Third Place Books welcomes Matthew Algeo to our Ravenna store! Algeo will be discussing his new book, When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso, and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art, on how the two contemporaries were both shaped by and shapers of the great events of the twentieth century. This event is free and open to the public.
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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.
“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
“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
Matthew Algeo is an award-winning journalist and author. He has reported from four continents for NPR News and is the author of seven books. His latest book is When Harry Met Pablo: Truman, Picasso, and the Cold War Politics of Modern Art. In addition to reporting and writing, Algeo has held jobs as a convenience store clerk, a gas station attendant, a Halloween costume salesman, and a proofreader. He also worked in a traveling circus (as a hot dog vendor; no acrobatics involved). Algeo holds a degree in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. His wife, Allyson, is a United States Foreign Service officer. They currently live in Arlington, Virginia with their daughter, Zaya.
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