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Book Review: The Art of Rivalry

Book Review: The Art of Rivalry

I just finished the book, The Art of Rivalry and found it to present some valuable lessons for artists.

The book follows 4 important artistic relationships:

  • Freud and Bacon
  • Manet and Degas
  • Picasso and Matisse
  • de Kooning and Pollock

An obvious issue here is they're all men but the author addresses that at the beginning of the book which I appreciated.

For each set of artists, the author gives a brief history of the artists upbringing, experience in art-making and continues with each pair until their death. This provides a profile of the artist beyond the years they interacted with each other and adds depth to the book. The author mentions the people who both artists knew and provide evidence on that individual's influence. This includes spouses, children, and critics. The author also provides context on why certain pieces were seeing success in their time. 

There's a ton of information in this book but the author does a good job of keeping it engaging and easy to follow. Additionally, I found it helpful that it was broken down into the 4 pairs of artists. It provided natural stopping points.

I also appreciated how the author handled "rivalry" in this book. He addressed all aspects of these complex relationships from competition and jealousy to admiration and inspiration. It wasn't a book of conflicts but instead about artistic growth. The book was more inspiring than conflicting. That I think is the main lesson I think artists can gain from it. Don't dismiss other artists or see them as a force working against you. Instead, enjoy healthy competition balanced with thoughtful discourse.

After all, at the end of the day all artists are in this thing together... trying to create, share, and defend the importance of art.

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