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TUMULT AND TRIUMPH IN AN ARTIST'S LIFE
on 27 November 2007
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