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83he press release calls it a "major Picasso exhibition," butthat's an understatement. When the Art Gallery of Ontarioopens Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée NationalPicasso, Parisin Toronto this May - the touringexhibition's only Canadian and final stop - the gallery willdedicate 17,000 square feet to showcasing more than 150paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings spanning the artist's75-year career. And if that's not special enough, each piece isdrawn from Pablo Picasso's private collection. That's right,Picasso's Picassos. In fact, the artist once famously quipped, "Iam the greatest collector of Picassos in the world."Shiralee Hudson-Hill, an interpretive planner at the AGO,describes it better: "It's an extraordinary opportunity." She adds,"There hasn't been a Picasso show of this scale in 48 years inToronto, and I don't think we'll see another Picasso show like this,certainly in Canada, in my lifetime."The works come from Musée National Picasso, currentlyundergoing multi-year renovations, and clinching the onlyCanadian spot is a big win for the AGO, which is building on themomentum of several big shows over the last year. The knockout"Abstract Expressionist New York" brought the art of JacksonPollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, Willem deKooning and others to the city. That show was followed by "Chagalland the Russian Avant-Garde," another blockbuster. The galleryexpects "Picasso: Masterpieces" to top those shows; the exhibitionbroke attendance records at other stops, including reportedlydrawing 400,000 people to the Seattle Art Museum last year.Hudson-Hill, one member of a team that also includes a projectmanager, a 2-D designer, a 3-D designer and the curator, hasspent months preparing for the exhibition, poring over artwork andBy Jacqueline Nunesbooks that detail every aspect of Picasso's life, from hischildhood, to his mistresses, to the energy and passion that drovehis work. Her job is to tell the artist's stories to every visitor whowalks into the AGO through the labels beneath the artwork, theaudio tour, gallery attendants, the free, full-colour visitor guide,and wherever else she can. "We're kind of like ghostwriters," saysHudson-Hill, who describes her daily work as 95 percent creative- "a very rare and wonderful thing."And does she ever have stories. Combing through the life of a manwidely regarded as the greatest artist of the 20th century is nomundane task. Picasso's reputation is partly owed to hisincredibly long career - he actively painted for more than 75years - and to his singular creativity and dogged ambition."There have been no other artists like Picasso," Hudson-Hill says."He was incredibly innovative; his work was really driven by thisintense energy and this spirit of discovery. And the way hetranslated or interpreted what he saw in the world around him andcreated these beautiful works - no one saw the world likePicasso." For even the most unseasoned gallery-goer, standing infront of one of Picasso's paintings is a moving experience. "A lotof that energy, it just comes out of the painting. It pulsates, itvibrates in front of you," Hudson-Hill says. "He was a genius."The exhibition will be laid out in sections, mostly chronologically,so visitors can experience the paintings, sculptures, prints anddrawings as a visual timeline that takes them through thetrajectory of Picasso's career and gives them extraordinary viewsinto his life. "I learned that Picasso is a quintessential example ofa paradox. For everything you can say about Picasso, the oppositeis also true," Hudson-Hill says. "He was a great lover of women; hewas also a misogynist. He came from humble beginnings; he alsocame to know great wealth and fame in his lifetime. He reveled inPICASSOSPICASSO'STAGO brings monumental exhibitfrom artist's private collectionPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Buste de femme (Bust of a Woman), 1931. Bronze (unique cast). 78 x 44.5 x 54 cm. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979, MP298Musée National Picasso, Paris. © Picasso Estate SODRAC (2012). © RMN/Béatrice Hatala

84that wealth and fame, but he also detested it." In her research,Hudson-Hill traced Picasso's life back to his childhood in Spain,where his father was an art teacher who recognized very early onthat Picasso was gifted. "Picasso could draw before he could talk,"Hudson-Hill says. "He learned that by drawing a scribble on apage, he would get a churros, like a Spanish doughnut."What fascinated Hudson-Hill most was recounting the stories ofPicasso's mistresses, a widely known fact about that artist. "Ididn't realize, until researching this show, the extent of it,"Hudson-Hill says. "I thought a lot about his personal life - howrelevant are these stories? But these are the stories that are laidbare in his paintings." She describes one 1931 painting, LargeStill Life on a Pedestal Table, as a joyful work, and indeed, thecolours are bold and electric, and the lines are dynamic and lively.But what Hudson-Hill reveals is that the artwork is a disguisedportrait of Picasso's mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, painted whenthe artist was still with his first wife, Olga. "Picasso absolutelycouldn't resist painting Marie-Thérèse; she was young, she wasbeautiful, she was curvy and luscious," Hudson-Hill says, "Hegleefully painted her in a series of four paintings; all are coded.Of course once you know that, you can see immediately hervarious body parts embodied in the fruit." Another series, paintedin the late 1920s while Picasso was on vacation with Olga insouthern France, shows distorted female forms playing on abeach. The artist had ensconced Marie-Thérèse one town over,and the paintings were of her and her friends playing volleyball.Hudson-Hill's favourite piece in the exhibition is of another ofPicasso's lovers, Dora Maar, a French photographer. He painted itin 1937, the same year he painted one of his most famous works,Guernica, for which Maar was influential. "She was a beautifulwoman, striking, dark hair, long red fingernails; she was anintense intellectual," recounts Hudson-Hill. Bold colours in thepainting hint at her volatile personality, and visitors will notice atonce something unique about the portrait subject's face: "Theportrait is classic Picasso. Her pose suggests the work should bea profile, but we're seeing both her profile and her full face in oneview. That was one of the extraordinary things that Picassoinvented; he was the first painter to show a profile and a full facein one portrait."Works like these, and others from Picasso's Blue Period, his life-sized sculptures, and his self-portraits will no doubt draw crowdsof Torontonians, and probably many tourists. After all, it's the lastchance we have to see these works up close before they head backto France. "After Musée National Picasso reopens, these worksaren't going to leave France again," Hudson-Hill says.And thanks to Hudson-Hill and her team, which is led by acurator from the Musée National Picasso, it may be the lastchance we have to see the man behind the paintings. Hudson-Hill ends our interview by recounting that Picasso talked a lot.It's a fact that clearly works in her favour. As an interpretiveplanner, it is a boon to be able to bring the artist's voice into thetelling of his stories and decoding of his paintings. Howappropriate, then, that the famous artist once said, "Painting isjust another way of keeping a diary."PICASSO: MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSÉE NATIONAL PICASSO, PARISis onview at the Art Gallery of Ontario from May 1, 2012 to August 26, 2012.Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Le Chèvre (The Goat), 1950,Bronze. 120.5 x 72 x 144 cm. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979, MP340. MuséeNational Picasso, Paris. © Picasso Estate SODRAC (2012). © RMN/Béatrice HatalaPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Musicien (Musician), 1972. Oil on Canvas.194.5 x 129.5 cm. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979, MP229. Musée NationalPicasso, Paris. © Picasso Estate SODRAC (2012). © RMN/Jean-Gilles BerizziPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Autoportrait au chapeau de paille. (Self-portraitin Straw Hat), 1938. Oil on canvas. 61 x 46 cm. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979,MP174. Musée National Picasso, Paris. © Picasso Estate SODRAC (2012). © RMN/Jean-Gilles Berizzi