All that hype surrounding the new Pablo Picasso exhibit at Seattle Art Museum? Well deserved. It’s an enormous collection of paintings, sculpture, and drawings spanning 12 rooms—the kind of breadth you typically have to travel to Paris or Spain to experience, but with a seductive, intimate quality to it. After all, it is Picasso’s personal stash, as well as photos of the painter and his lovers, friends, and works in progress. Guernica may still be at the Prado Reina Sofia in Madrid, but here in Seattle, there are nine images showing the making of his grand anti-war piece, step by step. (Keep an eye out for the prominent raised fist that disappears later on; there’s a story behind that.)

“These are the works that Picasso felt defined his career,” co-curator Chiyo Ishikawa told us during a preview discussion at Hotel 1000 last week. “They were very personal to him.” You get that sense as you walk through the exhibit, which is arranged in part by period (Blue, figurative, early Cubist) but also by life moments: Picasso moving to Paris from Barcelona in his late teens, where he was “inspired” by bordellos; suffering the shock of his friend’s suicide in his early twenties, catapulting him into his haunting Blue Period; reveling in the comfort and sensuality of his 17-year-old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, who “did whatever [Picasso] wanted her to do,” and later, the intellectual rigor of his famed muse, photographer Dora Maar.

After a two-hour press preview tour of the exhibit yesterday, I’m nowhere near done looking at everything—which is why this preview slideshow won’t dull your experience. Just tease.

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris (on loan while the museum undergoes renovation) is on display at Seattle Art Museum from Oct 8-Jan 17. SAM is giving away tickets to the first 100 visitors wearing blue each day of opening weekend (Friday, Oct 8-Monday, Oct 11).

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