The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art

Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists—Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon—whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. It is a story about rivalry among artists. Not the kind of rivalry that grows out of hatred and dislike, but rather, rivalry that emerges from admiration, friendship, love. The kind of rivalry that existed between Degas and Manet, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. These were some of the most famous and creative relationships in the history of art, driving each individual to heights of creativity and inspiration, and provoking them to despair, jealousy and betrayal. Matisse’s success threatened Picasso so much that his friends would throw darts at a portrait of his rival’s beloved daughter Marguerite, shouting ‘there’s one in the eye for Matisse!’ And Willem de Kooning’s twisted friendship with Jackson Pollock didn’t stop him taking up with his friend’s lover barely a year after Pollock’s fatal car crash.