In The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Sebastian Smee follows four relationships that changed the course of art. Each relationship – Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, De Kooning and Pollock, Freud and Bacon – was at once a competitive rivalry and an uneasy friendship. In focusing on a specific drama or turning point in each case, Smee shows how rivalry in the creative field tends to be more intimate, ambivalent, and fraught than the stereotype of sworn enemies slugging it out in a fight for preeminence would have it. This, then, is a story about seduction, yielding, resistance, the formation of identity, creative breakthroughs, and love.


Advance Praise for The Art of Rivalry

“This is a magnificent book on the relationships at the roots of artistic genius. Smee offers a gripping tale of the fine line between friendship and competition, tracing how the ties that torment us most are often the ones that inspire us most.”—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Timesbestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

 “Modern art’s major pairs of frenemies are a subject so fascinating, it’s strange to have a book on it only now—and a stroke of luck, for us, that the author is Sebastian Smee. He brings the perfect combination of artistic taste and human understanding, and a prose style as clear as spring water, to the drama and occasional comedy of men who inspired and annoyed one another to otherwise inexplicable heights of greatness.”—Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker

“Beautifully written . . . This ambitious and impressive work is an utterly absorbing read about four important relationships in modern art.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The keynotes of Sebastian Smee’s criticism have always included a fine feeling for the what of art—he knows how to evoke the way pictures really strike the eye—and an equal sense of the how of art: how art emerges from the background of social history. To these he now adds a remarkable capacity for getting down the who of art—the enigma of artists’ personalities, and the way that, two at a time, they can often intersect to reshape each in the other’s image. With these gifts all on the page together, The Art of Rivalry gives us a remarkable and engrossing book on pretty much the whole of art.”—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and The Table Comes First

“A fresh and fruitful approach to art history . . . [Sebastian] Smee’s double portraits are deeply moving, even haunting in their investigations of artistic and emotional symbioses of incalculable intricacy and consequence.”Booklist (starred review)

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