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Charles DarwentRuthless Hedonism is an interesting exercise in what, in recent years, have come to be known as reception studies. Most provocative is the chapter which debunks the myth of Matisse as the ultimate source of inspiration to the young Abstract Expressionists. With the possible exception of de Kooning and Motherwell, members of this movement are persuasively shown to have had either little interest in Matisse or to have been actively antipathetic towards him. But the main problem with Ruthless Hedonism remains its lack of a central thesis. Implicit in O'Brian's view of Matisse's American success are the ideas both that it was undeserved and that it brought about by knowing collusion between the artist, the art Establishment and the art market. Snippets of individually plausible fact are woven into a more generalized conspiracy theory which does not ultimately convince.
—The (London) Times Literary Supplement