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Success and Failure of Picasso [Hardcover]

John Berger


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Book Description

April 1980
A critical assessment of Picasso and his work. This book is part biography - the book follows his life and work and childhood in Spain through Guernica to France - and part critical study.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, "A Painter of Our Time", was published in 1958, & since then his books have included the novel "G.", which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, & he now lives in a small village in the French Alps.

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is now wealthier and more famous than any other artist who has ever lived. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's a genius anyway? 9 Feb 2001
By "tksc" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
John Berger is a critic with a real sense of decency: never too high-falutin, smart and responsible. He asks us to see beautiful objects, not in their staid isolation in the museum setting, but in the context of social history. It is obvious that Picasso was a genius. He saw and drew things that evoke wonders and passions. But is that all?
The central essay here is "The Moment of Cubism." Berger paints a general portrait of a distinct era of possibility: artistic and social and political. The explosion of Cubism is but a moment in a larger moment of real revolution. Not just "ways of seeing" but ways of living, thinking, hoping. Berger reminds us that Picasso needed the times (Europe), he also, more specifically needed friends and support. After all, there were two who brought forth cubism; moreover, there were the likes of Cezanne.
Berger asks the question that is overlooked in the constant reverence of Picasso's potency (echoing Benjamin Buchloh on the "ciphers of regression"): was Picasso genius throughout his career or was that moment (historical and aesthetic) the real genius?
(For more on Berger, read his two inspired novels: "G." and "To the Wedding.")
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, unusual points of view 6 Mar 2011
By piverba - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Berger is not your mainstream art critic. He is an independent thinker and is nobody's fool. You may find his Marxist rhetoric somewhat dated and his references to bourgeois class even silly, but his style is strong, he's informed intellectual with whom you may disagree but will respect and, if you opened, will learn few things.

Berger attributes Picasso failure (assuming you know where Picasso had succeeded) to his selection of inferior subject matter. Being of Marxist's creed, Berger would prefer for Picasso to select his subjects from a set of social problems which will connect him to a 'working class', a nation, or a movement, rather than be confined to a personal expressions. He's OK with his blue-pink period of 'being a social outcast' and considers his cubist period as his best. He also finds the merit in his work of post-war years and sees his work in decline starting from fifties. His accusations are not completely groundless but are disputable. His astute criticism of cubism, its connection with natural sciences, quantum mechanics, its simultaneity of multiple views as a way or organizing information, these are the most interesting passages I enjoyed.

I like Berger's dissenting views as a stimuli for discussion. He will not bow to the overwhelming Picasso admiration and is not afraid to provides critique that alone drives our knowledge forward. I found his book interesting and useful.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Picasso books 24 Mar 2012
By Careful Buyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book offers a different view of Picasso's life and work. Some of John Berger's insights are profound, some are revolutionary, some are radical. and many are brilliant ('although I don't think Berger would necessarily enjoy my use of the word "brilliant"). If you are interested in the 20th century's most influential visual artist this is a "must read."
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