Picasso Black and White is the first exhibition to explore the use of black and white throughout the Spanish artist’s career. Claiming that color weakens, Pablo Picasso purged it from his work in order to highlight the formal structure and autonomy of form inherent in his art.
Managing a complicated composition without having to organize contrasts of color, Picasso created such masterpieces as The Milliner’s Workshop (1926), The Charnel House (1944–45), and The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas, after Velázquez) (1957). The graphic quality of Picasso’s black-and-white works harks back to Paleolithic cave paintings created from charcoal and simple mineral pigments (Female Nude with Guitar, 1909), to the tradition of grisaille (Study for Sculpture of a Head [Marie-Thérèse], 1932), and to European drawing (Man with Pipe, 1923). Picasso used this distinctive motif to explore a centuries-long tradition of Spanish masters, such as El Greco, José de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbarán, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Goya, whose use of black and gray was predominant.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Website