The word "masterpiece" gets bandied around and around so much you'd think that everything that Old and Modern Masters did was rack up supreme artistic achievements each time they picked up a brush or chisel.

What, no duds?

Here's a recent example. The Phillips Collection in D.C., established in 1921 as America's first treasure house of Modern Art, invoked the masterpiece word to promote its new exhibit "Picasso: Painting the Blue Period."

Noting that Picasso's Blue Period was made when he was a "fledging painter" in his late teens and very early twenties, Phillips Curator Susan Behrends Frank told ArtDaily, "We are thrilled for our community to experience these – (wait for it) - masterpieces."

Greatness from a fledgling?

Not only was Picasso a newbie, but he also suffered depression at the time, and it was this shaky state of mind that drove his Blue Period.

Assuming this period of painting was masterful, should it be credited as great when it was driven unwittingly? So says Steve Bleicher in his 2011 book "Contemporary Color: Theory and Use."

I rush to say that I'm only raising questions here, not necessarily answering them. It's just that with all the hyperbole in the art world, there's not enough critical thinking.

When Picasso turned 21, his poet friend Carles Casagemas committed suicide over a failed love affair. Despondent over the death, he sank into a depression and began his Blue Period. Every picture at this time pictured suffering of some kind. His low spirits would last for three years, and he stopped limiting his palette to blue.

Another way to question the Picasso legacy is to ask if painting in monochrome was a conscious decision driven by grief.

Does it matter if the answer is no? Can his art be called great if he didn't know what he was doing or why? Was this early Picasso a kind of real-life Chauncy Gardner?

Who is Chauncy Garner?

In case you didn't read Jerzy Kosinski's satiric novel "Being There" or see the movie adaptation of 1970, Chauncy Gardner was a simpleton who tended a garden and mindlessly uttered simple declarative sentences about gardening.

But they were mistakenly taken as profound wisdom by all those he met, including the U.S president.

I'm not alone in questioning Picasso's greatness. But while I cross-examine work he did when he was 20, The Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones seems to cut everything he painted down to size: "Each work by Picasso is of a particular moment in his life…anecdotes or snapshots of a particular moment in his life." Culture commentator Germaine Greer saw these diaries in paint as "inherently trivial." (Agreed, except for Guernica).

Picasso seemed aware of the triteness of his work. In 1952, he told the writer Giovanni Papini that even though he's rich and famous when he's alone with himself, he doesn't see himself as an artist in the historical sense of the word. "Great painters are people like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya. I am only a public entertainer …Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than might seem."