Artists the arts; Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective, edited by William Rubin. New York: The Museum of Modern Art (distributed by the New York Graphic Society, Boston). $45.

In the past three decades the American art public has seen increasingly massive shows of works by a single artist: first Van Gogh, then Matisse, this year the celebrated New York Picasso show. For aficionados who could not make the trek to Manhattan to stand in line at the Museum of Modern Art, books abound in this Year of Piccaso. None is better than this catalog of that massive (900 works), unlikely-to-be-repeated show. This book is unusually comprehensive. More important, it conveys two of the most insistent lessons of the show: (1) the degree to which the development of Picasso's styles parallels the rapid changes in Western history since just before the turn of the 20th century; (2) the extraordinary way in which Picasso was always restlessly reshaping his own work, never content to settle into a successful formula.The text weds history and art.

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