Editors' pick

A Circus Family: Picasso to Leger

Painting/Drawing
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Editorial Review

Baltimore's Unique Charms

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 6

If you missed Cirque de Soleil's "Kooza" when it was at National Harbor this fall, fret not. The show is about to start up another round of performances, beginning Thursday, in the parking lot of Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. But why wait until then? There's another circus taking place right now under the big top ... at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

You read that right. "A Circus Family: Picasso to Lger" features 80-some circus-themed paintings, drawings, prints and books by Picasso and other modernist artists. Plus an actual canvas tent (part of one anyway). The show's first gallery features artwork hung under a 42-foot-wide section of real circus tenting -- roughly the size of a European circus ring in the early 20th century.

A word of warning: The art may be all about the circus, but it's not all laughs. The pictures on display explore every aspect of circus life, from the sad and the seamy (Otto Dix's 1922 "Disdainers of Death") to the purely playful (Paul Klee's 1937 "Traveling Circus").

What's so Baltimore about it? The core of the show is drawn from the museum's world-class Cone Collection, a trove of about 3,000 postimpressionist and modern artworks, including 26 of the Picasso pieces in this show, that were collected by Baltimore sisters Etta and Claribel Cone and donated to the museum in 1949.