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Editorial: Museum exhibit settles question of Picasso

The Picasso Daley Plazwas stickered during protests Friday May 18 2012. | Lauren Fitzpatrick ~ Sun-Times

The Picasso in Daley Plaza was stickered during the protests Friday, May 18, 2012. | Lauren Fitzpatrick ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: March 19, 2013 6:20AM

The Picasso is a woman.

Chicagoans have been debating this question for so long — no it’s a bird, no an aardvark, no an Afghan hound, no a baboon head — that we forgot (or never got the memo) that it is a settled matter.

The Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza is a woman’s head.

The proof is there for all to see in a series of drawings Pablo Picasso made while conceptualizing the sculpture, on display beginning Wednesday at a new exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“As this group of working drawings attest, Picasso had been developing the idea of a monumental bust of a woman for some time,” according to the exhibit’s guide book. “They show the kernels of how the artist arrived at the sculpture’s final form by testing and merging various profiles, attenuating other features and drawing upon his earliest Cubist and sculptural experiments.”

Picasso, that is to say, really stretched his girl’s nose. And gave her beady eyes. And collapsed her forehead.

The whole story of how Picasso came to create his famous sculpture for Chicago, unveiled on April 15, 1967, is told in the Art Institute exhibit “Picasso and Chicago.”

Picasso never stepped foot in the United States, let alone in Chicago. But the exhibit makes a compelling argument that our city and the great artist enjoyed a special connection.

The Art Institute was the first American museum to exhibit Picasso’s work, in 1913, as part of a controversial modernist show that no New York Museum would sponsor.

The Art Institute was the first American museum to present a solo show by Picasso, and the first to include his work in its permanent collection.

Picasso felt such a fondness for Chicago, boyhood home of his pal Ernest Hemingway, that he refused to accept the city’s $100,000 check for the sculpture.

Pablo, our boy, gave us the Picasso, our girl.

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