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June 30, 2002

To the editor:

In his otherwise shrewd dissection of Anthony Blunt (April 21) and Miranda Carter's excellent biography of that mole among the royals, "Anthony Blunt: His Lives," Christopher Hitchens asserts that "Blunt's insistence on the primacy of the aesthetic trumped all his other loyalties: He could never bring himself to praise Picasso's 'Guernica' even when the party line might have mandated otherwise."

This simply isn't true. Blunt was always ready to trim his (always uncertain) aesthetic principles at need, and "Guernica" was no exception. Carter (pp. 414-5) reports how by 1961 he was describing that picture as the climax of Picasso's oeuvre, "in which, for me at any rate, all his prowess both of imagination and of intellectual control are manifest," and as "the last great painting in the European tradition."

A year or two later, I personally heard Blunt deliver this lecture in Athens, with every sign of committed enthusiasm.

Peter Green

Iowa City

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