His schooling was at St Peter’s College, Adelaide followed by the University of Sydney where he graduated with honours in Fine Arts in 1994. Sebastian Smee’s career was off to a brilliant start. The glittering prizes have just kept coming. He wrote on the visual arts for a number of publications here before basing himself in London from 2001 to 2004, returning to be National Art Critic for the Australian. In 2008 a move to the United States took him to the Boston Globe. In his first year there he was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Then in 2011, Smee won the Pulitzer with a glowing citation: ‘vivid and exuberant writing about art, often bringing great works of art to life with love and appreciation’.
Sebastian Smee has published several books about Lucien Freud with whom he became friendly during his time in London. Random House has now published his latest book The Art of Rivalry in which Smee describes the friendships between four pairs of artists; friendships which were sources of inspiration to the point of major breakthroughs, but also betrayals. His pairs of painters are: Matisse & Picasso, Manet & Degas, Pollock & de Kooning, and Freud & Bacon. These friendship were highly charged with admiration and envy, and some sexual tension. Smee’s writing is vivid and engaging, informed by his artistic judgement and a warmth of human understanding. The Art of Rivalry is a cracker of a book.
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