A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917–1932

John Richardson, Author, Marilyn McCully, With . Knopf $40 (592p) ISBN 978-0-307-26665-1

This third volume in Richardson's magisterial biography takes us through Picasso's middle years, as he establishes his mastery over craft, other artists and the women in his life. The story begins the year Picasso falls in love with Olga Kokhlova, a Russian dancer he met while working on the avant-garde ballet Parade for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. By the end of the volume, Olga—his first wife—becomes “the victim of some of Picasso's most harrowing images.” The book elaborates on the details of Picasso's inspirations, with Richardson providing a balance of fact, salacious detail and art-historical critique. He is particularly skilled at evoking the humor and sexuality that imbues Picasso's portraits of Marie-Thérèse, who became his mistress when he was 45 and she 17: “As for the figure's amazing legs: the secret of their monumentality had escaped me” until Courbet's great view of Etretat gave him a clue: “Picasso has used the rock arches of Etretat... to magnify the scale of the bather's legs and breasts....” The artist's entire circle is also here, from Georges Braque to Henri Matisse, from André Breton to Ernest Hemingway. They are jealous collaborators, competitive geniuses, excessive bohemians, dear friends, frustrated homosexuals—while a handful of women come across as essential yet entirely replaceable. 48 pages of color illus., 275 illus. in text. 60,000 first printing. (Nov. 9)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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