The art of rivalry : four friendships, betrayals, and breakthroughs in modern art

by Sebastian Smee

Hardcover, 2016




New York : Random House, 2016.


"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"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member pmfloyd1
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member vpfluke
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member drmaf
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member jasoncomely
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.


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