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When Harry Met Pablo

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. Hardcover, 256 pages.

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