How does the prologue of Romeo and Juliet begin? “Two households, both alike in dignity”? Substitute “Picasso exhibitions” for “households” and we might be describing this spring’s more or less concurrent shows, “Picasso’s Guitars 1912–1914,” at the Museum of Modern Art and “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso,Paris,” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.[1] The two exhibitions are both alike not only in “dignity,” but also in the artist they focus on and in ambition. Yet as their titles indicate, in most other respects, they are diametric opposites—in motivation, conception, realization, and intended audience. One is a deliberately limited, scholarly investigation aimed at fairly sophisticated...


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