Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica by T J Clark - review by Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson

We Need to Talk about Pablo

Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica


Princeton University Press 329pp £29.95

Philip Larkin, who hated artistic modernism with a passion that bordered on (or sometimes crossed the border into) rage, blamed the whole ghastly mess on the three Ps: Ezra Pound, Charlie Parker and Pablo Picasso. Between them, these rotters had taken things that used to be nice – poetry, jazz and painting – and made them thoroughly nasty. ‘I dislike such things not because they are new, but because they are irresponsible exploitations of technique in contradiction of human life as we know it.’ Worse still, he went on, the three Ps had bred a new class of academic shysters and trendy fools who made cushy lives for themselves by peddling the nonsense that these P-artists were in fact the greatest talents of the age.

Larkin’s views on the matter are probably still shared by a great many commonsensical folk around the Western world, and though his present-day epigones are seldom as sharp and funny as Larkin himself (Pound’s apt phrase ‘senile slobber’ comes to mind), the Larkin line still deserves not to be dismissed

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