Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretative Biography

Norman Mailer, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $35 (400p) ISBN 978-0-87113-608-4
Although Mailer relies heavily on previous Picasso biographies and memoirs, from which he quotes extensively, this inspired, lavishly illustrated biography offers an uncanny psychological portrait of Picasso's inner development as man and artist. Commenting on 250 black-and-white and 55 color reproductions woven throughout the text, the prolific author presents Picasso as a painter who was wholly derivative until his Blue Period, and who then harnessed his inner terrors, his dread of mental and physical destruction, as a stimulus to his work. Mailer considers Cubism, and Picasso's related discoveries between 1907 and 1917, as his creative peak, from which he would beat a retreat by the late 1920s. This elegantly written portrait, which makes Picasso's erotic drawings and paintings an integral part of the story, mixes shrewd insights, wild psychosexual speculations, anecdotes and telling incidents. The narrative, which closes on the eve of WWI, pays special attention to Picasso's relationships with his mistress, Fernande Olivier (whose untranslated memoirs, written in her 70s, Mailer excerpts in chunks); and with Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire and Picasso's sexually impotent friend, aesthete Carlos Casagemas, who committed suicide in 1901, dejected over unrequited love for a model. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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