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The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art

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Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon--whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon--whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows eight celebrated artists, each linked to a counterpart by friendship, admiration, envy, and ambition. All eight are household names today. But to achieve what they did, each needed the influence of a contemporary--one who was equally ambitious but possessed sharply contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas were close associates whose personal bond frayed after Degas painted a portrait of Manet and his wife. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso swapped paintings, ideas, and influences as they jostled for the support of collectors like Leo and Gertrude Stein and vied for the leadership of a new avant-garde. Jackson Pollock's uninhibited style of "action painting" triggered a breakthrough in the work of his older rival, Willem de Kooning. After Pollock's sudden death in a car crash, de Kooning assumed Pollock's mantle and became romantically involved with his late friend's mistress. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon met in the early 1950s, when Bacon was being hailed as Britain's most exciting new painter and Freud was working in relative obscurity. Their intense but asymmetrical friendship came to a head when Freud painted a portrait of Bacon, which was later stolen. Each of these relationships culminated in an early flashpoint, a rupture in a budding intimacy that was both a betrayal and a trigger for great innovation. Writing with the same exuberant wit and psychological insight that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for art criticism, Sebastian Smee explores here the way that coming into one's own as an artist--finding one's voice--almost always involves willfully breaking away from some intimate's expectations of who you are or ought to be. Praise for The Art of Rivalry "Gripping . . . Mr. Smee's skills as a critic are evident throughout. He is persuasive and vivid. . . . You leave this book both nourished and hungry for more about the art, its creators and patrons, and the relationships that seed the ground for moments spent at the canvas."--The New York Times "With novella-like detail and incisiveness [Sebastian Smee] opens up the worlds of four pairs of renowned artists. . . . Each of his portraits is a biographical gem. . . . The Art of Rivalry is a pure, informative delight, written with canny authority."--The Boston Globe "Bacon liked to say his portraiture aimed to capture 'the pulsations of a person.' Revealing these rare creators as the invaluable catalysts they also were, Smee conveys exactly that on page after page. . . . His brilliant group biography is one of a kind." --The Atlantic "Perceptive . . . Smee is onto something important. His book may bring us as close as we'll ever get to understanding the connections between these bristly bonds and brilliance."--The Christian Science Monitor "In this intriguing work of art history and psychology, The Boston Globe's art critic looks at the competitive friendships of Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. All four relationships illuminate the creative process--both its imaginative breakthroughs and its frustrating blocks."--Newsday


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Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon--whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon--whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows eight celebrated artists, each linked to a counterpart by friendship, admiration, envy, and ambition. All eight are household names today. But to achieve what they did, each needed the influence of a contemporary--one who was equally ambitious but possessed sharply contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas were close associates whose personal bond frayed after Degas painted a portrait of Manet and his wife. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso swapped paintings, ideas, and influences as they jostled for the support of collectors like Leo and Gertrude Stein and vied for the leadership of a new avant-garde. Jackson Pollock's uninhibited style of "action painting" triggered a breakthrough in the work of his older rival, Willem de Kooning. After Pollock's sudden death in a car crash, de Kooning assumed Pollock's mantle and became romantically involved with his late friend's mistress. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon met in the early 1950s, when Bacon was being hailed as Britain's most exciting new painter and Freud was working in relative obscurity. Their intense but asymmetrical friendship came to a head when Freud painted a portrait of Bacon, which was later stolen. Each of these relationships culminated in an early flashpoint, a rupture in a budding intimacy that was both a betrayal and a trigger for great innovation. Writing with the same exuberant wit and psychological insight that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for art criticism, Sebastian Smee explores here the way that coming into one's own as an artist--finding one's voice--almost always involves willfully breaking away from some intimate's expectations of who you are or ought to be. Praise for The Art of Rivalry "Gripping . . . Mr. Smee's skills as a critic are evident throughout. He is persuasive and vivid. . . . You leave this book both nourished and hungry for more about the art, its creators and patrons, and the relationships that seed the ground for moments spent at the canvas."--The New York Times "With novella-like detail and incisiveness [Sebastian Smee] opens up the worlds of four pairs of renowned artists. . . . Each of his portraits is a biographical gem. . . . The Art of Rivalry is a pure, informative delight, written with canny authority."--The Boston Globe "Bacon liked to say his portraiture aimed to capture 'the pulsations of a person.' Revealing these rare creators as the invaluable catalysts they also were, Smee conveys exactly that on page after page. . . . His brilliant group biography is one of a kind." --The Atlantic "Perceptive . . . Smee is onto something important. His book may bring us as close as we'll ever get to understanding the connections between these bristly bonds and brilliance."--The Christian Science Monitor "In this intriguing work of art history and psychology, The Boston Globe's art critic looks at the competitive friendships of Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. All four relationships illuminate the creative process--both its imaginative breakthroughs and its frustrating blocks."--Newsday

30 review for The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    If he looks a bit bored here . . . . . . you have to understand that Édouard Manet had no ear for music, no matter how lovely his wife Suzanne played. And he had been sitting most of a winter for Degas to get this family setting on canvas. Ah, but Degas was showing more than boredom. You know what they say about unhappy families. The right side of the painting looks as though Madame Manet is hidden by a wall. But that's no wall. Degas painted Suzanne in full profile, and the piano, too. But when h If he looks a bit bored here . . . . . . you have to understand that Édouard Manet had no ear for music, no matter how lovely his wife Suzanne played. And he had been sitting most of a winter for Degas to get this family setting on canvas. Ah, but Degas was showing more than boredom. You know what they say about unhappy families. The right side of the painting looks as though Madame Manet is hidden by a wall. But that's no wall. Degas painted Suzanne in full profile, and the piano, too. But when he visited Manet, shortly after completing the painting, he noticed that someone had slashed the face of Madame Manet. The perpetrator was none other than the otherwise mild-mannered Édouard Manet. Degas immediately took the painting back to his house. In perhaps an odd bit of accounting, Degas then wrapped up a still life that Manet had given him and had it returned to Manet with a note: Monsieur, I am returning your Plums. A good story, so good that our author tells it twice in this book, even if he does not solve the mystery of Manet's act. He posits that maybe, just made, the slashing had something to do with the 'rivalry' between Manet and Degas. I don't know. Taking a knife to a painting of your wife seems like Psychiatry 101. Sebastian Smee takes these eight artists in pairs -- Manet/Degas, Matisse/Picasso, Pollock/de Kooning, Freud/Bacon -- and explores how their 'rivalry' with each other drove their styles. He means 'rivalry' in a broader sense than macho competition, more like a symbiosis. If he goes too far with this idea, nevertheless the stories of the creation of this art are well-told. It's also anecdotal to the point of gossipy -- who is sleeping with whom -- but I'm okay with that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Painters Without Pictures So much of the pleasure in an art book comes from the combination of text, binding, and the art itself that it is difficult to review a cheaply-produced advance proof (via Amazon Vine) of the words alone. However, the publishers promise a "beautiful package with two 8-page color photo inserts of art." Author Samuel Smee refers to the illustrations by number, and it is possible to look most of them up online, but there are a few cases where it is difficult to be sure exac Painters Without Pictures So much of the pleasure in an art book comes from the combination of text, binding, and the art itself that it is difficult to review a cheaply-produced advance proof (via Amazon Vine) of the words alone. However, the publishers promise a "beautiful package with two 8-page color photo inserts of art." Author Samuel Smee refers to the illustrations by number, and it is possible to look most of them up online, but there are a few cases where it is difficult to be sure exactly which version of a work he has chosen. But even if one assumes that the final copy will be all that its publishers promise, the proportions are just wrong. 16 illustrations are just too few for 360 pages of text. In a book about friendships, influence, and rivalries between pairs of artists (Manet/Degas, Picasso/Matisse, Pollock/De Kooning, and Bacon/Freud), what really matters, surely, is that the paintings themselves should do the talking, whether reproduced in photographs or described in words. But while Smee ranges from good to excellent when writing as a biographer, the actual art—no matter how beautifully produced the final edition—takes a back seat to facts and anecdotes. I read two of Smee's sections (Bacon/Freud and Manet/Degas) in detail, and skimmed the other two. I learned a lot, I must admit. I had known Francis Bacon's work—his theatrically contorted figures and screaming popes—ever since his 1962 retrospective at the Tate; the intimate skewed realism of Lucian Freud's portraiture stole more slowly into my awareness. I gather I am by no means alone in this; one of the more useful things that Smee does is to trace the trajectory of each artist's career: Bacon rising rapidly to a creative plateau; Freud gaining slowly in reputation and fame right up to his death in 2011. I learned a great deal about the artists as men: Bacon's louche lifestyle and risk-taking behavior with lovers who could be physically abusive or even criminal, Freud's two marriages and liaisons with a great number of women—all told with cameo appearances by many of the more famous or infamous figures of the London postwar social scene. Somewhere along the line, Smee shows how the friendship may have given Freud more technical boldness, and perhaps nudged Bacon into portraiture, but my increased understanding of each artist's work was minor compared to what I learned about their lives. In his chapter on the two French artists, Smee spends more time on Manet than on Degas. This is probably because he was the more interesting figure, flamboyant and genial in his social life, fresh and iconoclastic in his artistic one. Degas, by contrast, was more private, married only to his art. Perhaps because I already knew most of Manet's work, I could run through the slides in my head, so to speak, watching how each stage in his development matched the appropriate picture. But I learned little more about him as a painter, as compared to Julian Barnes' essays on the artist in Keeping an Eye Open or even the amateur but insightful observations of Michel Foucault in Manet and the Object of Painting. Smee opens his entire book intriguingly with a trip to southern Japan to see Degas' portrait of Manet and his wife—a gift of friendship that Manet later destroyed by cutting the section with his wife right down the middle. Intriguing. Biographers have no explanation for the violence of Manet's action. But here's the thing: I don't think Smee manages to explain it either. Smee's relative lack of focus on the artworks themselves is especially regrettable since when he does address a painting in detail he can be superb. Here is part of what he has to say about Freud's small portrait of Francis Bacon painted on copper in 1952: Even so, the contrast between the left and right sides of Bacon's distinctive, pear-shaped head is odd—and becomes more so the longer you study it. The right (Bacon's right), cast lightly in shadow, is a study in placidity. Over on the left, however, everything is slipping and sliding about. An S-shaped lick of hair—you can count the strands—casts a dashing shadow on Bacon's brow. The whole left side of his mouth twists upward, triggering a pouchy swelling, like the body's response to a sting, at the corner of the mouth. A sheen of sweat shines from that corner of his nose. Even the left ear seems to convulse and squirm. Most striking of all is the way Bacon's left eyebrow extends its powerful arabesque into the furrow at the center of his forehead. This has nothing to do with "realism" if you take that term literally; no eyebrow behaves this way. But it's the engine that powers the whole portrait, just as the portrait itself is the key to the story of the most interesting, fertile—and volatile—relationship in British art of the twentieth century. Is this better than the pithy description by Robert Hughes: "the silent intensity of a grenade in the millisecond before it goes off"? Perhaps, because it adds detail—though I wish Smee had added it to more of the other pictures he mentions in this text-heavy book, and he could do with more of Hughes' incisive urgency. He also offers the portrait as yet another unsolved mystery: who stole it from an exhibition in Berlin in 1988, and why? Ultimately, what most interests Smee is not the portrait, but the relationship and the stories that surround it. He will attract many readers who have exactly the same priorities; pure art lovers, not so much.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    This is art history as examined through the relationships of four pairs of contemporaries--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. With deft descriptions of the works and the techniques, and a little bogged down in the soap opera-ish relationship tangles, Smee explores how love, hate, envy, friendship and just close proximity challenged these artists to expand their work, grow as artists (if not always as human beings) and think in tandem with another p This is art history as examined through the relationships of four pairs of contemporaries--Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. With deft descriptions of the works and the techniques, and a little bogged down in the soap opera-ish relationship tangles, Smee explores how love, hate, envy, friendship and just close proximity challenged these artists to expand their work, grow as artists (if not always as human beings) and think in tandem with another person.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    If you ever imagined that great artists languish in their garrets all day in solitude, please read The Art of Rivalry. It's hard to see how these eight artists had time to paint at all with all the carousing, drinking, affairs, drugs, and fighting. Art critic Sebastian Smee sets out to show how competitive friendships among artists result in pushing artists to be even more creative. This makes sense, and he points to four sets of friendships/rivalries in which one or both artists were pushed by If you ever imagined that great artists languish in their garrets all day in solitude, please read The Art of Rivalry. It's hard to see how these eight artists had time to paint at all with all the carousing, drinking, affairs, drugs, and fighting. Art critic Sebastian Smee sets out to show how competitive friendships among artists result in pushing artists to be even more creative. This makes sense, and he points to four sets of friendships/rivalries in which one or both artists were pushed by competition, jealousy, rivalry to try new ways of painting. The rivalries are quite cinematic and the behavior of many of the artists is scandalous, demented, and sometimes destructive. It certainly made life for their families a disaster. Several books have recently explored the idea that "genius" is a flawed notion, that creativity is built on the creativity that went before it and out of brainstorming and competition. Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs, none of them made their discoveries alone or in a vacuum. They built on what went before and they worked in pairs or groups and in competition with others of their generations. So it was with the artists. This is a fun and gossipy book, with fascinating art criticism mixed in.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    ‘Vivid and exuberant writing about art…[brings] great works to life with love and appreciation.’ Pulitzer citation ‘Smee takes readers deep into the beginnings of modern art in a way that not only enlightens, but also builds a stronger appreciation of the influences that created the environment that fostered its development.’ Kirkus ‘This is magnificent book on the relationships at the roots of artistic genius. Smee offers a gripping tale of the fine line between friendship and competition, tracing ‘Vivid and exuberant writing about art…[brings] great works to life with love and appreciation.’ Pulitzer citation ‘Smee takes readers deep into the beginnings of modern art in a way that not only enlightens, but also builds a stronger appreciation of the influences that created the environment that fostered its development.’ Kirkus ‘This is magnificent book on the relationships at the roots of artistic genius. Smee offers a gripping tale of the fine line between friendship and competition, tracing how the ties that torment us most are often the ones that inspire us most.’ Adam Grant, author of Originals and Give and Take ‘The keynotes of Sebastian Smee’s criticism have always included a fine feeling for the what of art—he knows how to evoke the way pictures really strike the eye—and an equal sense of the how of art: how art emerges from the background of social history. To these he now adds a remarkable capacity for getting down the who of art—the enigma of artists’ personalities, and the way that, two at a time, they can often intersect to reshape each in the other’s image. With these gifts all on the page together, The Art of Rivalry gives us a remarkable and engrossing book on pretty much the whole of art.’ Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon ‘Modern art’s major pairs of frenemies are a subject so fascinating, it’s strange to have a book on it only now—and a stroke of luck, for us, that the author is Sebastian Smee. He brings the perfect combination of artistic taste and human understanding, and a prose style as clear as spring water, to the drama and occasional comedy of men who inspired and annoyed one another to otherwise inexplicable heights of greatness.’ Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker art critic ‘Beautifully written…This ambitious and impressive work is an utterly absorbing read.’ STARRED Review, Publishers Weekly ‘Smee’s book is full of interest and elegance and compelling insights into formative moments in, not just art, but Western culture more broadly.’ Australian Book Review ‘Smee’s writing is vivid and engaging, informed by his artistic judgment and a warmth of human understanding. The Art of Rivalry is a cracker of a book.’ Spectator Australia ‘Absorbing, informed and provocative, Sebastian Smee’s The Art of Rivalry takes us to heart of each of these relationships. It offers revelatory insights into the ways in which these major artists influenced and changed each other.’ Australian Arts Review ‘Smee’s double portraits are deeply moving, even haunting in their investigations of artistic and emotional symbioses of incalculable intricacy and consequence.’ Booklist ‘A riveting study.’ Miriam Cosic, Australian Book Review, 2016 Books of the Year ‘A hybrid of art history and biography, The Art of Rivalry sparkles with originality and psychological insight, and is full of fascinating information.’ Best Books of 2016, Australian Financial Review ‘The way Smee connects the dots is revelatory, plus lots of art world gossip.’ Daily Review ‘A riveting study…the title of which says it all.’ Miriam Cosic, Australian Book Review ‘Sebastian Smee explores the ‘frenemy’ relationships between modern artists Freud and Bacon, Manet and Degas, Matisse and Picasso and Pollock and de Kooning—an amusing, intimate and human lens that textbooks are closed to.’ Art Almanac ‘It made me laugh and it made me think.’ Wendy Whiteley, Australian Financial Review

  6. 4 out of 5

    JabJo

    Great topic, disappointing handling. This book can't seem to decide whether it's biography, psychology, or art history, and in the end is a rather bland mix of the three that doesn't add up to solid substance. You get some general biographical sketches, first of one person, then the other. Sometimes they interact, but there is little to demonstrate the in-depth dynamics of the rivalry. I do believe the rivalries existed, but I wanted a little more meat on the bone. There's a lot of surmising: "He Great topic, disappointing handling. This book can't seem to decide whether it's biography, psychology, or art history, and in the end is a rather bland mix of the three that doesn't add up to solid substance. You get some general biographical sketches, first of one person, then the other. Sometimes they interact, but there is little to demonstrate the in-depth dynamics of the rivalry. I do believe the rivalries existed, but I wanted a little more meat on the bone. There's a lot of surmising: "He probably felt that.." or "we can imagine that he was..." "one can only assume..." with no specific references: no footnotes, no validation. In fact one scene, about 4 pages long, in which Matisse visits the studio of Picasso is all conjecture: "Matisse must have felt;" "Gertrude, one feels, would have been brusque" "It's possible Matisse may have noticed;" etc. I felt I was wasting my time, but it's a bit like reading celebrity gossip...you keep going in spite of yourself. In the end, gossip, hearsay, and hypotheses made up a lot of the content. Lots of filler, too--little chatty asides that didn't really contribute weight to the central idea. I also found the writing quite uninspired--short sentences lacking complexity that seemed to be written almost at a high school level. I was surprised to learn that the author was actually a Pulitzer prize winning art critic. Maybe so, but this book just doesn't seem to measure up. .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    In The Art of Rivalry, Sebastian Smee discusses the relationships between four pairs of artists. The book provides an interesting look at how artists influence one another, sometimes supporting, and other times undermining, each other as they struggle to create art. It was interesting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I was going to summarize my stance on this book by simply stating that I thought it was butt. However, I’ve decided you might need further explanation and support for such a negative review. So here goes… My first issue with this book was discovered right at the onset: the language used. I understand that art and art criticism seemingly requires the application of grandiloquence, but this was ridiculous. By the end of the first chapter I tired of 55 word sentences filled with sesquipedalian word I was going to summarize my stance on this book by simply stating that I thought it was butt. However, I’ve decided you might need further explanation and support for such a negative review. So here goes… My first issue with this book was discovered right at the onset: the language used. I understand that art and art criticism seemingly requires the application of grandiloquence, but this was ridiculous. By the end of the first chapter I tired of 55 word sentences filled with sesquipedalian words that ultimately conveyed a load of reified nonsense. The only time I was thankful for overly-obscure jargon was when the author refers to Jackson Pollock as a “stumblebum”. My second issue was the failed attempt to clarify the overly masculine focus. Smee states that his choice stemmed from his desire to focus on unromantic relationships between contemporary artists (he settles on Freud and Bacon, Manet and Degas, Matisse and Picasso, and Pollock and de Kooning). The assumption that male-female (and female-female) artistic interactions will always amorous are problematic enough, but this is furthered when he focuses entirely on the sexual tension between Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, and then hints at a possible sexual tension between Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Also, when the author wasn’t talking about possible amorous feelings between the chosen rivals he is talking at length about their escapades with wives, mistresses, models, collectors, and randos. While interesting information about artists’ relationships were sometimes conveyed, and their artworks were beautifully described, the book failed to fully develop any insights into the rivalry or professional relationship between these artists. Instead, the connections felt contrived and forced. None seemed to be competing for the same commissions, studied or worked together, or pushed each other in terms of style or subject. They certainly lived in the same circles, and may have painted each other, were friends, lovers, or frenemies, but none of the salacious descriptions of these artists interactions conveyed a sense of rivalry, or even true influence. The last chapter dealing with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning came closest, but it still could have been stronger. The book gave interesting gossipy tidbits about each artist’s life and did convey good information about certain works, but overall, it was lacking in substance and insight into its proposed topic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Thrasher

    Art history is certainly not one of my areas of expertise. I know just enough about art and artists to be able to answer trivial pursuit questions with answers other than "Picasso." So reading this book from the vantage point of learning something new was a great experience. Smee is a good writer; his book was neither terribly academic and dry, nor a vapid pop biography. If Smee's book was a meal, then it was rather well-cooked meat and potatoes, rather than a tv dinner or fancy French. But if h Art history is certainly not one of my areas of expertise. I know just enough about art and artists to be able to answer trivial pursuit questions with answers other than "Picasso." So reading this book from the vantage point of learning something new was a great experience. Smee is a good writer; his book was neither terribly academic and dry, nor a vapid pop biography. If Smee's book was a meal, then it was rather well-cooked meat and potatoes, rather than a tv dinner or fancy French. But if his intent was to prove something about the power of rivalry vis-a-vis art and artists, I'm not so sure he succeeded. Almost, the book is an exercise in writing towards a theme; Smee wrote the art of rivalry into being, perhaps in a bit of an "emperor's new clothes" facade. Each of the four chapters centered on the "rivalry" between two artists, and in each of the four chapters, I learned a bunch about the artists, enough to find Picasso and Pollock to be sort of reprehensible (their art might be great, but their personalities are shit). Every chapter essentially reads like a piece of longform journalism though, and this unifying theme of "rivalry" just didn't hold water for me. If you can ignore that, you will enjoy this book (I was successful in that pursuit).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Moshe Mikanovsky

    I like the subject matter and the stories of these 4 couples of artists friends and rivals were interesting. Their lives were filled with uncertainty, self-doubt, sexual tensions, betrayals, failure, and breakthroughs. Yet, at times their stories also felt petty and filled with self-absorption, self-importance and pompous. Maybe a fiction based on their real-life stories would have brought it closer.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fabienne

    "Ingres told him: "Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist."" (p. 106)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tânia

    "Um dia, o pintor Lucian Freud viu-se confrontado com a necessidade de tomar uma decisão tão inesperada quanto inusitados eram os motivos silenciados que a justificavam. Convidado para uma festa de casamento, optou por declinar o convite por se encontrar na invulgar situação de ter já tido relações sexuais com a noiva, com o noivo e com a mãe do noivo. Isto para lá de naquele momento estar casado com uma sobrinha da mãe do noivo e a boda decorrer em casa de Francis Bacon, que ali vivia com o seu "Um dia, o pintor Lucian Freud viu-se confrontado com a necessidade de tomar uma decisão tão inesperada quanto inusitados eram os motivos silenciados que a justificavam. Convidado para uma festa de casamento, optou por declinar o convite por se encontrar na invulgar situação de ter já tido relações sexuais com a noiva, com o noivo e com a mãe do noivo. Isto para lá de naquele momento estar casado com uma sobrinha da mãe do noivo e a boda decorrer em casa de Francis Bacon, que ali vivia com o seu amante, Eric Hall. A estranheza da decisão tem eco em outros momentos tão dissonantes como quando Manet decide apunhalar um quadro pintado por Degas onde avulta a imagem de sua própria mulher. Constatar que o pintor Francis Bacon chegou a oferecer-se como acompanhante de cavalheiros nas colunas de anúncios do Times, de Londres. Perceber como Pollock era um tipo infrequentável, arruaceiro, de um insuportável machismo, com frequência alcoolizado e incapaz de fazer um desenho decente. Ou pressentir que Picasso nunca teria pintado uma obra tão decisiva e de rutura como “Les Demoiselles de Avignon”, nem teria impulsionado o cubismo, juntamente com Braque, sem a pressão e rivalidade que sobre ele exercia Matisse, cuja filha adolescente povoava o imaginário libidinoso do pintor granadino. Estes e muitos outros episódios aparecem narrados no livro “El arte de la rivalidad”, do crítico de arte e ensaísta australiano Sebastian Smee, vencedor do Prémio Pulitzer. Construído à volta de episódios de amizade e amor, traição e rompimento protagonizados por quatro pares de artistas, todos homens e todos eles situados entre os mais importantes da modernidade, o livro faz-nos embarcar numa longa e surpreendente viagem à volta das vidas e dos encontros e desencontros entre Matisse e Picasso, Manet e Degas, Pollock e De Kooning, Freud e Bacon. A partir das dinâmicas criadas pelas relações entre amigos que chegam em alguns casos a tornar-se quase inimigos, Smee mostra como os temperamentos divergentes destes artistas acabam por desembocar – seja pela rivalidade, pelo espírito de competição, pela vontade de ultrapassar o outro – em avanços estilísticos decisivos para a história de arte. Se é notável o início do capítulo dedicado a De Kooning e Pollock, situado numa noite do início da década de 1950, com os dois pintores completamente bêbedos, sentados no exterior da Cedar Tavern, de Greenwich Village, a partilharem uma garrafa e a brindarem-se mutuamente com o epíteto de melhor pintor dos EUA, não lhe ficam atrás as pulsões ou tensões eróticas e sexuais que podem estar por trás do golpe de Manet no quadro pintado pelo solteiro Degas, pintado num momento em que aquele casamento definhava de um modo que não terá escapado ao mais jovem pintor. O que torna o livro extraordinário está muito para lá das abundantes “petites histories” sobre a vida de cada um dos protagonistas. O mais relevante é a maestria com que o autor, ensaísta e crítico de arte, nos conduz, a partir daquelas rivalidades por vezes mais intuídas do que reais, através de uma irresistível história da arte centrada em períodos cruciais dos séculos XIX e XX, pela qual passam ainda personagens não tão secundárias como isso. Entre elas estão Peggy Guggnheim, Gertrude Stein, Baudelaire ou Appolinaire, cuja influência sobre Picasso fica aqui exposta em toda a sua dimensão e importância. Picasso de quem Matisse dizia: “Tal como um gato, seja qual for o salto mortal que dês, cairás sempre de pé”. Valdemar Cruz in Expresso Curto 20/07/2018

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    There are stories that have stayed with me since reading this a couple of years ago (when I took a hiatus from goodreads). One such story: "In 1945, Pollock's old and frequently tense friendship with Philip Gueston, who had been a fellow student back at Manual Arts in California, had come to a head at a party thrown by Sande. Pollock had already embraced abstraction at this point and was entering his most fruitful phase. He turned on Guston, who was panting allegorical works in a figurative styl There are stories that have stayed with me since reading this a couple of years ago (when I took a hiatus from goodreads). One such story: "In 1945, Pollock's old and frequently tense friendship with Philip Gueston, who had been a fellow student back at Manual Arts in California, had come to a head at a party thrown by Sande. Pollock had already embraced abstraction at this point and was entering his most fruitful phase. He turned on Guston, who was panting allegorical works in a figurative style that was beginning to look old hat. 'Goddamn it,' exploded Pollock, 'I won't stand for the way you're painting! I won't stand for it!' He threatened to throw Guston out the window. A drawn-out fist-fight ensued." A must-read for anyone who loves Picasso, Matisse, DeKooning, Freud, Bacon, Matisse and Degas. Not only are the stories amusing, but you get more insights into the work of these artists and what drove them to create.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bookish

    I’m reading a great book by the Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee, who won a Pulitzer for criticism in 2011. It looks at the intricate relationships between four pairs of painters—Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Pollock and de Kooning, and Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Close friends, former friends, frenemies—the bonds between these artists shift over time, and Smee opens new windows on their art and lives with his approach. —Phil (https://www.bookish.com/articles/staf...)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jolly Jess

    I liked learning about the lives of these artists in relation to each other. It helped me to make better sense of their art and to remember them more clearly. In some instances it made their art more interesting. Conflict is compelling and there’s plenty of it in the art world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    Not as interesting as I had hoped. This is mainly just biographical sketches of the eight artists. He does of course, emphasize the times each pair's lives intersected with each other, but that didn't seem to be the main focus, as it sounds like it would be. I did learn a bit about those artists I had never read a lot about before, like Freud, Bacon and de Kooning. (this is no doubt because I'm not a huge fan of those three painters) But artists are usually weird people and it's always interesti Not as interesting as I had hoped. This is mainly just biographical sketches of the eight artists. He does of course, emphasize the times each pair's lives intersected with each other, but that didn't seem to be the main focus, as it sounds like it would be. I did learn a bit about those artists I had never read a lot about before, like Freud, Bacon and de Kooning. (this is no doubt because I'm not a huge fan of those three painters) But artists are usually weird people and it's always interesting to read about them. (this is yet another art book with hardly any pictures in it, so be prepared to Google. Not even any photos of the artists themselves)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patrice

    I wanted to read this book for a class I'm taking on Modern Art History to get the story of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, but the stories of all four of these "rivalries" were so well told and interesting. Each section tells of the friendships of 4 pairs of artists, and includes their backgrounds, how they knew each other, and the end of their relationships (spoiler) it usually doesn't end well! The stories also focus on specific works of art, and I wish that there were more images of t I wanted to read this book for a class I'm taking on Modern Art History to get the story of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, but the stories of all four of these "rivalries" were so well told and interesting. Each section tells of the friendships of 4 pairs of artists, and includes their backgrounds, how they knew each other, and the end of their relationships (spoiler) it usually doesn't end well! The stories also focus on specific works of art, and I wish that there were more images of those works included, though I did use the internet to look them up while I was reading. A good read for art lovers, and anyone else.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Giana

    This book is nonfiction, but is written like a telenovela complete with love triangles, fist fights, avant-garde parties, and gossip. I learned a lot from this book without feeling like I was reading an academic text. I would have liked more direct citations indicating where certain stories came from, but if you aren't all that worried about historical accuracy then that won't bother you. Fun read if you want to learn more about some of the giants of modern art.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Sogge

    For readers like me, largely unschooled in art history, this book is an informative and highly readable introduction to some major painters, their friends, lovers and patrons. The writer has done his homework, drawing mainly on secondary sources (noted, including his own writings on Lucian Freud, in an addendum) and his own professional knowledge as an art critic. The reader isn’t spared unpleasant facts about these painters' infidelities, addictions, abuse of women and in cases like Pollock's, For readers like me, largely unschooled in art history, this book is an informative and highly readable introduction to some major painters, their friends, lovers and patrons. The writer has done his homework, drawing mainly on secondary sources (noted, including his own writings on Lucian Freud, in an addendum) and his own professional knowledge as an art critic. The reader isn’t spared unpleasant facts about these painters' infidelities, addictions, abuse of women and in cases like Pollock's, outright thuggery. More refreshing, and instructive, is the attention given to the painters' social backgrounds, upbringing, native talent, training, technique and painterly strategies. Curiously for a book pivoting on rivalry, the matter of who was buying these artists’ paintings when, and with what kind of promotional encouragement (from dealers, taste-makers and the like) seemed a bit underplayed. In signposting the historical significance and standing of these painters, the writer cites the judgements of critics, assorted contemporaries and the painters themselves -- even when they were drunk. But in expressing his own opinions the author wasn't very forthcoming. For that reason I’ve found it helpful to turn to observers like John Berger, who found the animations of Walt Disney to be not unlike Francis Bacon’s 'stage-managed' depictions of alienation. Or observers like Julian Barnes, who wrote that Lucian Freud “was always a painter of the Great Indoors”, and who concluded in light of that painter’s unflattering fixations on bodies and their parts, “I wish he’d got out a bit more”. I wonder if Smee would agree.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janellyn51

    First of all I should say that Sebastian is a dear friend. Being from Somerville, I'm familiar with his work in the Globe, and not only that, he has written a rather in depth article about me, and my time as Amy Arbus' muse in the late 70's. I suppose on some level that would make me biased. I loved this book. I have an extensive collection of art books, which I have spent years poring over, and copying paintings that I love. I was familiar with most of the paintings mentioned. I also have been First of all I should say that Sebastian is a dear friend. Being from Somerville, I'm familiar with his work in the Globe, and not only that, he has written a rather in depth article about me, and my time as Amy Arbus' muse in the late 70's. I suppose on some level that would make me biased. I loved this book. I have an extensive collection of art books, which I have spent years poring over, and copying paintings that I love. I was familiar with most of the paintings mentioned. I also have been a painters model for more than 30 years, so all told, I found the stories of the artists rivalries particularly interesting. I think I enjoyed the Pollack/DeKooning section the best, maybe because I knew more about them from the start. I read some other people's reviews who seemed to think the book read like a soap opera, and I say no. He's not making up their lives, their lives were what they were, their affairs, they're puff upedness and all that. I've spent a lot of time contemplating art, drinking it in almost...and what I've never gotten was how these people could get so wrapped up in angst over it all. I draw or paint to make myself happy. I do what interests me, or inspires me. I copy things, and people say why don't you do your own stuff....because I like their stuff and I want to see how close I can come. I don't do it for anyone else, not to get famous, not to outdo anyone else. I'm lucky I have some skill some imagination, but, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I think nowadays art and angst has fallen by the way side Every body is busy looking at their phones, rather than competing with each other artistically, just like the music business every thing has become so diluted. Anyway. I loved what Seb was saying in the introduction, as he was on the train heading to see the damaged Degas. If people would just let go of their expectations....they could enjoy things more. Talking about art in this day and age is entirely different than in the time of Degas and Manet, Freud and Bacon, Pollack and DeKooning...clearly, their art shocked people, scandalized them, because people were not accustomed to seeing what they were seeing. It's not much different than seeing two men walk down the street holding hands....it may not be your thing, but you're no longer shocked to see such a thing in a public place, it's allowed, it's practically commonplace. It's virtually impossible, from my perspective to come up with anything shockingly new. I don't think I ever realized there was a rivalry between Matissse and Picasso. I've never cared for Les demoiselles, but then the first time I stood in front of Seated Bather at MOMA, it took my breath away. Matisses color just slays me. I never paid much attention to Freud until I met Seb, Bacon not at all. I can appreciate Degas, but take him or leave him. For some reason, I got a kick out of Manet, I never knew much about him. I was always more interested in Pollack the brawler than Pollack the painter, and the whole lower east side artists thing. My favorite artists would be Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Walt Kuhn, Wilfredo Lam, and a bunch of others but they would be my top ones. If you are interested in art, I think you'd enjoy Seb's book, he's an effortless writer, or at least it seems that way, but clearly, a lot of thought and research went into this book and I congratulate him!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Nelson

    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 One of my favorite things to learn about is how art is made — I mean art in a broad sense, in terms of writing, painting, filmmaking, etc. I find it incredibly satisfying to learn about the lives of those who’ve created amazing pieces of work, and learn how their circumstances influenced those works. So, when I saw that this was available on NetGalley, of course I *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 One of my favorite things to learn about is how art is made — I mean art in a broad sense, in terms of writing, painting, filmmaking, etc. I find it incredibly satisfying to learn about the lives of those who’ve created amazing pieces of work, and learn how their circumstances influenced those works. So, when I saw that this was available on NetGalley, of course I requested it. Sebastian Smee does a wonderful job in going through the pairs of artists and giving brief summaries of their lives and how they were affected by each other. I love that this gives a brief glimpse into each of the artist’s works, so that we can see these constructions were not created out of a vacuum, but within the life of an actual person. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that, so it’s nice to learn something about each artist. The writing itself is incredibly understandable and I felt that the stories were fast-paced but well fleshed out. I was engrossed almost the whole way through and never felt like I was missing any information about the artists, but the story didn’t feel drawn-out. The perfect balance.:) What would have made this book a five was if we were given a brief description of the time period and how art was currently viewed in the culture before delving into the artists’ lives and how they were changing it. We get a lot of detail on what the artists do, but not necessarily why that was groundbreaking for their time — the only reason I was able to almost keep up was due to my vague memories of an art history class I once took. I think knowing the context of the time period would have been incredibly helpful for understanding the different artists and appreciating their new approaches to art. My favorite section was definitely the Matisse and Picasso chapter, but I also think that those are the two artists I know the most about, so there might have been a bit of a bias when it came to that. I also think it was the least dysfunctional relationship that Smee explores (at least, it seemed that way to me), so that also might have been a factor. If you’re interested in how art is created, or learning more about the lives of some famous artists, then I definitely recommend you pick this up. I greatly enjoyed it. Originally posted on Purple People Readers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    This book is most useful for providing background and milieu for developments in modern European and American art. Smee sets up four matches of contemporary artists:: Freud and Bacon, Manet and Degas, Matisse and Picasso, and Pollock and de Kooning. At times the pairings seemed a little forced (not to much out of chronological order). Particularly with Matisse and Picasso, the interactions were often speculative. I cringed at every phrase like "he undoubtedly felt....". Nevertheless there is ple This book is most useful for providing background and milieu for developments in modern European and American art. Smee sets up four matches of contemporary artists:: Freud and Bacon, Manet and Degas, Matisse and Picasso, and Pollock and de Kooning. At times the pairings seemed a little forced (not to much out of chronological order). Particularly with Matisse and Picasso, the interactions were often speculative. I cringed at every phrase like "he undoubtedly felt....". Nevertheless there is plenty of spilled paint, outsized characters, complicated love affairs, and drunken brawls to engage anyone interested in art history. I particularly liked the section on Bacon and Freud, even though this was one of the least effective in terms of defining the connection between the two. I knew very little about either one, as much of art attention was focused on the Abstract Expressionists at the time. Smee had a personal acquaintance with Freud. The Pollock-de Kooning relationship never pales with the retelling. There are only 14 color plates in the book, and I had to frequently Google references to works not within the 14. This set up of pairing contemporaries is a different approach to art history. I enjoyed the journey.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Randine

    I never wanted to put it down. Greatest impact for me was the sadness and tragedy in all of these lives with the exception of Freud. It was fascinating to watch how human these 8 artists acted in terms of competitiveness and at the same time really admiring each other. There was one thing i thought the author went easy on and that was Picasso's obvious pedophile issue. The way he leered after Matisses' little girl and then adopted a 13 year old girl and painted her nude to the point of his wife I never wanted to put it down. Greatest impact for me was the sadness and tragedy in all of these lives with the exception of Freud. It was fascinating to watch how human these 8 artists acted in terms of competitiveness and at the same time really admiring each other. There was one thing i thought the author went easy on and that was Picasso's obvious pedophile issue. The way he leered after Matisses' little girl and then adopted a 13 year old girl and painted her nude to the point of his wife sending the girl back to the orphanage. Smees reasoning - maybe he was really missing his little sister who died, maybe he needed a muse... no, Picasso was into little girls and he really was an abusive misogynist . If nothing else this book solidified my yuck factor for him. I found the relationship between Manet and Degas to be the most fascinating with Pollock and DeKooning following close behind. I have so many bookmarks inserted in the pages to go back and think about and do my own research on - this is a treasure of a book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Honesty time. I skimmed most of this book. It's well written and interesting, just a little denser than I expected when I requested the arc. This book is packed with a ton of information about the artists and their lives. It reads more like a history book about the temperament and personalities of these 8 artists rather than a narrative exploring rivalry through the lens of famous artistic friends. That's not a bad thing. It's just not what I expected. That being said, I would buy this for the a Honesty time. I skimmed most of this book. It's well written and interesting, just a little denser than I expected when I requested the arc. This book is packed with a ton of information about the artists and their lives. It reads more like a history book about the temperament and personalities of these 8 artists rather than a narrative exploring rivalry through the lens of famous artistic friends. That's not a bad thing. It's just not what I expected. That being said, I would buy this for the art history nerds in my family. The author does address his reasons for choosing to only write about male friendships (patriarchal attitudes of the era in which he is writing), and why he chooses to leave out male/female rivalries (complex romantic interests, chauvinistic condescension), but I'd still like to see women artists and artists of color be part of the conversation. ARC provided by NetGalley

  25. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    Too much pseudobiography and not enough about rivalry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gaylord Dold

    The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee (Random House, New York, 2017) At the center of Sebastian Smee’s new book “The Art of Rivalry” is the idea of artistic struggle through rivalry. Smee won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2011 and is now the Boston Globe’s art critic. His work is widely recognized for its insight and cogency, and that goes double for his new book, which yields to the attentive reader a wealth of understanding abou The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee (Random House, New York, 2017) At the center of Sebastian Smee’s new book “The Art of Rivalry” is the idea of artistic struggle through rivalry. Smee won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2011 and is now the Boston Globe’s art critic. His work is widely recognized for its insight and cogency, and that goes double for his new book, which yields to the attentive reader a wealth of understanding about the nature of creativity in relation to conflict and community. Modern art is characterized by a boundless energy that crosses boundaries, its sometimes plan free approach, and its relentless emphasis on originality. “Make it new” sounds deceptively easy. In truth, making it “new” is the most difficult thing an artist can undertake. “The Art of Rivalry” is an indispensable guidebook to the things that made modern art modern and how difficult it was for art and artists to break free of the shackles of a suffocating classicism, an often slavish regard for academies, and the need to put bread and wine on the table. Smee focuses on four friendships that involved varying levels of trust, mistrust, friendship, rupture and repair. Each of these friends and rivals sought to find their own “voice”, a way to lurch away from accepted norms, social expectations and artistic limitations. In the case of Picasso and Matisse, the struggle for mastery of the Parisian scene was particularly vigorous, especially because “modern art” was already, in the early 1900’s, a going concern. Each man vied for the “eye” of Gertrude and Leo Stein, for the favor of gallery owners and critics, and for sales. Picasso especially kept an eye on the older, more mature, more stable, Matisse, whose color-drenched flat surfaced work presented unique challenges to Picasso, who was classically trained and the much better draftsman. In the case of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, it was Freud who looked up the older and more successful Bacon and it was Freud who possessed the greater drawing skills. Their rupture, when it came, represented a unique turning point in the history of British modern art, driving both men to near despair. But it was Manet and Degas who maintained for many years the most stable friendship. Manet, cultured, charming and well spoken, perturbed Degas with his attractiveness, sociability and wit. Degas, on the other hand, while intelligent, pursued his art outside the box of the Parisian social whirl. In the case of Pollock and de Kooining, however, the “rivalry” reached heights of spirited rancor, drunken bitterness, and fawning concern with “greatness” that almost crashed it against the rocks of futility. Nevertheless, both Pollock (drunken, vitriolic, violent) and de Kooning (drunken, vitriolic, faithless) forged a bond of competitiveness that led Abstract Expressionism to the pinnacle of New York’s art scene in the 1950’s, and remains to this day the ultimate in sophisticated cultural achievement in the “big city”. Any reader interested in art, modern art, or creativity will profit from Smee’s enormously readable, steadily insightful, and magnificently argued book. The point is, I suspect, that what others expect of us is a limit. What we expect of ourselves ideally has no limit. One sees this in art, music, and sport, among many other endeavors. The mirror tells us who we are, especially when a competitive friend is reflected there as well.

  27. 4 out of 5

    SS

    This book is packed with a good deal of information, and the writing is, from a technical point, top notch. It's biggest problem is that it's not sure if it's a biography, a text book (That's how it read to me.), a survey of the sexual mores and psychological disturbances of modern artists, or a study of friendships that thrive and then crumble among those same artists. What, for the most part, it isn't, is an in depth look at the rivalry between two artists of the same genre who rise to fame at This book is packed with a good deal of information, and the writing is, from a technical point, top notch. It's biggest problem is that it's not sure if it's a biography, a text book (That's how it read to me.), a survey of the sexual mores and psychological disturbances of modern artists, or a study of friendships that thrive and then crumble among those same artists. What, for the most part, it isn't, is an in depth look at the rivalry between two artists of the same genre who rise to fame at the same historical time. Yes, it speaks of rivalry here and there, but only touches on how the rivalry pushes the artists' development. The latter two pairings, of Matisse and Picasso and Pollock and de Kooning go into more detail as to how one of the pair drove the other, and how it often worked in both directions, driving both artists forward. Still, I never had the sense of tension that a true rivalry, well developed in words, would engender. The Art of Rivalry is a nice overview of the eight artists it touches on. In four overly long chapters (around 90 pages each), the author covers the artists' backgrounds, their spouses/partners/children, how they came to become artists, and how they developed their personal styles. It's unfortunate that it couldn't find a solid focal point and jumped from one aspect of the artists' lives to another. I really had to push myself to finish this book. It was so easy to set it aside and find something more interesting to peruse. I blame that on the textbook style of writing. I admit that I've read worse textbooks, but writing with little heart and soul doesn't make for a compelling read. One of my biggest problems with this book is that is discusses many works by the artists. Unfortunately, only 14 smallish plates are provided to assist in understanding the impressive innovations created by these artists, and they're buried in the middle of the book.. That's not nearly enough and not easily accessed. Yes, we all have access to Google to assist us in searching for them online, but that requires you to pull yourself away the words and ideas on the page to go look them up. It would be so much easier if they were incorporated into the book, into the appropriate chapter. Each time I left the book to look up another mentioned painting, it became harder to return to the text. If you are an art historian or someone looking to get a glimpse into the lives of these eight artists, you may find this book more to your liking. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    Wonderful book! It was hard to put it down several times to continue to see what the next page offered. Great insight into these interesting relationships of the Impressionist, Modern and post modern artist. Fascinating that the rivals the author spoke of often had similar backgrounds i.e. Freud and Bacon from very wealthy families, Picasso and Matisse very poor families). After completing the book I realized how much these artists needed someone to either compare themselves too or in some ways Wonderful book! It was hard to put it down several times to continue to see what the next page offered. Great insight into these interesting relationships of the Impressionist, Modern and post modern artist. Fascinating that the rivals the author spoke of often had similar backgrounds i.e. Freud and Bacon from very wealthy families, Picasso and Matisse very poor families). After completing the book I realized how much these artists needed someone to either compare themselves too or in some ways challenge the other. They may not have consciously known they did indeed have this rival but in any case it made for incredible art as a benefit. I think my favorite 2 rivals are Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. I'm in love with these guys in that they were opposites. One was very shy (Freud) and the other very gregarious (Bacon). I think that's what the attraction was. I appreciate both these artists even more now, even got more books from the library to learn and see more of their artwork. It helps to understand who the artists are to really understand their art. Without that how can one have complete knowledge of what the artist is doing or perhaps know their story. Maybe it's a story they are starting with the inclination of wanting to know more. Probably the least interesting was Degas and Manet. There was an interesting event that occurred involving Manet puncturing Degas's painting of him and his wife. I loved the chapter on Picasso and Matisse. How Gertrude and Leo Stein were really involved in their success as artists. It made me want to go back in time to a Parisian cafe to meet them. Pollack and De Kooning also a great chapter! I didn't know what a tortured soul Pollack was. I saw the movie about his life but this book really shed light on what he was going through. De Kooning was someways in Pollacks shadow. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in any of these artists life. It helps give a perspective on what an artist actually goes through when creating. They paint, in some respects, unconsciously (let's the paint brush go and just let go and stand back) and revel their true inner self for the world to critic. It's not an easy job for anyone. Also putting yourself out there and being judged. Not for the faint of heart. It helps me have more understanding and more appreciation of these artists.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Britta

    It seems to me that a lot of The Art of Rivalry is based on assumption; phrasings like, "We can suppose..." or "One can guess..." take up a lot of space in the book. I often couldn't help but wonder if the artists in question were actually rivals, or if Smee only wanted them to be rivals. There's a lot of fascinating history about modern art in The Art of Rivalry, yet I found myself yearning for more information about each individual artist above and beyond the snippets provided. For instance, a It seems to me that a lot of The Art of Rivalry is based on assumption; phrasings like, "We can suppose..." or "One can guess..." take up a lot of space in the book. I often couldn't help but wonder if the artists in question were actually rivals, or if Smee only wanted them to be rivals. There's a lot of fascinating history about modern art in The Art of Rivalry, yet I found myself yearning for more information about each individual artist above and beyond the snippets provided. For instance, after Smee mentions Manet's death, Degas' story comes to an abrupt halt, even though he died over three decades later. Presumably, this is because Manet's influence no longer actively played a role in Degas' life and work....yet, if they were actually so influential to each other, wouldn't Manet's influence over Degas last beyond his death? I also yearned for more pictures of the art Smee talks about throughout the book. He does provide pictures of some of the art, but I found myself looking up the other art pieces online to see what they looked like, and to better understand their importance to the context of the story Smee tells. The Art of Rivalry isn't terrible. I did learn a lot about the eight men discussed in the book, and I feel like I have a better overall understanding of modern art. Yet, I don't think the book lives up to its title. What rivalry? What betrayal? Smee says more than once in the text that the rivalry most of these men experienced was over exaggerated by the press. While all eight men surely experienced jealousy to some degree, calling all four relationships "rivalries" seems a little extreme to me. Clickbait much?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Four pairs of renowned artists who were at the same time friends and rivals grew in their own skills and visions of art through the influence each had on the other. Smee's book does an excellent job of detailing the personal relationship each artist had with the other while also elaborating on the impact the thinking and work of one artist upon that of the other. Along the way, Smee also helps the reader understand what makes each artist's work outstanding and even helps the reader learn how to Four pairs of renowned artists who were at the same time friends and rivals grew in their own skills and visions of art through the influence each had on the other. Smee's book does an excellent job of detailing the personal relationship each artist had with the other while also elaborating on the impact the thinking and work of one artist upon that of the other. Along the way, Smee also helps the reader understand what makes each artist's work outstanding and even helps the reader learn how to look at more than just the surface images created by the artists. The artists Smee selected to discuss helped redefine "art" in various ways, establishing new norms, styles and unique visions of artistic production.The work of each of these creators explored new ground, broke old rules and paved new paths that both opportuned and challenged new artists toward new means of expression. Each artist Smee discusses achieved his fullest potential largely through the influence of his friendship with the other, friendships which ultimately ended, sometimes bitterly, as each artist grew and explored his own genius. Personally, I love art galleries, art museums and artistic creations in general, but I have no great understanding of the art I so often admire. Smee's deep understanding of the elements of art and artistic production helped me learn a great deal about art and a more thorough understanding of the elements that combine to make artistic production so rich and engaging that they are admired and appreciated for ages.

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