In the ""First Impressions"" series, an intelligent overview of the 20th-century giant's life as it relates to the evolution of his many innovative styles. Beardsley explains what was unique about Picasso's art at each stage, setting him in the context of other artists, such major political events as the Spanish Civil War, and the sources of his powerful images, especially the bulls and matadors of his native Spain. The beautifully reproduced art (50 or so items, mostly--except the sculpture--in color, including several foldouts) is well chosen to illustrate the author's presentation; a series of early self-portraits (1896-1907) in characteristic, rapidly evolving, sharply contrasting but fascinatingly related styles is especially illuminating. Illustrations are not always adjacent to the relevant text, a problem that could have been alleviated by citing their location at the appropriate point--especially since Beardsley mentions several important works that, frustratingly, don't appear at all. Still, as intended, a good introduction to the man and his extraordinary output. Full citations for the art; index.