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Conversations with Picasso Hardcover – December 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Henry Miller called Brassaï (born Gyula Halasz) "The Eye of Paris." As a photographer, journalist, and author of photographic monographs and literary criticism, he had an uncanny ability to capture the Paris art world of the mid-20th century. Conversations with Picasso, originally published in 1964, is a collection of Brassaï's memoirs, resurrected from scraps of paper he stored in a huge vase each night after his talks with the famous Spanish painter, whose work he photographed from 1932 to 1962. In keeping with the lively bohemian spirit that so characterized Pablo Picasso's milieu, Brassaï wrote these notes in a vivid, conversational style, and they are now vignettes, of a sort, from a theatrical time capsule. Presented alongside the actual photographs he took during his visits with Picasso, Brassaï's anecdotes of the artist and his most intimate associates paint an unforgettable portrait of Picasso the master artist and the man. Sly humor and telling details embellish these accounts--in one particularly well-rendered scene, Picasso throws a temper tantrum over a lost flashlight--that vividly depict many of the artist's creative revelations, his insatiable curiosity, and his views on the art of his time, including that of the surrealists. One very strong image depicts Picasso, with brush in hand, using a palette made of newspaper. Confiscated by military censors due to the mere presence of World War II headlines, this photo represents one of the many wartime frustrations Picasso endured, including using a bathroom for a studio and secretly casting sculptures in scarce bronze at night. Underneath the worshipful posturing so prevalent in writings of the time, in which an everyday shopping list of paint colors is hailed as a prose poem, Brassaï offers an intimate chronicle full of loving detail of the impossible yet delightful enfant terrible. Entertaining, charming, light but truly satisfying fare. --A.C. Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in English in 1966 but long out of print, Brassa?'s intimate record of his friendship with Picasso is a remarkable, vibrant document, a dialogue between two creative giants. It spans the period from 1932, their first meeting at the height of the Surrealist movement, through the dark years 1943-47, when Brassa? (born Gyula Hal sz), the celebrated photographer of Parisian life, met frequently with Picasso's ever-shifting circle (Sartre, Camus, Dali, Malraux, Raymond Queneau, poets Paul ?luard and Jacques Pr?vert, etc.). The book then jumps to 1960, when Brassa? visits Picasso's villa in Cannes and renews their friendship after a 13-year gap. Diarylike entries alternate with free-for-all conversations reconstructed from notes, giving us an unorthodox, fresh portrait of Picasso. With verbal wit and striking directness, Picasso denounces fascism; discusses C?zanne, history, his obsession with African art; waxes philosophical on the transitoriness of existence; and comments on fellow artists. Through Brassa?'s eyes, we attend the 1941 underground "premiere" of Picasso's burlesque protest play, Desire Caught by the Tail; watch him creating revolutionary sculpture; and catch glimpses of his love affairs with Marie-Therese Walter, Dora Maar and Fran?oise Gilot. Though Brassa? seems rather in awe of his subject, his image of Picasso as a demiurge who gives life to any material he touches rings true. Illustrated with dozens of photographs by Brassa?. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 412 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226071480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226071480
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,523,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is quite simply a wonderful book, and a splendid new translation of a great classic about the Paris art world during the 30s and 40s. Brassai was a witty, wry observer of Paris life and an excellent writer as well as photographer. The episodes he captures of Picasso's life are irreplaceable, often hysterical--and not recounted in other, stuffier books on the great modern artist. Highly recommended for art lovers. A pleasure to read
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avid Hiker on January 14, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To dismiss this wonderfully acute book as light because it is anecdotal would be a serious error. Brassai not only knew Picasso when; he was also an artist whom Picasso admired. Brassai's is a privileged vision, and he notes Picasso's many foibles--some of them large--as well as many of his strengths as artist and person. Until I read this book, I was unaware of just how selfishly Picasso treated even those he considered friends and lovers. But, in reading Brassai, I also learned that Picasso was intellectually voracious, a man who read an entire box of demanding books each week--on top of his work as an artist and his assiduous, but very often misconceived, efforts to be a husband and father. The only other writers who knew Picasso as well as Brassai are quite probably Fernande Olivier (earlier) and John Richardson (later). Richardson writes much more elegantly than Brassai (even if you read Brassai in the original French)--and Richardson's excellent ongoing three-volume biography of Picasso is turning out to be the gold standard--but he is no more perceptive than Brassai. For the best view of the younger Picasso on the make in Paris, I'd go with Brassai. If you want to "know" Picasso, Brassai is a must-read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald Langosy on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book allows us the remarkable opportunity of visiting Picasso in his studio (during the Nazi occupation of Paris).....no words can express the charm of Brassai's accomplishment......through these conversations an exciting presence of art in reality is experienced.... this book has been an important part of my library since it was first published over forty years ago (as "Picasso and Company").....now re-released with a new translation....it remains magical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Amari on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Conversations With Picasso is at least as good as the more anecdotal parts of Richardson's indispensable magnum opus and offers a more vivid, if more focussed, picture of aspects of Picasso's personality. The book, of course, is also about Brassai, and I didn't appreciate that he was such a polymath. Among other things, this book prompts me to explore his drawings. And of the notable photographers, were there any as literate?
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By Tom Groenfeldt on February 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
Conversations with PicassoI knew Brassai was a great photographer of Paris at night but I had no idea he was really well educated about literature and art, painted and drew, and met with Picasso as an equal discussing both their art works, art history, styles in painting as Brassai photographed Picasso's paintings and sculptures. This book is just like hanging out with the two of them, before, during and after WWII -- a really fun time with two very smart guys -- the book will send you to the internet looking for some of the artists they are talking about, like Hokusai, a Japanese painter I had never heard of -- Brassai told Picasso he had done some very large paintings, which was news to Picasso. Relaxed and fascinating reading.
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