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A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 Paperback – 12 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; Reprint edition (12 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375711511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711510
  • Product Dimensions: 18.3 x 4.4 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,492,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By B.Graham on 9 Oct 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A monumental work by Picasso's greatest biographer.

Sympathetic,deeply knowledgeable,Richardson is also witty,a gossip and full a clear and generous common sense.

How long must we wait for Vol IV ?

Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To say that John Richardson has completed a monumental task is surely an understatement. His three volumes in a planned four part biography of this iconic artist are testament to the biographer's depth of knowledge as well as an intimate understanding of his subject's life and oeuvre. Mr. Richardson's authorial skills and powers of description are more than gratifying to both students of art and less informed readers as each page contributes to a greater knowledge of the man christened Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso.

The Triumphant Years, 1917 - 1932, covers a period of tumult and triumph in Picasso's life. Along with his friend poet Jean Cocteau Picasso has gone to Rome . He has agreed to do the decor for Diaghiliev's ballet Parade. While he had hoped to be married in Rome, Picasso's from time to time mistress changed her mind. Enter Olga Khokhlova, a lady like ballerina who was as "unbeddable as the `nice' Malaguena girls that his family had tried to foist on him."

There was naught to do but marry her - a marriage that may have begun in heaven but descended into hell with the deterioration of Olga's health and psychological condition. In 1927 he met 17-year-old Marie-Therese Walter, a young beauty with whom he became obsessed. Thus began an intense love for Marie-Therese and unbridled hatred for Olga, emotions which Richardson ties to figure paintings done during that time.

Picasso's 50th birthday, according to Richardson, was both a milestone and a millstone as the artist was driven to somehow stem the passage of years with work. In addition, we're reminded that biographer Jack Flam saw Picasso at that time "as a master who felt compelled to correct or improve his fellow painters' performances." (Especially Matisse).

Thanks to John Richardson, here is Picasso - explored and explained. Especially helpful for this reader was the light shed on the artist's often savage imagery. A Life of Picasso will undoubtedly stand for generations to come as the definitive biography of Picasso. We are in Mr. Richardson's debt.

- Gail Cooke
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Valuable Insights into Picasso's Sources and Methods 3 Jan 2008
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you think you know Picasso's work, this book will convince you otherwise. John Richardson has done a tremendous service by sorting out when Picasso produced his greatest works between 1917 and 1932, what sources he "borrowed" from, what he was trying to accomplish, and how all of these works affected his career. This book was quite a revelation to me. Simply by seeing a lot of his work (as you can do at Musee Picasso, for example), you quickly realize that Picasso constantly copied himself. And, of course, it is well known that he borrowed much while trying to establish a style and while working with Braque to develop cubism. But Picasso borrowed early and often in ways I didn't realize. In that sense, he was a supreme stylist who could execute someone else's idea in a more profound way. I came away with a new appreciation for that aspect of his talent.

While Picasso was alive, very little was said in books about his mistreatment of women and the motives behind his paintings of his wives and lovers. While his second life was alive, people were still pretty circumspect on this point. But now we know that Picasso was louse when it came to women and his family. This book gives you the full story of his first marriage, relationship with his young mistress who inspired so many joyous works, Marie-Therese Walter, and his constant attraction to prostitutes.

There are some other surprises in this book including how central his work with ballet was in creating interest in his paintings and sculptures. It was through Diaghilev that Picasso met his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina in the Ballets Russes. Picasso decided it was time to settle down and marry. Despite having had long relationships with women before, he now was looking for someone who would help make him respectable. In the process, Picasso adopted the lifestyle of one of the first wealthy artists (famously being driven around in one of the world's most expensive cars by a chauffeur in the middle of the world-wide economic depression).

As good as John Richardson is on those subjects, he can be most annoying in other ways. For example, Mr. Richardson seems to have an obsession with Jean Cocteau and writes a lot about him even though Picasso didn't like Cocteau very much and Cocteau didn't influence Picasso very much either. Mr. Richardson also has a writing style that can be enormously elusive, describing what happened without saying anything. Picasso's wife seems to have had a lot of physical and mental problems but these are mentioned without providing much real information other than when they occurred. A greater problem comes in that Mr. Richardson likes to drop in lots of French phrases (I read French so I had no problem), but if you don't read French it makes the text harder to follow. Some will also find some of Mr. Richardson's put downs of those who disagree with as being rude and high handed. Perhaps the most annoying problem comes in using academic words to describe distasteful aspects of Picasso's personality and behavior. It's like putting lipstick on a pig.

But I advise you to read the book while being prepared for its weaknesses. I'm afraid there is no substitute. The generously represented art makes up for the weaknesses.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A wealth of information 2 Dec 2007
By Donald A. Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As expected, this book is very thorough and well written. Kudos to Richardson for strking back at the claims of an affair between Picasso and Sarah Murphy (there is no evidence). I have seen this allegation stated as fact in the catalogue of a recent show at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth. Richardson is very informative on his exploration of surrealism and what Apolliniare may have had in mind when he coined the term with a hyphen (sur-realism) as opposed to Breton's use of the term. It appears, however, that Richardson goes to far in some of his speculation on the meanings behind Picasso's work when he presents his opinions almost as absolute fact. In these cases one almost wishes that the spirit of Douglas Cooper could be conjured up just long enough to say "Oh shut up, John!"
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Kudos to Richardson 8 Feb 2008
By Elio Lopez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Richardson has out done himself on his Picasso opus. He displays Picasso in the light of his work and his influences without fluff and sensation. The book is a pleasant and interesting read sans the dry, academic, and often inaccurate writing of other books on Picasso. He also down plays the sensationalism producing a sensative and revealing portrait of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. As an artist myself, ([...] I found this book extremely informative, useful, and entertaining. I highly recommend this, and Mr. Richardson's previous books on Picasso to art lovers and lay people alike.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
nothing but the best 6 Dec 2007
By LuelCanyon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Volume III is everything I'd waited for, and more. Richardson's miraculous voice present on every page. His is a fiercely skilled faithfulness that reveals Picasso of truth, one with the myth, but presenting a work discreetly bound to as scrupulous and seductive telling of a magnificent life as seems possible. Admire Richardson's herculean effort, now alas nearly completed, precisely for its reckoning candor, and for the beauty of its prose. I've not seen this mentioned yet here, but I feel in this volume Richardson goes to exquisite lengths to remind and confirm in the reader the place Olga held in Picasso's inner life. He alone among the artist's biographers presents to us Olga forgotten, cautions us not to forget Olga. I think this a great service to Picasso, to his history. There are too many magnificent aspects to this third installment to rehearse them - Richardson's compassion and the presence of his own extraordinary life and personality together forge a gloriously detailed history of an age embodied in a single human colossus, wit and learning treading hand in hand with handsome discretion and kindness. Richardson's great work has saved Picasso from time and from the distrust that creeps into an unbelieving age - something indeed to be grateful for. The superlative installment so far, for me The Triumphant Years is a wickedly fine addition to the mission, and something special quite on its own. Big recommendation.
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