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Picasso: A Biography [Kindle Edition]

Patrick O'Brian
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A scholarly, passionate and brilliantly-written biography of Pablo Picasso by Patrick O’Brian, the famous author of the much-loved Aubrey-Maturin series, reissued in a stunning new cover.

Patrick O’Brian’s outstanding biography of Picasso explores comprehensively the life of this awe-inspiring artist. Enormously productive and hugely successful, Picasso continues to attract avid, insatiable public interest. O’Brian was a close friend and a neighbour of Picasso’s, and the book reflects the closeness of their friendship and the immense erudition and warm wit of Patrick O’Brian.

The man that emerges from the pages is full of contradictions: hard yet tender, mean yet generous, affectionate but cold, professing communism but retaining an essentially Catholic mentality, private despite his relish of fame. Critically, O’Brian’s is the only biography to fully appreciate the distinctly Mediterranean origins of Picasso’s character and art.

Sex and money, eating and drinking, friends and quarrels, comedies and tragedies, suicides and wars tumble over each other in the vast chaos of Picasso’s experience, He was ‘a man almost as lonely as the sun, but one who glowed with much the same fierce, burning life.’

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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.


'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

Product Details

  • File Size: 994 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393311074
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (May 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007173571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007173570
  • ASIN: B00810S93G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,999 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant read without much effort. May 8, 2001
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished, readable and very worthwhile March 16, 2008
By R. Myhr
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly literate biography 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
1.0 out of 5 stars where was the word-whacker? 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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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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