PICASSO: THE SALTIMBANQUES, at the National Gallery of Art East Wing. Sunday through March 15; 10 to 5 Monday through Saturday, noon to 9 Sunday. PICASSO ON PAPER, at Meridian House International, 1630 Crescent Place NW. Through January 2; 10 to 5 daily, except Christmas.
Two of Pablo Picasso's favorite subjects -- acrobats and nude women -- are themes of shows here marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. The acrobats are at the National Gallery of Art, the nude female models at Meridian House International.
The National Gallery's show, "Picasso: The Saltimbanques," displays not only his paintings, but their technical aspects as well. Two compositions, one believed lost and the other previously unknown, were discovered this fall in the course of research and are displayed in X-ray form: Picasso's "Circus Family" was found as a preliminary layer beneath the surface of the masterwork "Family of Saltimbanques," and "Two Acrobats" was found as an intermediate layer on the same canvas. Through X-rays and composites from technical studies, the public gets a first-time glimpse of the underlying drafts.
The exhibit, opening Sunday at the East Wing and continuing through March 15, includes many depictions of harlequins and vagabond performers. Starting with examples from Watteau, Daumier and Manet that influenced Picasso, the exhibition traces the development of the jester theme from the commedia dell'arte in the 17th century to the circus clowns of Picasso's day from his Blue to Rose periods, and from drawings to paintings to sculpture. While Manet's "The Old Musician" dominates the entry area, it is balanced by Picasso's "Family of Saltimbanques" at the other end of the exhibit.
The artist's wilder and wildly prolific side is apparent in "Picasso on Paper," the Meridian House International exhibit of 104 graphic works (1930-1971). The show, co-sponsored by the Spanish government, is here only through January 2, in its sole U.S. appearance.
Bullfights -- and especially women bullfighters -- minotaurs, the circus and abstract visions of the artist with his models dominate Picasso's graphic art, with eroticism as the unifying theme.
At least 42 plates of the "Suite Vollard" use the theme of the artist and his model. Brothel scenes, orgies and nude couples surface repeatedly in the Meridian House exhibit of etchings, drypoints, aquatints and linocuts, with female anatomy in the limelight.