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The Art of Rivalry

Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. In The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists—Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon—whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights. The Art of Rivalry follows these eight celebrated artists, each linked to a counterpart by friendship, admiration, envy, and ambition. All eight are household names today. But to achieve what they did, each needed the influence of a contemporary—one who was equally ambitious but possessed sharply contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Each of these relationships culminated in an early flashpoint, a rupture in a budding intimacy that was both a betrayal and a trigger for great innovation. In this lecture held on December 4, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Smee explores how coming into one’s own as an artist—finding one’s voice—almost always involves willfully breaking away from some intimate’s expectations of who you are or ought to be