Cover image for A sum of destructions : Picasso's cultures & the creation of Cubism
A sum of destructions : Picasso's cultures & the creation of Cubism
Staller, Natasha Elena.
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Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 438 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
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N6853.P5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

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In this groundbreaking book, Natasha Staller examines closely for the first time the complex and intricate dialogue between Picasso and the multiple cultures of his early life. Staller argues that to a degree never before imagined Picasso's revolutionary Cubism was saturated with his past - inspired in part by competing and colliding images, myths and ideas from a series of cultural legacies. She tracks Picasso on his odyssey through cultures: from Malaga, where he spent his first ten years, to La Coruna, Barcelona and finally to Paris, where he moved as a young man. Picasso's most fundamental attitudes, she contends, were all formed in Malaga. Yet Cubism could not have been invented had he not moved to Paris. Each culture became a prism through which he viewed the next; in each case he actively transformed what he found. Staller boldy illuminates what Cubism's radical attributes meant in historical and culturally specific terms. With vivid detail, she analyses an unprecedented range of new, often archival, materials - from coded messages senoritas sent with fans to ritual re-enactments of holy wars, from enchanted characters of fairy tales to superstitions, bullfighting treatises,

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Staller views "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and the creation of Cubism as a defiant summation of Picasso's reactions to and interactions with his environment, beginning with M laga, where he was born, then La Corusa, Barcelona, and eventually Paris. Drawing on 20 years of research, she investigates the backgrounds of each of these places from a social and anthropological point of view. In her attempt to discover the background that eventually created the "Demoiselles" and Cubism, she provides details on such topics as early moviemaking, coded messages and gamesmanship, the Moors' relationship to Spain, Picasso's fascination with fetishisms, and the body language of fans, parasols, and handkerchiefs. However, in her effort to portray Picasso, the enfant terrible, she minimizes the supportive role of Braque, whom Picasso referred to as his wife in Cubism. She also omits Picasso's Saffron, Blue, and Pink periods and almost ignores Picasso's love/hate relationship with Matisse and the Steins, which may have been the main impetus for the creation of "Demoiselles." Still, Staller succeeds in capturing a Picasso who gave as good as he got and left behind a legacy under continuous exploration. The result is a unique, provocative, and enjoyable portrait of one of the most controversial painters in the history of 20th-century art. Recommended for large public libraries and all modern and European art book collections. Ellen Bates, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Although the literature on Picasso is vast, there is always room for fresh approaches and new insights. Staller's contribution is eminently original, scholarly impressive, deftly organized, and beautifully written. Her richly dense text, endnotes, and bibliography demonstrate her academic methodologies and strengths, and her writing is caressingly germane to her material, whether it is biography, object analysis, or cultural contexts. An enthusiastic proponent of the essential importance of Picasso's early years to his Cubist and subsequent creations, Staller (Amherst College) has been engaged in her research since the early 1980s. She has digested a vast amount of secondary and primary material, several examples of the latter being numerous archives and a plethora of contemporary journals. Rather than being overwhelmed by her material, Staller has deftly sifted through it to produce proof after proof and example after example to support her major thesis that Picasso's mature works cannot be understood unless the array of his early influences, such as religion, folklore, and popular culture, are thoroughly examined. Eight major chapters survey Cubism as related to Picasso's oeuvre. Notes; photography credits; nearly 330 images, many in color. Well-produced, reasonably priced, and of great importance to the Picasso literature. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. Weidman Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art