The Met’s second big fall show opened last week, and as usual it is big: something like 40 of the 60 known paintings by Valentin de Boulogne – from the Louvre, above all, plus the Vatican, Indianapolis and several venues in Rome and Florence – have been gathered and, unfortunately, hung together. Unfortunate, because so many of them look alike: one, by itself, is busy; three or four constitutes an unruly crowd.

The show is billed as “Beyond Caravaggio,” primarily for marketing purposes, I’m sure, but also because Valentin has taken the subjects of Caravaggio – cardsharps, musicians, violent Bible stories – and added motion to Caravaggio’s staged tableaux. There won’t, I’m also sure, ever be an exhibition “Beyond Valentin,” because his works are at the limit of excess. Why put four figures in your painting when you can have six? Why have one center of attention – e.g., the denial of St. Peter – when you can have two – e.g., the soldiers playing dice to indicate the uncertainty of fate? Why have the pickpocket lifting a chicken from the gypsy when you can also have a youth lifting a purse from the pickpocket?

Most museums and exhibitions of the Baroque will have one example of Valentin’s work, and he is, indeed, a worthy inclusion, to show the impact of Caravaggio on painters who followed. Some of his paintings are stunning – especially the single-figure apostles that are held by the Vatican and Versailles. But seeing him in such quantity diminished my appreciation. First, because the work quickly seemed formulaic; second, because it became repetitive. Valentin died relatively young, so maybe his style didn’t have time to evolve; but you got the feeling that he wasn’t about to leave his groove. In fact, the last gallery displayed a Judgment of Solomon that was a rehash of an earlier painting – and the rehash was decidedly inferior.

It is always a question whether an artist’s retrospective will make me more or less impressed. From the scholar’s and curator’s point of view, it is instructive to collect as much as you can; but the casual viewer, such as myself, has less an academic interest than a wish to see only, or mainly, great paintings. I think of so many Dutch 17th-century masters whom I love seeing represented by one or two works in an encyclopedic museum. Ah, yes, there’s van Goyen, there’s Hobbema, there’s Claesz! But how quickly I would tire of seeing 50 works by any of those in one place.

The Diane Arbus show at Met Breuer was another show for specialists (as, to a lesser extent, was the Paul Klee exhibition three floors above). There was no pretense that the works shown were all museum-worthy: in fact, per the label, two-thirds had never been publicly exhibited before. Drawn from the archives, these photographs dated from early in Arbus’s career and were meant to give us a glimpse of ‘the artist as a young woman,’ feeling the way to her signature style and later masterworks. Every fourth or fifth was a picture worth printing. I have little interest in photographs that are woefully out-of-focus or poorly lit. There were a number of shots taken of movie screens – to what point? The good ones were all similar: portraits of a single individual in characteristic pose or dress, looking at Arbus from a psychological distance, although there was also a candid shot of a little girl climbing a curb that entranced.

The revelation of the Klee show was a minute graphite drawing of Bern done when Klee was 13. He could draw expertly – which gave him license, in my mind, to go off to doodle-land as an adult – and how he got a pencil point that fine I’ll never know. The works exhibited all came from a single gift collection, so there was both more than you might want to see and less in the way of variety you might get in a curated selection. Again, a smaller exhibition could have been more powerful – and here I think of the single gallery at SFMOMA that wowed me. What did come through from the quantity presented was the consistency with which Klee’s drawings were pleasantly askew.