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Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica (The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) Hardcover – 26 May 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (26 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691157413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691157412
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 18.9 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review


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



"[C]ompelling."--Michael Prodger,
Apollo



[I]mpressively illustrated."--Jacob Willer, Standpoint



"[C]hallenging and enlightening."--John Seed, Huffington Post



"Lovely to look at and better to read, T.J. Clark's Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica serves as a reliable introduction to the work of an essential 20th-century artist and a reassessment (and reordering) of his myth and legend. . . . Clark is a remarkably insightful looker and a writer of superb subtlety. Besides, it is beautifully--and aptly--illustrated."--Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette



"Clark's new book is brilliant, lofty and seductively serious."--Jonathan Jones, Guardian



"[A] tightly woven, scrupulously investigated, carefully considered argument. . . . [T]hrilling. . . . There are many wondrous and beautiful things about this volume, starting with the gorgeous array of pictures. . . . But more striking even than the physical book is the directness and intimacy of prose. . . . [O]ne of the best books Clark has ever written."--Wendy Lesser, Threepenny Review/Lesser Blog



"[A] close pictorial reading through detailed and painstaking descriptions of pictorial elements elusively combined with primary sources. Lavishly illustrated, both in terms of artworks and photographic archival material his narrative becomes easier to follow, considering the elegant descriptions of colour and structure elements in Picasso's work."--Art History Supplement


"[A] serious accomplishment."--Fisun Guner, Independent



"T.J. Clark's Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica marks a new summit in the mountain range of Picasso literature. . . . He walks the reader through analyses of paintings so searching and so mindful of overlapping intellectual frames of reference as to offer a new model of practice to critics and art historians. Its sophistication may make aspiring imitators despair. . . . Possibly only a reader who has tried to write about art will appreciate the achievement of thought and articulation in such a passage. The book contains many of them, along with sometimes inch-by-inch readings of pictures that startle by their ingenuity and aptness."--Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle



"Clark has written another exciting and insightful study. . . . [D]eeply informed. Clark is one of those thinkers . . . who contextualizes art history so coherently in the wider world that he is endlessly instructive."--Miriam Cosic, Australian



"T. J. Clark's new book Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica . . . immediately has my complete interest, if not my total heart. . . . Certainly no one disabused more notions of what was possible in painting than Pablo Picasso. And no one is quite as equipped to parse this disabuse as T. J. Clark. . . . Along with being a brilliant thinker, Clark is a greatly entertaining writer. . . . Clark has an acute sense of clarify coupled with a like sense of rhythm, cadence and measure. He doesn't just know how to think about this stuff, he knows how to get it down in a lively and gripping way. . . . This caliber of art appreciation and assessment entails a well-trained capacity for looking, and Clark is an exceptional art 'looker' and . . . a great art describer. . . . Clark is especially compelling on how Picasso treats space. . . . T. J. Clark reenergized the artist for me."--Guy Crucianelli, PopMatters



"[A]n overall analysis of Picasso's art that is both scholarly and highly personal. . . . It must be one of the most intimidating challenges for any art historian to come up with new insights into Picasso's art, but Clark, through intuition and intellect, succeeds. . . . The key to this book's success is that the author responds to the art in the way Picasso probably intended, with his head and his heart. He is able to read these paintings from an objective descriptive stance but also with real feeling and empathy for the subject, a rare combination in art history."--Peter Murray, Irish Examiner



"Clark weaves his way through Picasso's process, nimbly leaps over the landmines of strict biographical interpretation, and arrives finally at a complex, challenging, but coherent concept of how Picasso found truth in a closed room and spent the rest of his life trying to find it again. . . . It's a major intellectual and emotional investment to follow Clark following Picasso's journey . . . but the payoff of seeing Guernica and Picasso through Clark's memory bank of interpretation is well worth the price. . . . Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, despite (and sometimes because of) the enormity of its subject matter, leaves you with more than enough to believe in at the end."--Bob Duggan, Big Think



"[A]mazing. . . . [S]uch a great piece of history."--Jonathan Lethem, Boston Globe



"Clark's study marks a new summit in the mountain range of Picasso literature."--San Francisco Chronicle



"Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, by TJ Clark (Princeton), is the best thing in a long time on this still contentious painter. Whether or not you agree with Clark's take on Picasso, you will not look at his paintings in quite the same way ever again."--John Banville, Observer



"[T]his six-essay volume offers an intellectually rigorous, novel approach to the well-studied oeuvre of Picasso. Eschewing the historiographer's inclination to focus on biography, Clark's lectures rely on a primarily a pictorial framework to analyze Picasso's work. . . . [U]nparalleled scholarship . . ."--Choice



"[C]hallenging but vastly rewarding."--Apollo Magazine



"[Clark's] analysis is to be welcomed and this volume contains much that can be drawn on over time."--Lucy Zhou, Cassone Art



"[A]n exemplary lesson in art criticism and the significance of the act of looking."--Manuel Borja-Villel, Artforum



"Picasso and Truth offers a breathtaking and original new look at the most significant artist of the modern era."--World Book Industry



"[B]eautiful."--Tikkun



"[D]azzling. . . . There have been numerous attempts in the past to associate Nietzsche with Picasso, but Clark's engagement is considerably richer and more sustained. . . . To make a philosophical text illuminate painting so evocatively, to such wonderful degrees, is a signal achievement."--Neil Cox, Burlington Magazine



"[T]his book has changed how I will look at all paintings from now on. . . . [I]t is difficult to describe this book as anything less than astounding. . . . In its astute observations, application of philosophical thought combined with a beautifully readable and engaging style, Picasso and Truth is, undoubtedly, Clark's."--Daniel Fraser, 3:AM Magazine

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 of The 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
The great irony in this monumental and superlative effort of TJ Clark's is that Picasso was adamant his work should not be subject to multiple interpretations. "Only fools" would think that what he (and Braque) did was abstract. Instead, Picasso called it "exactitude". "There is no painting or drawing of mine that does not respond exactly to a view of the world." And yet, here we have a six part lecture examining the possibilities in interpreting Picasso, and defending premises and conclusions as if they were scientific theories, with all the attendant proofs. It's ironic that exactitude requires so much speculation. Picasso would not approve.

The book prints the 58th annual AW Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (2009). Clark has collected his lectures, fully illustrated with the works he examines. He reprints them as he talks about them, which makes flipping back and forth much less onerous. He zooms in to portions of paintings as needed. And his lectures are nicely divided and largely independent.

Clark seems to have lived to present these lectures. He made notes over decades. He is totally comfortable with his subject. He can say things like "I think the work of art is the product of calculations, but calculations often unknown by the artist himself," and it is completely believable. Or "Every age has the atheism it deserves" and you read on. Or "Cubism was the last of the nineteenth century's historical revivals," and you wonder. So the journey is both challenging and fascinating.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hover on 9 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written, albeit somewhat regressive in its use of weak and establishment poets like Larkin. The grim influence of national newspapers, journals and live media continues here. Clark is best when talking about visual art.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Astute analysis, disappointing theory 30 July 2013
By Wayne Dynes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This impressively produced volume concentrates on Picasso's work from about 1920 to 1937. There are some comparisons with works from the classical Cubist period (1907-1916), but none at all with the products of the last few decades of the master's career, where Clark seems tacitly to endorse Clement Greenberg's view that that concluding phase reveals a significant falling-off in aesthetic quality.

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.
44 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Speak truth to power 14 May 2013
By David Wineberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The great irony in this monumental and superlative effort of TJ Clark's is that Picasso was adamant his work should not be subject to multiple interpretations. "Only fools" would think that what he (and Braque) did was abstract. Instead, Picasso called it "exactitude". "There is no painting or drawing of mine that does not respond exactly to a view of the world." And yet, here we have a six part lecture examining the possibilities in interpreting Picasso, and defending premises and conclusions as if they were scientific theories, with all the attendant proofs. It's ironic that exactitude requires so much speculation. Picasso would not approve.

The book prints the 58th annual AW Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (2009). Clark has collected his lectures, fully illustrated with the works he examines. He reprints them as he talks about them, which makes flipping back and forth much less onerous. He zooms in to portions of paintings as needed. And his lectures are nicely divided and largely independent.

Clark seems to have lived to present these lectures. He made notes over decades. He is totally comfortable with his subject. He can say things like "I think the work of art is the product of calculations, but calculations often unknown by the artist himself," and it is completely believable. Or "Every age has the atheism it deserves" and you read on. Or "Cubism was the last of the nineteenth century's historical revivals," and you wonder. So the journey is both challenging and fascinating.

The six lectures are:
Object (Blue Room, Composition)
Room (Guitar and Mandolin)
Window (Young Girls Dancing In Front of a Window)
Monsters (Painter & His Model)
Monument (Women by the sea)
Mural (Guernica)

There is an entire lecture on the painting, Painter and His Model (1927), where Clark demonstrates unfathomable effort and research. He examines every element of the painting; even its dimensions are significant. He relates it to philosophers and psychoanalysts, quotes Picasso's friends and acquaintances for clues, and poses endless possibilities, questions and charges regarding this one painting of a room with a painter and model. They are typically cubistically grotesque, which leads Clark into all kinds of theorizing about sexuality and violence. The painting is overlain by two large yellow transparent cubist shapes that cause him no end of almost frustrated speculation. Clark goes on about them for pages, regarding their color, shape, placement and raison d'etre. The amount of thought and consideration that went into this analysis is staggering. It's intimidating when I consider that I spend less than two minutes in front of masterpieces in museums.

But when I look at Painter and His Model I see a room which at some point earlier had been occupied by a painter and a model. That's why they alone are simply black outlines (including the easel, canvas and palette). They're not there now. The yellow shapes are our eyes, our glasses, allowing us to see the empty room occupied in the past. This is a cinematic flashback scene. Really simple to understand. It's a perfect example of the exactitude Picasso described. To me.

I also found the Guernica discussion misleading. Picasso clearly put the disaster indoors. You can see the joint where the walls meet the ceiling, and there is a ceiling fixture with a bare bulb shining. It says Guernica happened in private and no one knew about it. It was denied. It also says the inhabitants were trapped there. Clark prefers to deny what he sees. He explains it as a conundrum of Cubism, with exterior being unacceptable, with the ceiling also being rooftop, and several other such theories. But it is what Picasso painted.

I did not know that Picasso denied viewers of his work any interpretation. But now that I do know, it suddenly became clear to me that his work is directly related to the other great innovative art of the day - atonal classical music. Mahler, Bartok, Stravinsky, Schoenberg - all created music for musicians, as firmly, rigidly and arrogantly as classical music could be. They didn't write it for the public. They didn't want interpretation; they made statements. (See my review of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century)

Picasso was the visual counterpart of modern classical. He expressed exactly the same arrogance in talking about his work. For all the self-declared exactitude of his art, the viewing public faced an infinite number of choices/interpretations, because the work didn't communicate clearly. Instead, Picasso stated it. So at that level, he failed. In a sense, this whole book examines that failure.

He was trying to find himself as a unique artist at a time when music was taking off into uncharted waters, and he caught that wave. When it proved less than he had hoped, he dropped it and moved on, consolidating his newfound trademarked style. For all of Clark's attempts to associate him with the Germanic philosophers of the day - Wittgenstein, Kant, Nietzsche - I think Picasso probably related more to trailblazing musical artists. So I disagree that "Cubism was the last of the nineteenth century's historical revivals." It was an experiment, a land grab, and a power play.

Clark's own choice of words - arrogance, belligerence, monsters, absolute, infantile - points to this conclusion, but he sticks with his multi-faceted, patchwork approach to Picasso, leaving nothing answered decisively. Which is fine, valid, and enlightening.

Clearly, I am no art historian. Some semi-profound expert must have come to this same conclusion 80 years ago - and was probably debunked 79 years ago. But it seems clear to me, and answers a lifetime of questions. And it does not detract one daub from my thrill of reading this book. I thank TJ Clark for forcing me to think it through.

In the end, Picasso and Truth is not so much a trip into the extraordinary mind of Picasso as discovering the extraordinary mind of TJ Clark. Definitely worth the trip.

David Wineberg
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
T. J. Clark is a megalomaniac 20 May 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine book which focuses on a deep but somewhat narrow range of Picasso's art. Picasso is many things but Clark's insistence that a biographical approach to the art is worse than superficial suffers from a certain unreality. There are many periods in Picasso's art where the current woman in his life works as a formative influence on the art. Clark's emphatic denial of this has an aspect of "superbia" about it.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Informative and Enjoyable Read 17 April 2014
By Christopher Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading this book is like sitting through a delightful discussion, or better yet, touring a gallery with an informed source. Unlike a lot of other books on Picasso, this is not a biography, nor is it a definitive interpretation of his work, style, or motives.

Rather, the author walks us through a sampling of Picasso's pieces, offering interpretation and posing questions along the way. Thus, instead of telling us what 'truth' or 'answer' is, the author surmises some of this, but also poses questions which gets us thinking on our own. While some of this comes across as the author thinking out loud, it reminds us that he is not proposing to have all the answers or trying to shape our final opinion.

This book contains a good sampling of Picasso's works, and though it is more of a 'text' than 'art' book, the reproductions are actually quite good. I also like that the author didn't stick with the famous and popular pieces by Picasso, but also zeroed-in on those I am not familiar with.

The book concludes with a whole chapter devoted to Guernica, Picasso's 1937 masterpiece which is on permanent display in Madrid at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (where it basically has its own room). There are many volumes written about Guernica (my favorite being the book, GUERNICA by Gijs van Hensbergen, 2004), but this author takes a nice approach, trying to balance a) history at the time, b) the making of Guernica, c) the interpretation by others about the piece, and d) the role of the characters.

Anyhow, this was an enjoyable and eye-opening book. There are only a few reviews here, and some aren't that flattering. Even so, I encourage you to put that aside and take the time to read this book. I'm not an expert on Picasso, but this book has helped to round out some of my perceptions of his work. I'm heading back to Barcelona in a few months and this book will add to my experience of seeing Picasso's work first-hand.

Even so, my own opinion is that you need to experience Picasso on-site, by touring Museo Picasso in Barcelona and seeing his work, progression, and style in full-scale. If you're striving for insight or interpretation, it also helps to have a solid understanding of Picasso's life (and I do mean from early childhood on), which is well-captured in John Richardson's volumes (lengthy, but highly readable and accessible). We may never fully grasp an artist such as Picasso, but it is fun trying to put the pieces together.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Mechanical criticism of Picasso 11 Aug 2014
By Ali Erdogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a great book for the ones who are looking for more in-dept criticism of one of the most popular and successful painter of all time.
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.
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