Was Picasso the artist of the twentieth century? In Picasso and Truth, T. J. Clark uses his inimitable skills as art historian and writer to answer this question and reshape our understanding of Picasso's achievement. Supported by more than 200 images, Clark's new approach to the central figure of modern art focuses on Picasso after the First World War: his galumphing nudes of the early 1920s, the incandescent Guitar and Mandolin on a Table from 1924, Three Dancers done a year later, the hair-raising Painter and Model from 1927, the monsters and voracious bathers that follow, and finally--summing up but also saying farewell to the age of Cubism--the great mural Guernica.
Based on Clark's A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, delivered at the National Gallery of Art, Picasso and Truth argues that the way to take Picasso's true measure as an artist is to leave behind biography--the stale stories of lovers and hangers-on and suntans at the beach that presently constitute the "Picasso literature"--and try to follow the steps of his pictorial argument. As always with Clark, specific works of art hold center stage. But finding words for them involves thinking constantly about modern culture in general. Here the book takes Nietzsche as guide.
Is Picasso the artist Nietzsche was hoping for--the one come to cure us of our commitment to Truth? Certainly, as the dark central years of the twentieth century encroached, Picasso began to lose confidence in Cubism's comprehensiveness and optimism. Picasso and Truth charts this shift in vivid detail, making it possible for us to see Picasso turn away from eyesight, felt proximity, and the ground of shared experience--the warmth and safety that Clark calls "room-space"--to stake everything on a glittering, baffling, unbelievable here and now. And why? Because the most modernity can hope for from art, Picasso's new paintings seem to say, is a picture of the strange damaged world we have made for ourselves. In all its beauty and monstrosity.
T. J. Clark is George C. and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Art History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Painting of Modern Life (Princeton), The Sight of Death, and Farewell to an Idea, and the coauthor of (with "Retort") Afflicted Powers.
"[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
Table of Contents:
Lecture 1 Object 23
Lecture 2 Room 59
Lecture 3 Window 111
Lecture 4 Monster 147
Lecture 5 Monument 191
Lecture 6 Mural 235
Photography and Copyright Credits 311
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