Picasso's mother is quoted as saying Pablo could draw before he could talk. "Head," a crayon drawing he dedicated to collector Morton Neumann, will prompt at least a few comparisons to the artistry of six-year- olds. It expresses innocence and joy in seven bold strokes -- round green open-topped outline, red V-shaped nose, two little green circle eyes, rounded blue smile, two orange protrusions for hair. An accompanying panel cites Picasso's remark on viewing a children's art exhibit as an adult: "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael," he said, "but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them." Beginning Sunday, the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth, the National Gallery exhibits 100 of his graphic works in pen, gouache, charcoal, collage, silverpoint, lithography, etching and linocut. From minotaurs to saltimbanques, cubist abstractions to classical figures, the exhibition (the second in two years from the Neumann family collection) contains works so diverse that they sometimes seem the products of half a dozen artists. A long wall full of Picasso's women at the far end of the gallery balances the wall of bulls at the entrance. His attitudes toward both are constant: ceremony and violence surround the bullfight; awe and disgust envelop the women. The sculptor's studio appears in 46 of the works. There's a dove, a lobster, a toad; two precursors to "Guernica"; representatives of the "Suite Vollard"; references to the old Spanish masters. Color linocuts, which Picasso invented out of frustration with the slowness of the lithographic process, are fluid and bright. Aquatints, like "Faun and Sleeping Woman," make shadow and light palpable. A rare silverpoint, "Nessus and Dejanira," shows the skies buffed into a rage above the centaur ravishing Hercules' bride. Another, "The Bull," whittled down from a fat hulk to a single-line drawing in 1946, is the 11th state of a lithograph. At Fernand Mourlot's studio in Paris, printmaker Jean Celestin was amazed as he watched the artist carve away the stone. The catalogue quotes the printer from Mourlot's writings: "At the last proof there remained only a few lines. I had watched him at work, reducing, always reducing. I still remembered the first bull and I said to myself: What I don't understand is that he has ended up where really he should have started! But he, Picasso, was seeking his own bull. . . And when you look at that line you cannot imagine how much work it had involved."
THE MORTON G. NEUMANN FAMILY COLLECTION: PICASSO PRINTS AND DRAWINGS -- At the National Gallery East Building, Sunday through January 24.