Selling Modernism"" would be a better title for this narrow-focus art-historical study of Picasso's business relations with...


MAKING MODERNISM: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth-Century Art

Selling Modernism"" would be a better title for this narrow-focus art-historical study of Picasso's business relations with his art dealers. FitzGerald (Fine Art/Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.) worked for a stint in the department of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's. Using this market perspective as a mode of art-historical analysis, he offers the thesis that 20th-century modernism and avant-gardism developed hand-in-hand with the support of dealers and speculative collectors -- and that the major artists of these movements were far from naive about the market. In Picasso he finds a cagey and manipulative entrepreneur who plotted his career in cahoots with two powerful dealers, Paul Rosenberg and Georges Wildenstein. Later, he is shown emerging from his co-development of Analytic Cubism with Georges Braque into a more accessible style, Neoclassicism. Likewise, his public persona shifted, as he moved from relative bohemian poverty into grand Parisian living quarters filled with Impressionist paintings and antiques. FitzGerald details a period from the 1920s until WW II in which Picasso worked closely with his dealers to plan a series of publications and exhibitions in Europe and the US. With a steady escalation in his prices and international prestige, Picasso's crowning achievement came with his 1939 retrospective at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, organized by Alfred Barr. FitzGerald's reconstruction of the time is made credible by its focus on specifics: correspondences, diaries, attention to the pricing schedules of individual paintings and their subsequent provenances. Generous footnotes are crammed with facts about exhibitions, lenders, sales, etc. Some 81 illustrations combine reproductions of well-known works with lesser studies, portrait commissions, and even photographs of Picasso's personal account ledgers. In all, a thoroughly researched work that nicely augments John Richardson's Life of Picasso. Art history refreshingly specific in scope and not weighed down by leaden polemics. So esoteric, though, as to fatigue general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995


Page Count: 320

Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995