A Life of Picasso (Magill Book Reviews)
This second volume of John Richardson’s projected four-volume biography of Pablo Picasso continues what is sure to be one of the twentieth century’s landmark studies of an artist’s life. Richardson has several advantages over earlier Picasso biographers. He benefits from generations of scholarly and biographical research on his subject, from the cooperation of Picasso’s widow and other family members, and from his firsthand knowledge of the artist’s life and work. Richardson first met Picasso in the 1950’s and became one of his friends. Thus Richardson is able to draw on this intimacy, integrating his own sense of the man and the artist with the copious literature on Picasso. Richardson has also had the good fortune to have a scholarly collaborator, Marilyn McCully, whose key contribution to the biography is acknowledged on the title page.
Because he has the luxury of four copiously illustrated volumes, Richardson solves the problem that bedevils most writers of one-volume biographies. He can devote almost as much space to social context and to the characters who befriended his subject as he does to the subject himself. Thus the biographer provides beautifully realized portraits of Fernande Olivier, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and all those who became a part of Picasso’s cadre of supporters.
If there is a weakness in Richardson’s biography, it can be found in his touchy and rather peremptory dismissal of feminist...
(The entire section is 451 words.)
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A Life of Picasso (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
This second volume of John Richardson’s projected four- volume biography of Pablo Picasso continues what is sure to be one of the century’s landmark studies of an artist’s life. Richardson has several advantages over earlier Picasso biographers. He benefits from generations of scholarly and biographical research on his subject, from the cooperation of Picasso’s widow and other family members, and from his firsthand knowledge of the artist’s life and work. Richardson first met Picasso in the 1950’s and became one of his friends. At several points, Richardson is able to draw on this intimacy, integrating his own sense of the man and the artist with the copious literature on Picasso. Richardson has also had the good fortune to have a scholarly collaborator, Marilyn McCully, whose key contribution to the biography is acknowledged on the title page.
One of the pleasures of reading Richardson is derived from his elegant reconstructions of each defining moment in the artist’s life. Richardson gives a sense in the narrative of having carefully considered the evidence from every angle. He gives due credit to both primary and secondary sources. When the facts are in doubt, he says so. When it seems necessary to provide a judgment or to offer an interpretation, he obliges, demonstrating why he thinks his account is right. Occasionally he transcends the evidence and simply relies on his own authority, on his profound sense of the man and artist. At such...
(The entire section is 1963 words.)
A Life of Picasso (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In the first of a projected four volumes, John Richardson provides a fascinating, in-depth portrayal of Picasso’s life and art. In chapters that usually cover a year or less, the biographer re-creates the young artist’s explosive development, the family tensions that arose from Picasso’s iconoclastic canvases and boisterous behavior, his three journeys to Paris before permanently settling there, the brief periods of doubt and timidity when he seemed to pull back from his original insights, and his triumphant breakthrough at the age of twenty-five, producing not only several masterpieces but a body of work already the equal of the greatest long-lived artists.
In his father’s eye, Picasso was destined to be an artist; accordingly, he was given an education that would equip him for a distinguished academic career. Soon, however, Picasso rejected his father’s conventional, second-rate style of painting and sought out the most innovative and colorful personalities—first in Malaga, and then in Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris. In later life, Picasso would present himself as a self-made artist, claiming that he had never drawn or painted as a child but had somehow sprung fully formed and capable of creating mature works before his teenage years.
Richardson never doubts Picasso’s genius, but the biographer wisely threads his way through the artist’s self-aggrandizing reminiscences, ratifying, on the one hand, Picasso’s faith in his...
(The entire section is 1982 words.)
A Life of Picasso (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
This volume of John Richardson’s biography of Pablo Picasso, the undisputed genius of modern art and, with Georges Braque, the founder of cubism, chronicles the years from 1917, when World War I was being fought, to 1932, when the world was in the throes of a severe financial depression. In this decade and a half, Picasso, already recognized as one of the leading artists in Europe, emerged triumphantly as the century’s most inventive artist, a judgment generally confirmed in subsequent years. He captured in his work, as Peter Plagens has noted, the dual stimuli of his times, fracture and invention, which lie at the heart of cubism with its spatial and conceptual distortions that reflect the ambiguities of the era in which Picasso flourished.
The time period Richardson explores in this volume falls into two sections. From 1917 until 1927, Picasso was a much more public figure than he was after 1927, the year in which Marie-Thérèse Walter came into his life and caused him to adopt a more limited public image than he had maintained in the preceding decade.
This volume of Richardson’s biography begins as Picasso and Jean Cocteau come from Paris to Rome, where Picasso was commissioned to design the sets and many of the costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s Parade, a production of the Ballets Russes, of which Diaghilev was impresario. The ballet’s score was to be provided by Erik Satie, the choreography by Léonide Massine. Cocteau...
(The entire section is 1764 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
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Booklist. XCIII, October 15, 1996, p. 396.
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The Economist 385 (November 17, 2007): 99-100.
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Los Angeles Times Book Review. February 24, 1991, p. 1.
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The New Republic. CCIV, April 22, 1991, p. 38.
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The New York Review of Books. XXXVIII, March 28, 1991, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, March 3, 1991, p. 1.
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The New Yorker. LXXII, December 16, 1996, p. 92.
Newsweek 150, no. 19 (November 5, 2007): 60-61.
People Weekly. XXXV, April 8, 1991, p. 34.
(The entire section is 186 words.)