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Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) Hardcover – May 26, 2013
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One of Financial Times (FT.com) Best Art Books of 2013
Shortlisted for the Apollo Awards Book of the Year 2013, Apollo Magazine
"[B]rain-expanding but embracing, too. . . . T. J. Clark's Picasso and Truth [will] be with me for a good long time."--Jonathan Lethem, New York Times Book Review
"Clark is very good at pointing out in detail the complex and radical ways in which Picasso's paintings were conceived. He discusses a number of individual works . . . with admirable awareness of their complexity, and the book is full of acute observations."--Jack Flam, Times Literary Supplement
"Eloquent, confrontational and often disarmingly simple, Clark's writing moves quickly between levels, the metaphors heavy, the descriptions light."--Malcolm Bull, London Review of Books
"[M]asterful. . . . [E]xquisite prose. . . . This satisfyingly rigorous book is grounded in Picasso's paintings and drawings throughout."--Publishers Weekly
"At his best, he is, simply, brilliant. At his worst, he is also brilliant."--Kevin Jackson, Literary Review
"[T]hrilling. . . . Thus space becomes an arena for truth-telling after all: a conclusion with optimistic implications for the legacies we can still seek in 20th-century art if we explore, as Clark does with supreme insight, the meeting ground between art and politics."--Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
"His prose is abundant with tantalising aphorisms and observations. Some are sparkling asides but more often they act as spurs that encourage us to look more closely and less complacently at Picasso's work. . . . The book's lavish production values make for excellent reproductions of the paintings, and its copious illustrations include many cropped details as well as an imaginative range of image comparisons. . . . [Clark] is rare, among contemporary art historians."--Thomas Marks, Daily Telegraph
"Few living art historians have T.J. Clark's ability to make us look afresh at canonical artists and rethink the intellectual content and context of their works. In this study, Clark approaches Picasso taking Nietzsche as his guide; eschewing biographical criticism, he offers bold close readings of the paintings from the 1920s and '30s, and plots their trajectory from the optimism of Cubism to a style that is knowingly dark and monstrous."--Apollo Magazine
"[A]n intellectual high-wire act, commanding, compelling, thought-provoking . . . thrilling. . . . Picasso and Truth is a magisterial work: in many ways a summation. It retains its character as a spoken text; it is full of marvellous obiter dicta."--Alex Danchev, Times Higher Education
From the Inside Flap
"No art historian in our time has had a greater impact both within the field and beyond it than T. J. Clark. Everything he writes matters in the most fundamental way. His latest book,Picasso and Truth, is no exception--superbly observed, beautifully argued, a tour de force of looking, thinking, and writing."--Michael Fried, author ofThe Moment of Caravaggio
"This is the Picasso book for which we have all been waiting. This work displaces biographical and psychological treatments of the artist from the past several decades, rendering them obsolete--and it forever changes art history in its present disposition."--Rosalind E. Krauss, Columbia University
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Clark's forte lies in his tenacious analysis of individual paintings, revealing a vein of wit and verbal acuity rarely found in the often stodgy world of art-historical writing. Somewhat summarily, the writer relegates the main run of Picasso criticism to the realm of gossip, a focus on Picasso's amorous exploits and public posture. His aim is to raise the level, and in the analysis of individual works he has done so with great panache. You will not be bored reading this book.
Yet difficulties arise at the theoretical level, above all with the problematic notion of "truth." While he never states this commitment explicitly, Clark seems to adhere to the Correspondence Theory of Truth, the idea that it means adherence to empirical reality. In art this standard would appear to accord with the naturalism of Renaissance painting. Yet as earlier writers, notably Erwin Panofsky and E. H. Gombrich, have shown, Renaissance verisimilitude depends on a series of devices that trick the eye. The result is not truth but illusion.
However defined, truth seems to rank as something of an idée fixe for Clark. On page 150 he mysteriously asserts of Cubism that "truth was still its god." The closest that Picasso seems to have come to this view was his praise of "exactitude," which is not the same thing. In this insistence on the criterion of truth, I sense a certain defensiveness, a response to the philistine view that art does not matter. "See," he seems to be saying, "art does matter. It reflects a quest for truth."
Clark does not discuss the more ambitious (but murky) concepts of truth in painting advanced by Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida. Instead, he relies on Friedrich Nietzsche, a fashionable guru these days, but a figure who does not turn out to be very helpful in this book. Perhaps the German thinker would served writer's purpose better had he immersed himself in today's lively Nietzsche scholarship, especially in the realm of aesthetics. Clearly he has not.
Clark's book on Manet suffers the same major lapse: Throughout that book Monet is the fall guy to Manet's originality and social relevance whereas I find it impossible not to experience Monet as modern, radical and cutting edge.
I do look forward to the book on Cezanne that Clark is currently working on. 20 years ago his essay on Cezanne's materialism represented a high water mark.
Since he is an academician, this book is very analytical and a bit mechanical. He puts the environmental facts of those years and Picasso's life and challenges with woman and his work aside, (meaning outside of the equation) and only focuses on facts gathered from his paintings, Nietzsche and some personal opinions. This can be due to his academic identity. He needed to narrow the subject as possible as it can be in order to open a space to his mechanical argumentation. But Personally I can not agree that this approach can lead to accurate generalizations. This is where I do not support some of the argumentation he presents. Another thing that I did not liked was the tone of his voice on Picasso as an artist. He sounds mostly as if Picasso was not a great artist at all. Which I believe highly misleading and manipulative in such an academic study. Still it is good book for the objective minds to learn about Picasso. You can even read it to find out which parts you would agree and parts you do not agree. Good Value, Good Purchase.