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Latest update : 2009-02-25

After attracting vast crowds at the Grand Palais in Paris, the acclaimed "Picasso And The Masters" exhibition has opened at London's National Gallery, pitching the great Spaniard against the works of some of Europe's most celebrated artists.

AFP - An exhibition showing how Pablo Picasso pitched himself against great European painters like Goya, Delacroix and Poussin opens in London on Wednesday following a blockbuster run in Paris.

"Picasso And The Masters" at the National Gallery shows how the Spaniard, often described as the greatest artist of the 20th century, borrowed from, subverted and competed with past masters.

Among the most memorable pieces is Picasso's "Reclining Nude Playing With A Cat", a lascivious, teasing figure dangling an object for a cat which echoes Edouard Manet's "Olympia", which caused scandal when unveiled in 1863 because of its depiction of a prostitute.

The show also features Picasso's "variations." These explicitly embrace the past by reworking paintings including Eugene Delacroix's "Women Of Algiers", Manet's "Luncheon On The Grass" and Nicolas Poussin's "The Sabine Women".

"He was never interested in just honouring these painters by painting pictures like them," the show's co-curator Christopher Riopelle told AFP.

"He wanted to learn what their secrets were, he wanted to, as it were, suck the life out of them for his own purposes.

"His relationship to the painting of the past was always a competitive one."

Riopelle added that Picasso used to project slides of the original paintings on the wall of his studio so he could refer to them as he worked.

The London show, which runs to June 7, is a version of the exhibition which ran at the Grand Palais in Paris to critical acclaim and popular success and closed earlier this month.

Date created : 2009-02-25