So… The show has been open for a couple of weeks now and the reactions have been very positive so far. People seem to like the premise: that at various times in his life Picasso was influenced by Degas in various ways. But they also seem to like the element of mystery: just exactly what did Picasso see, what did he know, what did he think? And why did he become so fascinated by Degas, in particular?
The exhibition suggests a range of possible reasons, but more and more as I walk through the galleries, I’m struck by two – apparently contradictory – characteristics the artists have in common: both of them were gifted and academically trained draftsmen, and drawing was a central element in everything they did; at the same time, both of them were endlessly inventive technically, each of them pushing the parameters of painting, printmaking and sculpture beyond the limits explored by their contemporaries. Degas’s monotypes, for example, are still amazingly ‘modern’, even 120 years after they were made. And Picasso’s small-scale figure sculptures leap and pirouette hilariously, parodying Degas’s elegant dancing figures and at the same time poking fun at the self-consciousness of ‘Classical’ ballet.
I knew the exhibition was going to be interesting, that the juxtapositions would be revealing, that seeing this variety of work at the Clark would be exciting. I have to say, I had no idea how much fun it would be. I’ve been watching visitors as they move through the galleries and their smiles get wider as they pass from one section to the next. When you visit the show – and we hope you will – prepare yourselves for some serious delight.
Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts