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The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships,…

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

by Sebastian Smee

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1165158,189 (3.76)3



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Showing 5 of 5
This was a page-turner. Smee is a magnetic writer. I found the Pollock / de Kooning "rivalry" (if we're to call it that) particularly compelling. ( )
  jasoncomely | Mar 29, 2018 |
The story of the relationship and rivalry between 4 pairs of contemporary artists - Freud and Bacon, Degas and Manet, Picasso and Matisse, De Kooning and Pollock. Fascinating book, although for me it really didn't take off until the Matisse-Picasso story, which is spellbinding, it was real artistic rivalry, pushing each other in a frenzy of artistic expression which was both exhilarating and painful for each of them, unlike the others which tended to be personal spats. I would have liked to have seen some earlier rivalries, Da Vinci and Michelangelo obviously, perhaps Constable & Turner, but still a great book and a worthy addition to art history. ( )
  drmaf | Nov 6, 2017 |
This book takes four pairs of artists and shows how their paired friendships and struggles with each other affected their ability to create well-remembered art. These were the Londoners Lucian Freud vs Francis Bacon, the Parisians Manet vs Degas, the Matisse vs Picasso (in Paris), and Pollock vs de Kooning in the New York area. This book does not set out to get underneath the styles of each artist but rahter their relationships, and how they may have affected their creative impulses. This is not a story of love, but one of struggle, rivalry, and variable personalities. ( )
  vpfluke | Jan 18, 2017 |
Wow.... this is a very good book. I found the concept of rivalry (not adversarial but pushing one to be better) very fascinating. The 4 couplings were excellent. I did not know Freud and Bacon (the first couple) but there story was very well told and it was good to go first with them. Picasso and Matisse is a well known rivalry but I also did not know much about Pollock and deKooning. This last couple was well known in the 20th Century -but has faded from the collective mind so quick. The coupling of Degas and Manet drove me to purchase additional books on these artists, as well as a biography on Toulouse-Lautrec (by Frey) which is also fascinating. Well worth the read and I also purchased the book on audible and the narrator was superb (5 stars on the narration!). 5 stars on this book. ( )
  pmfloyd1 | Nov 18, 2016 |
*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 Going on to the Next. ( )
  sedelia | Aug 17, 2016 |
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In 2013, on a trip to Japan, I took a bullet train from Fukuoka to Kitakyushu to see a painting by Edgar Degas.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812994809, Hardcover)

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, and 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 took over his 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 celebrated portrait of Bacon that 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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 03 Jun 2016 11:16:43 -0400)

"Picasso & Matisse. Manet & Degas. Pollack & de Kooning. Lucian Freud & Francis Bacon. This is the story of four pairs of artists -- each linked by friendship and a spirit of competitiveness. Taken together, they form an impressive lineage stretching across more than 150 years. But in each case, these relationships had a flashpoint, a damaging psychological event that seemed to mark both an end and a new beginning, a break that led onto new creative innovations"--

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