Houston Book Club Book Review - Fateless by Imre Kertesz
* Houston Book Club Book Review - Einstein Picasso:Space, Time, and the Beauty Tthat Causes Havoc by Arthur I Miller
Cover copyright - Basic Books (Perseus Group)

Meet two of the greatest minds of the 20th century .


Dr. Arthur I Miller

Photo: Jerry Bauer


Dr. Miller is the author of many books including Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, Sixty-two Years of uncertainty, and Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art.


  Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty that Causes Havoc by Arthur I Miller  

Review by Louis Hemmi - Houston Book Club


Published 2001. Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group, $17.00

Houston Book Club - http://www.HoustonBookClub.com. October, 2004 book club selection. Selected by Louis Hemmi.

Paralleling Art and Science in the 20th Century

This book's central premise is that an artist on the cutting edge shares personal and intellectual elements with a scientist working on a breakthrough. Dr. Miller parallels the lives of two seemingly disparate men. Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein contributed significantly to society's body of knowledge despite many hardships and some failures along the way. The reader comes away with a sense of the human side of these geniuses of the twentieth century.

While most of us know that Picasso was a ladies' man, Einstein was one also. A friend of his second wife Elsa wrote, "He had the kind of male beauty that especially at the beginning of the century, caused such havoc."

Picasso's (1881-1973) major innovation was cubism (French art critic Louis Vauxelles coined the term cubism), and Einstein (1879-1955) was consumed by a passion for defining aspects of electromagnetism. While his 1921 Nobel Prize for physics was for " . . . his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect," in popular culture he is probably better known for the Theory of Relativity.

Picasso's earliest works, followed by his Blue (1901-1904) and Rose (1904 - 1906) periods firmly established him as a classical artist first and foremost. Einstein can be termed a classical physicist, as he was firmly steeped in the discoveries that preceded him, providing a bridge to his innovations. While Einstein and Picasso indeed forged into uncharted territory, several others were on the cusp of doing similar work. If each had been born, say fifty years later, doubtless they would have worked on entirely different endeavors.

The Zeitgeist of the time was one of a move away from realistic, positivistic understandings. X-rays, wireless telegraphy, the airplane and the automobile blurred distinctions between the seen and the invisible, the distant and the near. What one saw was not necessarily what one got. What was once opaque became transparent. Nascent fantasy writers speculated on ways to describe dimensions greater than three, and leadership on this point was clearly exercised by mathematicians, both professional and amateur. Mathematics is the link between art and science in this confluence.

The author does a competent job of documenting the character of these two figures, and we learn much of their personal lives, including their children (acknowledged and not), Picasso's pets, and the men's' friends. Both enjoyed the camaraderie of confidants with whom they discussed philosophy. Philosophers who impressed them most included Schopenhauer for Einstein, and Nietzsche for Picasso. Einstein's favored socializing consisted of discussing philosophy, particularly Schopenhauer, with a group of friends called the "Olympic Academy."

As Picasso's friend Polinare recounted, Nietzsche called for ". . . explosive developments in art, unhindered of self expression." Nietzsche sees artists as ". . . heroic, defiant and full of eruptive sexual energy, overthrowing expected styles." This resonated in Picasso, leaving a lasting impression.

Picasso's art varied with the woman he was with, his dog, and the friends with whom he spent. For many years, though he lived in Montmartre, his French was never very good. While he did read Spanish translations of philosophy, he learned most from his friends, including Poincare and Polinare.

There is no evidence that Einstein was particularly saddened about the loss of his only daughter, born to his wife before they married. He was jobless and penniless (1900 - 1902) when Maric gave their daughter up for adoption. Einstein never laid eyes on his daughter, while all five of Picasso's children did know their father. Einstein's indigence was so severe that he suffered from malnutrition; he was troubled the rest of his life by various gastric maladies. His failure to obtain suitable employment is ascribed to personality conflicts with eminent professors and his mediocre grades.

Picasso enthusiastically embraced the media of photography and film to evolve as a cubist. In order to derive and present multiple presentations of a subject on a two-dimensional plan, he took thousands of photographs and literally sliced and pasted them together. Kandinsky and others moved on to pure abstracts (perhaps influenced a bit by Kandinsky's interest in Russian mysticism), Picasso was determined to always remain faithful to his determination of cubism as a representation of something real, enhanced by imagination. Photography was perhaps more important to him in the creative process than his vast quantities of sketches.

The best-known cubists were Picasso and Georges Braque, and they were good friends. Matisse was twelve years older, and though Picasso admired him, they were never close friends. Picasso vehemently denied that he was influenced by African art (he was often said to have borrowed ideas from African tribal masks). However, the primitive artist paints what he knows rather than just what he sees, just like Picasso.

Both Picasso and Braque were probably influenced by Paul Cézanne's landscapes. A series of their landscapes in 1908 seems to bear a resemblance to Cézanne's style. They used similar color schemes, and blurred boundaries between sky and earth.

This book is truly worth reading for those who want to learn about these two men, replete with their quirks, foibles, and peccadilloes. I enjoyed it, and spent more time rereading parts of this work than any other book in years.

Visit Louis Hemmi's Web Site - www.Hemmi.US

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Book Review by Louis Hemmi - "Einstein Picasso:Space, Time, and the Beauty that Causes Havoc"