Picasso's War Book Summary - Picasso's War Book explained in key points
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Picasso's War summary

Hugh Eakin

How Modern Art Came to America

4.7 (195 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Picasso’s War by Hugh Eakin is a non-fiction book that explores the intersections of art and politics, particularly focusing on Picasso's role during the Spanish Civil War. The book delves into the complexities of artistic expression in times of war, and the ways in which artists are influenced by their social and political contexts.

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    Picasso's War
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    A First Glimpse

    In early 1911, John Quinn stood in the small New York City art space known as 291. He was staring at a charcoal sketch known as Standing Female Nude. It was part of an exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso. The gallery was little more than a 15-square-foot loft heated by an exposed wood-burning stove. But it would go down in history as hosting the very first Picasso exhibition held in the United States.

    The pieces on display were only drawings, but they still came as a shock. Picasso was in his cubist phase – among the pioneers of the form – and many people couldn’t make heads or tails of the sharp angles and disorienting changes in perspective. Even Quinn was flummoxed by this first encounter.

    Quinn was 41 years old. He was a successful and respected lawyer by day, but he also prided himself on being at the cutting edge of culture. An Irish-American, Quinn was a well-established cultural conduit between the US, Ireland, and England. He counted the writers W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot among his friends. He often supported these artists by promoting their work, connecting them with American publishers.

    But one thing that Quinn didn’t have access to was modern art. Sadly, most Americans were still obsessed with classical work. Even late nineteenth-century post-Impressionists like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne were largely unseen by American eyes in 1911.

    So, here Quinn was, finally setting eyes on his first Picasso. And, like we said, he was flummoxed. One critic described Standing Female Nude as looking like “a fire escape, and not a good fire escape at that.” Quinn, on the other hand, wasn’t so opposed. He wasn’t fully on board yet, either, but he recognized that Picasso was doing something remarkable. Cubism wasn’t just new, it was a daring leap forward. It was also obvious to Quinn that Picasso didn’t care about public opinion. And for that reason alone, he was deeply impressed with what he saw. Now, if only he could see more.

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    What is Picasso's War about?

    Picasso’s War (2022) reveals the fascinating story behind America’s rocky relationship with modern art. It shows how a small group of individuals were able to overcome ridicule and accusations of “degenerate art” in order to turn the country into a haven for the world’s most progressive artists.

    Picasso's War Review

    Picasso's War (2020) takes a deep dive into the complex relationship between art and conflict through the lens of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores the intersection of art and war, revealing how Picasso's work reflected and responded to the tumultuous events of his time.
    • Offers unique insights into Picasso's artistic process, shedding light on the connections between his personal life and his creative output.
    • Presents a fascinating narrative that showcases the impact of war on Picasso's work, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Picasso's War?

    • History buffs
    • Fans of Pablo Picasso and modern art

    About the Author

    Hugh Eakin has been a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and is senior editor at Foreign Affairs. He’s written extensively about art and museums for such publications as the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

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    Picasso's War FAQs 

    What is the main message of Picasso's War?

    The main message of Picasso's War is the impact of war on Picasso's art and life.

    How long does it take to read Picasso's War?

    The reading time for Picasso's War varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Picasso's War a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Picasso's War is a fascinating read about the intersection of art and war. It provides valuable insights into Picasso's creative process.

    Who is the author of Picasso's War?

    The author of Picasso's War is Hugh Eakin.