A Sum of Destructions - Staller, Natasha - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

A Sum of Destructions

Picasso's Cultures and the Creation of Cubism

  • Natasha Staller
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Out of Print.

Named a Choice Magazine 2003 Outstanding Academic Title of the Year 

Winner of  the Eleanor Tufts Award of The American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies, "For a distinguished publication on the arts of Iberia."

Was a Finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award of the College Art Association, which "honors an especially distinguished book in the history of art" 

In this groundbreaking book, Natasha Staller closely examines 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 Málaga, where he spent his first ten years, to La Coruña, Barcelona, and finally to Paris, where he moved as a young man. Picasso’s most fundamental attitudes, she contends, all were formed in Málaga. 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 boldly illuminates what Cubism’s radical attributes meant in historical and culturally specific terms. With vivid detail, she analyzes an unprecedented range of new, often archival, materials—from coded messages señoritas sent with fans to ritual re-enactments of holy wars, from enchanted characters of fairy tales to superstitions, bullfighting treatises, provincial art-school manuals, three-minute films, and Picasso’s childhood works saved by his parents from the time he was nine.

A Sum of Destructions offers a new appreciation of Picasso’s extraordinary ability to recast his cultural past as he grappled with his avant-garde present—to create stunningly original images, the most historically decisive of his life. Staller reinterprets major works from Demoiselles to Suze, and beyond, along the way transforming our understanding of both Picasso and his Cubist art.

Natasha Staller is Professor and Chair of the Department of Fine Arts, Amherst College.