A Life of Picasso, Vol. 1: The Early Years, 1881-1906 by John RichardsonMy work is like a diary, Picasso once told John Richardson. To understand it, you have to see how it mirrors my life. Richardson, who lived near the artist in Provence for ten years and became a trusted friend, was able to observe and record this phenomenon at first hand. Later, Picassos widow continued to give Richardson access to the artists studios and storerooms. This close personal friendship and the privilege of working in hitherto inaccessible archives make Richardson uniquely qualified to write the artists life, rescuing his renown from sensationalist legend and specialist pleading and analyzing anew the traumas and obsessions that triggered his explosive genius.
Richardson is the first biographer to make sense of the myriad contradictions that leave so many statements about Picassos nature equally true in reverse. The artists ambivalence is one of the authors central themes. At last we are able to see how his courage and terror misogyny and tenderness, generosity and thrift, superstition and skepticism, cynicism and sentiment, are reflected in the conflicts and paradoxes in his work.
Richardsons eye is finely attuned to the complexities of Picassos art, and his extensive knowledge of cultural history enables him to show how Picasso plundered the art of the past, the imaginations of his poet friends, the beliefs of mystics and magi, to create a revolutionary new synthesis. The authors evocation of Picassos ferocious ego, demonic loves and hates and black fears is the more absorbing for its terse and lively prose and freedom from jargon.
This first volume of Richardsons prodigiously detailed and documented four-volume study takes Picasso to the age of twenty-five. It reveals how the adolescent Picasso struggled, through determination and study, to escape the shadow of his fathers artistic failures. It describes his precocious success in Barcelona and Paris and the period of rejection and despair that followed. We watch Picasso transform the prostitutes of the Saint-Lazare prison into Blue period madonnas and, later, the performers of the Montmartre circuses into Rose period harlequins. Volume I culminates in Picassos dawning perception of himself as the messiah of the modern movement.
Some nine hundred illustrations, many of them unfamiliar, enable the reader to follow Picassos mesmerizing development in images as well as words.
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Richardson also worked as an industrial designer and as a reviewer for The New Observer. In , he moved to New York and organized a nine-gallery Picasso retrospective. Christie's then appointed him to open their U. In he joined New York gallery M. In he started devoting all his time to writing and working on his Picasso biography. When he was thirteen he became a boarder at Stowe school, where he admired the architecture and landscape and was taught something about the work of Picasso and other innovative painters.