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A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 (Vol 3) Hardcover – November 13, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Life of Picasso Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

"My work is like a diary," Picasso often said, and Richardson demonstrates the truth of this in the third installment of his biography. He rejoins Picasso after his Cubist stage, when Picasso is designing costumes for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and entering a primarily neoclassical period. The volume covers the years of his marriage to the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, the mother of his only legitimate child, Paulo, and describes their lavishly bourgeois life style in Paris and their summers in the South of France. The most striking aspect of this surefooted account is the link that Richardson shows between the women in Picasso’s life and the direction of his art. We witness the classic representations of his newlywed wife evolve, by the end of the marriage, into bifurcated demonic images; simultaneously, the entry of a teen-age mistress unleashes Picasso’s sexuality, which infuses all his future work.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266651
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you think you know Picasso's work, this book will convince you otherwise. John Richardson has done a tremendous service by sorting out when Picasso produced his greatest works between 1917 and 1932, what sources he "borrowed" from, what he was trying to accomplish, and how all of these works affected his career. This book was quite a revelation to me. Simply by seeing a lot of his work (as you can do at Musee Picasso, for example), you quickly realize that Picasso constantly copied himself. And, of course, it is well known that he borrowed much while trying to establish a style and while working with Braque to develop cubism. But Picasso borrowed early and often in ways I didn't realize. In that sense, he was a supreme stylist who could execute someone else's idea in a more profound way. I came away with a new appreciation for that aspect of his talent.

While Picasso was alive, very little was said in books about his mistreatment of women and the motives behind his paintings of his wives and lovers. While his second life was alive, people were still pretty circumspect on this point. But now we know that Picasso was louse when it came to women and his family. This book gives you the full story of his first marriage, relationship with his young mistress who inspired so many joyous works, Marie-Therese Walter, and his constant attraction to prostitutes.

There are some other surprises in this book including how central his work with ballet was in creating interest in his paintings and sculptures. It was through Diaghilev that Picasso met his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina in the Ballets Russes. Picasso decided it was time to settle down and marry.
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Format: Hardcover
As expected, this book is very thorough and well written. Kudos to Richardson for strking back at the claims of an affair between Picasso and Sarah Murphy (there is no evidence). I have seen this allegation stated as fact in the catalogue of a recent show at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth. Richardson is very informative on his exploration of surrealism and what Apolliniare may have had in mind when he coined the term with a hyphen (sur-realism) as opposed to Breton's use of the term. It appears, however, that Richardson goes to far in some of his speculation on the meanings behind Picasso's work when he presents his opinions almost as absolute fact. In these cases one almost wishes that the spirit of Douglas Cooper could be conjured up just long enough to say "Oh shut up, John!"
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Richardson has out done himself on his Picasso opus. He displays Picasso in the light of his work and his influences without fluff and sensation. The book is a pleasant and interesting read sans the dry, academic, and often inaccurate writing of other books on Picasso. He also down plays the sensationalism producing a sensative and revealing portrait of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. As an artist myself, ([...] I found this book extremely informative, useful, and entertaining. I highly recommend this, and Mr. Richardson's previous books on Picasso to art lovers and lay people alike.
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To be fair to the author, I have not read volume 1 or 2 that are part of this series. So based upon just reading volume 3, I can say that for my own personal taste, the book does not present enough (if any) insight into the mind and artistic process of Picasso, and it presents too much information about who Picasso was hanging out with, what he was doing on practically a day-to-day basis, and who was patronizing him. The book has an surprising lack of direct quotes or written statements from Picasso himself, so apparently Picasso was not one to talk or write much, which if that is truly the case, would not doubt make it difficult to discern how his mind worked or anything about his process.
In addition, and this is based upon my thirty five plus years of being an artist and architect, and not based upon being a scholar of Picasso like Mr Richardson by any means, but I feel the author was a bit too liberal in applying the term "masterpiece" to so many of Picasso's work, although I do believe Picasso created many "masterpieces".... just not as many as the author claims.
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Format: Hardcover
Volume III is everything I'd waited for, and more. Richardson's miraculous voice present on every page. His is a fiercely skilled faithfulness that reveals Picasso of truth, one with the myth, but presenting a work discreetly bound to as scrupulous and seductive telling of a magnificent life as seems possible. Admire Richardson's herculean effort, now alas nearly completed, precisely for its reckoning candor, and for the beauty of its prose. I've not seen this mentioned yet here, but I feel in this volume Richardson goes to exquisite lengths to remind and confirm in the reader the place Olga held in Picasso's inner life. He alone among the artist's biographers presents to us Olga forgotten, cautions us not to forget Olga. I think this a great service to Picasso, to his history. There are too many magnificent aspects to this third installment to rehearse them - Richardson's compassion and the presence of his own extraordinary life and personality together forge a gloriously detailed history of an age embodied in a single human colossus, wit and learning treading hand in hand with handsome discretion and kindness. Richardson's great work has saved Picasso from time and from the distrust that creeps into an unbelieving age - something indeed to be grateful for. The superlative installment so far, for me The Triumphant Years is a wickedly fine addition to the mission, and something special quite on its own. Big recommendation.
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