artist’s assertion that ‘I am the greatest collector of Picassos in the world’.

Picasso transformed the very definition of art. He is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the astonishing variety of styles he employed in his work. He demonstrated uncanny artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner throughout his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century Picasso’s approach changed fundamentally and his revolutionary accomplishments brought universal renown and immense fortune, making him the most radical as well as the most influential figure in 20th-century art.

The Musée National Picasso’s collection preserves the highly personal works that Pablo Picasso kept for himself with the intention of shaping his legacy.

The exhibition includes:
• One of his earliest Paris works: The death of Casagemas (1901)

• The Blue period: La Célestine (1904)

• The Rose period: The two brothers (1906)

• African-inspired proto-Cubist work: studies for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) and Three figures under a tree (1907)

• Analytic Cubism: Man with a guitar (1911)

• Synthetic Cubism: Violin (1915)

• The Neoclassical period: Two women running on the beach (1922)

• Surrealism: The kiss (1925)

• The war years: The weeping woman (1937), and the sculptures Bull’s head (1942) and Death’s head (1943)

• Late period: reinterpretations of old masters including Velasquez, Goya and Rembrandt, and large nude self-portraits such as The matador (1970)

Picasso changed his formal vocabulary for each new woman entering his life, and remarked, ‘How awful for a woman to realise from my work that she is being supplanted.’ The exhibition chronicles his relationships with the six principal women in his life and demonstrates how his art was affected by each relationship.

His mistress Fernande Olivier was the muse of the Rose period and of early Cubism. His first wife, Olga Khokhlova, is realistically depicted in Portrait of Olga in an armchair (1918). Mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, who met Picasso when she was 17, is portrayed in Reclining nude (1932) and in a series of five bronze busts created in 1931 that range from recognisable representations to the nearly abstract. Mistress Dora Maar, the photographer who had a passionate and emotionally charged relationship with Picasso, is represented in works characterised by hard-edged, jagged lines, angular forms and acidic colours, such as Portrait of Dora Maar (1937). The shadow (1953) was painted in memory of Françoise Gilot, the mother of Claude and Paloma Picasso. Jacqueline with crossed hands (1954) is the first portrait of Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife and last muse.

Sculpture plays an important part in the exhibition, demonstrating Picasso’s versatility and inventiveness, including an early bust, The jester (1905); Figure (1907), a roughly hewn wooden piece inspired by Picasso’s fascination with African tribal art; Head of a woman (1909), which is considered to be the first Cubist sculpture; the relief construction Guitar and bottle of Bass (1913); an assemblage, The violin (1915); Bull’s head (1942), constructed from a cast-off bicycle seat and handlebars; the iconic bronze The goat (1950); and the life-sized, six-piece figurative work created during a summer in Cannes, The bathers (1956).

‘Like God, I haven’t got a style,’ Picasso claimed, but over the course of his long and prolific career he created revolutionary works that laid the foundations of modern art. His lengthy career spanned both world wars, the Spanish Civil War and the Korean War, and these troubled times are mirrored in

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