"Picasso: Love & War 1935-45" is this year's winter blockbuster at the NGV International and centres around a tumultuous decade in Picasso's life. In addition to the political events of the period, the exhibition explores the dynamic relationship with his muse Dora Maar, an artist in her own right.
I came to this exihibiton with respect but also ignorance of the man. I've never found Picasso very accessible and felt too much anguish and/or sadness in the few paintings I've seen here and there. This excellently curated collection was a revelation, showing many facets of Picasso including still life and etchings and also a compelling series of photographs showing the development of his anti-war manifesto Guernica.
A whole room is devoted to representations of the Minotaur, a mythological creature that Picasso strongly identified with, and it is within this mythic setting that Dora Maar is first seen in a graceful, bird-like form.
And it's the portraits of Maar that represent the real heart of this show. They are striking in their use of media (photographs, paintings, etchings) and also in the various moods that Maar is portrayed in. I found the use of contrasting colours in the paintings especially inspiring.
One fascinating idea was that of Maar and Picasso's obsession with sleep-watching and documentation thereof - this series is at once tender and funny.
Hightail it down to NGV International to catch the last few weeks.