Pablo Picasso should be looming large just now. In theory, the apparently fortuitous overlapping of two of this season’s major exhibitions, “Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History” at the Guggenheim and “Picasso and American Art” at the Whitney ought to focus our attention on the artist whose name is synonymous with modern art.[1] In theory, these concurrent shows should make us consider Picasso as a bridge between past and present, between the Old World and the New. We should be thinking of him as both the heir to a tradition of Spanish painting that begins in the late sixteenth century and as an omnipotent father figure for generations of artists on this side of the Atlantic. I say “in theory” because, while both of these ambitious exhibitions offer abundant pleasures, a good deal of instruction, and even some surprises, neither one fully lives up...


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