Oct. 16 Art Minute: Pablo Picasso, Les Metamorphoses

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Pablo Picasso (Spanish, active France, 1881-1973), Les Metamorphoses. Written by Ovid (43 BCE–17CE), translated by Georges Lafaye. 30 etchings. Published by Albert Skira, Lausanne, 1931. Edition of 145. Gift of Molly and Walter Bareiss, 1984.881. In the exhibition Drawn from Classicism: Modern Artists’ Books. Wolfe Gallery mezzanine.

Ancient Roman writer Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a collection of more than 250 separate myths loosely linked by the theme of transformation, provided Pablo Picasso his first opportunity in illustrated book form to engage with classical antiquity in a visually expressive, modern fashion. Though written in 8 CE in the grand style of classical poetry, Ovid’s epic departs from the standard classical structure in its lack of a central figure and absence of a unifying, linear plot narrated by a single voice. Similarly, Picasso’s animated depictions of Ovid’s legends—full of violent action intermingled with lust and desire—challenge antiquity’s ideal of “noble simplicity and classic grandeur.”

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