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On Andros, Picasso works give taste of ancient Greek art

If a visit to the National Gallery reveals the dialogue by six top 19th and 20th century sculptors with the universal values of the Greek classical era, a trip to Andros this summer will provide yet another reason for national pride. There, a major tribute, «Picasso: Greek Influences,» at the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, running to September 26, traces the influence of ancient Greek art – both overt and covert – on the great painter’s work. Although he never visited it, Greece was a source of inspiration for Picasso. His first contact with ancient Greek art was at the schools of La Corunna, Barcelona and Madrid, where he drew studies of reproductions of ancient statues. Later, he paid regular visits to the Louvre Museum in Paris and carefully observed Greek and Roman artifacts. This was during the period when the museum was constantly being enriched by finds from the extensive excavation works which took place at the beginning of the last century. Picasso’s knowledge of ancient Greek art was enhanced by his friendship with Greek art critics and publishers of the Paris avant-garde, Stathis Eleftheriades-Teriade and Christian Zervos. Their magnificent publications resuscitated the teachings of ancient Greek art. His acquaintanceship with Jean Moreas, also of Greek origin, also turned him in the direction of classical values as well. On Andros, viewers can see 116 works by Picasso – oil paintings, engravings, ceramics and sketches – which showed how «he resurrected in his works the dead gods of Olympus, the maenads and fauns,» said art historian Jean Clair. Spanning his entire artistic career, the works make many references to ancient Greek art and to the myths of the Mediterranean world. Forms from Early Cycladic culture, Mycenaean, Archaic and Classical figurines, ancient Greek vases, kouroi, votive and funerary steles, Parthenon friezes and metopes all clearly emerge as a source of inspiration and creativity for the artist, influencing his work. In the elegant and unaffected museum, visitors will have the chance to find out for themselves the correspondences between Picasso’s work and Greek art. Works such as «The Three Bathers,» «Three Women at the Fountain,» «La Source,» «Three Musicians» and others are placed alongside 10 ancient Greek figurines, reliefs and vases. Also on view are engravings by Picasso for the illustration of books, such as Ovid’s «Metamorphoses» and Aristophanes’ «Lysistrata.» But those works by Picasso that refer to one of his favorite theme, the Minotaur, are those most likely to excite viewers. An invisible thread linking ancient Crete with the bullfights in Picasso’s own country breathes life into the archetypal figure.