When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso, and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art (Hardcover)

When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso, and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art By Matthew Algeo Cover Image

When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso, and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art (Hardcover)


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Truman and Picasso were contemporaries and were both shaped by and shapers of the great events of the twentieth century—the man who painted Guernica and the man who authorized the use of atomic bombs against civilians.
But in most ways, they couldn’t have been more different. Picasso was a communist, and probably the only thing Harry Truman hated more than communists was modern art. Picasso was an indifferent father, a womanizer, and a millionaire. Truman was utterly devoted to his family and, despite his fame, far from a rich man. How did they come to be shaking hands in front of Picasso’s studio in the south of France?
Truman’s meeting with Picasso was quietly arranged by Alfred H. Barr Jr., the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and an early champion of Picasso. Barr knew that if he could convince these two ideological antipodes, the straight-talking politician from Missouri and the Cubist painter from Málaga, to simply shake hands, it would send a powerful message, not just to reactionary Republicans pushing McCarthyism at home, but to the whole world: modern art was not evil.
Truman author Matthew Algeo retraced the Trumans’ Mediterranean vacation and visited the places they went with Picasso, including Picasso’s villa, Picasso’s ceramics studio in Vallauris, and Château Grimaldi, a museum in Antibes.
A rigorous history with a heartwarming center, When Harry Met Pablo intertwines the biographies of Truman and Picasso, the history of modern art, and twentieth-century American politics, but at its core it is the touching story of two old men who meet for the first time and realize they have more in common—and are more alike—than they ever imagined.
Matthew Algeo is the author of Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, The President Is a Sick Man, and All This Marvelous Potential. An award-winning journalist, Algeo has reported from four continents for NPR News.
When Harry Met Pablo confirms Matthew Algeo’s status as a master of microcosm history. Vividly recreating the unlikely meeting of two twentieth century titans, he transports the reader to the French Riviera, deftly balancing telling details and big-picture themes in an expertly crafted tale that captivates from the first page to the last.” —Philip White, author of Whistle Stop and Our Supreme Task, and The Leader’s Mind

“. . . an interesting, meaningful lesson in personality and history.” —Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry and Bess Truman, and author of Dear Harry, Love Bess

“Once again, Matthew Algeo has reached into the fascinating life of our thirty-third president and plucked out a gem. The unlikely matchup of Harry Truman and Pablo Picasso—two major figures of the twentieth century, makes both a page-turning story and a timely lesson for today about censorship, tolerance, and freedom of expression. With thorough reporting and lively writing, Algeo delights in the parallels, and contradictions, inherent in the meeting between the plain-speaking ex-president—no lover of modern art—and the brilliant and mercurial artist who created some of its most enduring masterworks. Along the way, he brings us a story as enjoyable as it is unexpected.” —Steve Drummond, author of The Watchdog: How the Truman Committee Battled Corruption and Helped Win World War II

“Harry Truman and Pablo Picasso were among the greatest characters of the twentieth century but couldn’t be more different: Picasso was an unapologetic Communist and the world’s most renowned Modern Artist. Truman, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, ridiculed Picasso’s talent as “Ham and Eggs.” In When Harry Met Pablo, Algeo combines tenacious research, engaging storytelling, and a quick wit to explain how and why this Cold War 'Odd Couple' enjoyed a very human moment together. To some, a picture is worth a thousand words, but in Matthew Algeo’s skilled hands, a picture of Harry Truman greeting Pablo Picasso is priceless!” —Louis L. Picone, author of Grant’s Tomb

When Harry Met Pablo is a breezy, compulsively readable account at one of the twentieth century’s most improbable encounters. It’s a stirring reminder of the importance of free expression and the power of friendship to transcend ideological differences.” —Troy Senick, author of A Man of Iron