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Life and art are never very far apart, but within the 20th century they may never be closer than in the work of Pablo Picasso.From the beginning to the end of his prodigious career, his intimates -- friends, dealers, children -- figured frequently in his art, and depictions of women, predominantly his wives and mistresses, form its very core.
More frequent are moments of blissful beauty: a small painting of Marie-Therese in which her weightless lavender body is dotted with colored circles that may be the most delectable spinning spheres in painting since van Gogh's "Starry Night." And from 1937 and '38, when Picasso was dividing his time between Dora Maar and Marie-Therese, there is a series of images of the latter depicted in the angular style usually reserved for the former.
Best of all are the images that form the core of the show: the drawings and paintings of weeping women that were a byproduct of Picasso's studies for "Guernica." In her essay, Ms.
Occasionally the main characters meet: in the astounding drawing "Murder" of 1934, a fleshy version of Olga's "screaming head," now equipped with giant rotting teeth and pinwheel arms, plunges a butcher knife into a sketchier victim who has the rounded tell-tale profile of Marie-Therese.
Needless to say, the implications of biography are so heavy in the air here that one can almost hear screenplays and story treatments chugging out of fax machines all over Hollywood.
By the standards of many Picasso shows, it is rather small -- only 84 works -- but it is nonetheless exciting and revealing.
Like most Picasso shows, it has something for everyone, and then some.
And surreptitiousness: in "Guitar Hanging on a Wall" (1927) he covertly acknowledges his new relationship with Marie-Therese by showing her shadowlike profile surveying their linked initials, with hers being arranged to suggest a body with open legs.
There are a few instances of startling ineptness, like the awkward forms and heavy-handed surface of "Bust of a Woman," in which a screaming head appears to bite a black, Malevichian painting.
He opens the show with "Woman's Arm," a little-known sculpture of a clenched fist that Picasso made in 1951 and, more bizarrely, ends it with a 1962 linocut of Jacqueline Picasso, as if to remind us of the last weeping woman in Picasso's life. Lieberman's version of her show form a kind of two-for-one bargain that, in the end, gives everyone more to think about, adding a note of curatorial tension that is not out of place in this dramatic exhibition."Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Therese Walter and Dora Maar" remains at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, through Sept.
More interesting are the additions of two dark paintings of Dora Maar from 1942, in which abstracted animalistic features recall Olga's screaming head and suggest that the humanizing effect that began with the studies for "Guernica" did not last. Lieberman's additions give us more to look at, but they also tend to soften and blur the show's focus, diminishing the prominence of the weeping-women images and reinstating the more conventional lover-by-lover treatment that Ms. Still, it's hard to complain too energetically.