Some Remarkable Men

James Lord, Author
James Lord, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $27.5 (360p) ISBN 978-0-374-26655-4
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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Lord (Picasso and Dora) lifts the biographical portrait to the level of daring, soul-searching, adventurous art form in these four resonant, beautifully written essays. He begins with Harold Acton, English aesthete, novelist, memoirist, lover of Evelyn Waugh. In Lord's estimate, Acton lived off his own legend, his pursuit of beauty a refuge from life, his later years consumed in caring for his parents' museum-like villa outside Florence. The essay on Jean Cocteau finds Lord in the cross fire of a feud between the opium-taking dramatist/filmmaker/literary lion and Cocteau's close friend Pablo Picasso, whose long, steady decline as an artist Lord delineates. Next we enter the private universe of the painter Balthus, whose haunting canvases, full of aristocratic reverie, malaise and longing, are linked here to the Paris-born artist's snobbish identification with his father, a Polish nobleman, and the shame he felt about his Jewish mother. Alberto Giacometti, whom Lord befriended in 1952, insisted on living like a pauper even after he became rich, and was frequently callous toward his wife during their open marriage. Lord deftly probes how, out of this chaos, emerged works of profound human empathy. Sucked into the bitter family squabble that erupted over the disposition of Giacometti's estate, Lord was sued in 1986 by the sculptor's widow, who accused him of stealing and forging sculptures; she lost on all counts. Photos. (Oct.)
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