Pablo Picasso used to say: “When there’s anything to steal, I steal.” Throughout his long and prolific career, he often made works of art in response to his predecessors, quoting and adapting famous compositions by Velázquez, Delacroix, Manet, among many others. In Picasso’s youth, contemporaries noted the influence of Edgar Degas on his paintings of cabarets and cafés, portraits, women bathing, and ballet dancers — subjects that had come to define the French artist’s work. When he moved to Paris in 1904, Picasso lived in the same neighborhood as Degas, but although they had acquaintances in common they apparently never met. Strikingly different in character and way of life, they nevertheless shared many preoccupations. Both were artistic revolutionaries, yet much of their work was based on the human figure and informed by their knowledge of the past. Both were superb draftsmen, who also experimented radically with sculpture, printmaking, and photography. Towards the end of his life Picasso based numerous etchings on monotypes by Degas that he owned, and, as a final act of homage to the older man, portrayed Degas himself in many of them. Picasso Looks at Degas is the first full-scale exploration of Picasso’s lifelong fascination with Degas’s art and personality, and of the profound affinities between their multi-faceted oeuvres.
Picasso Looks at Degas was organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. It is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and benefits from the special cooperation of Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte.
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