Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is generally acknowledged to be the greatest draftsman of the twentieth century. The Frick Collection, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., co-organized an exhibition that looked at the dazzling development of Picasso's drawings, from the precocious academic exercises of his youth in the 1890s to the virtuoso classical works of the early 1920s. Through a selection of more than fifty works at each venue, the presentation examined the artist's stylistic experiments and techniques in this roughly thirty-year period, which begins and ends in a classical mode and encompasses the radical innovations of cubism and collage.
The show (which opened at the Frick in the fall of 2011 and moved on to the National Gallery of Art in February 2012) demonstrated how drawing served as an essential means of invention and discovery in Picasso's multifaceted art, while its centrality in his vast oeuvre connects him deeply with the grand tradition of European masters. Indeed, the exhibition will bring to the fore his complex engagement with artists of the near and distant past and will explore the diverse ways he competed with the virtuoso techniques of his predecessors and perpetuated them in revitalized form. Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition features loans from important public and private collections in Europe and the United States and is accompanied by a full-color catalogue of the same name. It is being organized by Susan Grace Galassi, Senior Curator, The Frick Collection, and Marilyn McCully, Picasso expert, in conjunction with Andrew Robison, Mellon Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Art. Comments Galassi, "Over the past decade several exhibitions organized both in the United States and abroad have explored Picasso's art in relation to Western and non-Western traditions. The show focuses on this fundamental aspect of his work, specifically in relation to his drawings, where his interaction with artists of the past often first emerged. Our project aims to take a fresh look at Picasso's drawing practice from his early training to maturity."