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Pablo Ruiz Picasso: A Biography Hardcover – September 16, 1976


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Distribution Services; First edition (September 16, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002116855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002116855
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,008,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

O'Brian, author of the popular sea adventure yarns, turned his pen to nonfiction in 1976 to produce this portrait of the artist. O'Brian drew from his friendship with Picasso as well as his knowledge of the area in Spain where the artist was raised. For art collections needing more on Picasso.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

'Patrick O'Brian has written much the best biography of Picasso. It is full of information, the judgements both of Picasso as a man and as an artist seem to me remarkably convincing, and it is extremely well-written. In particular, the relationship between Picasso and the Catalan painters is given its true importance, both in his formative years and, as friends, throughout his life.' Kenneth Clarke --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Richard Stoller on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
After having read many books about Picasso. It was a pleasure to enjoy the author's prose. The subject was a keen interest of Mr.O'Brian's as were his other bio. clients who form a wide range of characters. It is apparent that it is the writing rather than exacting erudition which is the author's trademark.
The opening of the book which describes Malaga and its history is fascinating and sets the stage for Picasso's development. One can easily understand Picasso absorbing this rich culture.
On comparison with Richardson this volume comes off rather poorly and subscribes to some well known anecdotes which are now known to be false. One such incident was when Picasso's father is supposed to have given up painting altogether after seeing how good his son was. Picasso was fourteen or fifteen at the time yet there exist paintings of pigeons signed by Don Ruiz up until his death.
The narrative follows Picasso from Spain to France and rightly emphasises the entire cubist episode. The usual list of early characters are present, e.g. Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Fernande Olivier, etc.
What struck me as the best of this book was the author's willingness to describe Picasso's terrible behaviour, especially in his latter years when he would ignore or reject official plaudits. His treatment of women including the terrible initiation of Jacqueline Roque is not spared and yet it is not written with malice but with an understanding that it was all the sycophants and their scraping that only served to isolate Picasso even further.
Nevertheless, when Picasso was faced with an equal (Matisse or Braque) or someone even older than himself whom he may have known as a youngster (Pallares)he was a gracious and tactful host.
This is not the best biography of Picasso (that honour belong's to John Richardson) but it is perfectly readable and does contain some insights that are unique.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Myhr on March 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Patrick O'Brian was not an art historian or a professional biographer. He was an accomplished writer with a wide range of interests and knowledge. He is, of course, the author of the celebrated Aubrey/Maturin nautical novels ("The best historical novels ever written" - New York Times), but was much more than that. Among other things, he was the first to translate Simone de Beauvoir's works into English, and was the author of a fine biography of the English scientific luminary Joseph Banks. He was also a close friend of Picasso's.

O'Brian's familiarity with Picasso, his wide range of interests and knowledge, and his attention to historical context and detail is a recipe for a wide-ranging and very personal account of the artist. It attends carefully to the material and geographical circumstances of Picasso's origins and life; it is filled with real truth about the artist and how his life and history are reflected in his art. It is not a treatise on Picasso's contribution to 20th century painting, but is nonetheless a wonderfully written and engaging perspective on the man and his work. Highly recommended.

A note: Amazon lists several versions of this title. Most of them are imports that will take 1 to 4 months for delivery, and the more current one from Norton doesn't show up in a search on Picasso and O'Brian. Do a search on ISBN 0393311074, listing just the number, to get the most current edition.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Atkinson on August 14, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read two other books about Picasso ("Picasso's Women" and "Picasso's War". This give a much more-rounded (and affectionate) view of the great man, and also gives much insight into his work and the critical reception of it. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christina Silva on August 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The writer haaates women. He either ignores them or blames them. He presents Picasso as a one dimensional person that is not in control of his life. Life seems to happen to helpless Picasso. The writer repeatedly glosses over facts about Picasso's life. The bottom line is there is actually very little in the book about Picasso's life. The writer spent more time analyzing the various Spanish languages then he spent on Picasso's marriages. If you know nothing about Picasso you won't learn much from this book. A full unvarnished account of Picasso's life is need to understand his art.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K.A. Scott on December 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a nutshell: this book needed an editor. Any kind of life arc was lost in a barrage of factoids and asides that made having a satisfying read impossible. Add to that length--of the book and of the sentences--and it felt like I was trudging through a quagmire of unassociated words. Also, by speaking to so many specific works of art in such detail within the main text (I want to guess half the book was dedicated to this?), Picasso's fascinating story was lost even more.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hyacinth on August 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
It is a pleasure to find a work of non-fiction in which the writing flows smoothly across the page, and in which a rich portrait of the subject emerges without recourse to over-wrought speculation. This sympathetic, yet detailed account of Picasso is both fun to read for its own sake, and fascinating for the sake of its subject. A very readable biography.
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More About the Author

In addition to twenty volumes in the highly respected Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O'Brian's many books include "Testimonies," "The Golden Ocean," and "The Unknown Shore". O'Brian also wrote acclaimed biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and translated many works from the French, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Lacouture's biographies of Charles de Gaulle. He passed away in January 2000 at the age of 85.

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