What’s Left to Say About Picasso?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Picasso: A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn is the latest commemorative show in the Celebration Picasso 1973–2023 series across New York’s museums. A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn has received far less fanfare than the Brooklyn Museum’s It’s Pablo-matic, but they share the same dilemma: How do we find something original to say about Picasso in 2023?

A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn focuses on a single project. In 1910, Hamilton Easter Field (a painter in his own right now best known for his patronage) commissioned a series of 11 panels by Picasso to decorate his home library. The commission was never completed. This exhibition brings six paintings likely made for Field together for the first time with sketches and minimal archival material related to the commission. The works on display represent an early and experimental stage of Picasso’s Cubist work, one preoccupied with flattening forms into their component planes, seeking to capture three-dimensional objects from all angles. They share a muted, largely beige and gray color palette, without the distinctive kaleidoscopic aggression of late Cubism. From a distance, the earthy colors blend into a dull, muddy mass. It’s only up close that the textures really stand out.

Pablo Picasso, “Standing Nude” (1910)

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