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The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226712451
ISBN-10: 0226712451
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Two quotations from Francis Bacon bookend this curious, exasperatedly affectionate memoir by John Richardson, distinguished art historian and 1991 Whitbread Award-winning biographer of Picasso: the prophetic "she'll try to lure you to bed, and then she'll turn on you. She always does," finds its uncanny conclusion in "Didn't I warn you she was a thoroughly treacherous woman?" The sorcerer (art collector Douglas Cooper) and his apprentice (Richardson) lived for 10 years in the grandiose "folly" Château de Castille in Provence, where they entertained a circle that included Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Angus Wilson, Tennessee Williams, and a range of other usual suspects from that period's artistic fraternity. When Richardson left Cooper for the lights of New York, Cooper, in the great tradition of spurned lovers, burned Richardson's remaining possessions, stole his paintings, denounced him to friends and employers, and even attempted to arrange his arrest by Interpol. Cooper was a duplicitous, sadistic bully (among his more outrageous acts was loudly booing the queen outside Westminster Abbey at her coronation). But his deep knowledge of art history and classical cubism and his pioneering collecting of the works of Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Gris were an essential counterpoint to the staid policy of the Tate Gallery and its director, Sir John Rothenstein, for whom he held a deteriorating scorn. Richardson's delight in reviewing this formative period reignites the fire in Cooper flaring nostrils and borrows some of its flame to stoke what is arguably an enriching addendum to his Picasso magnum opus, which, appropriately, bears a dedication to his old sorcerer. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Richardson is the acclaimed biographer of Picasso, so his gossipy, candid memoir of his 12-year affair with cubist art collector Douglas Cooper (1911-1984) and their doings as part of Picasso's inner circle is something of an art-world event. Painter-turned-critic Richardson first became involved with flamboyant art historian Cooper in 1949, when he was 25 and Cooper 38. Together they moved into and restored a dilapidated 16th-century chateau in Provence, filling it with pictures by Klee, L?ger, Mir? and Picasso. In Richardson's withering, occasionally bitter portrayal, CooperAthe mentor who opened up the world of modern art to himAis presented as abusive, vainglorious, vindictive, viciously competitive, a Jekyll/Hyde whose bright, sweet exterior masked a cauldron of envy, resentment and rage. Though Richardson describes their stormy relationship as one held together by a passionately shared experience of works of art, one wonders why they stayed together so long if Cooper was truly so horrible. Through Richardson's eyes, we see Picasso as a protean genius turning out paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics on a grand scale, but also as an egocentric, misogynistic sadist. One spurned mistress, Dora Maar, sobs over Picasso's brutally anatomic, erotic drawings of her, while another mistress (later his wife), Jacqueline Roque, is pathetically subservient and self-sacrificial, turning to drink for consolation. Splendidly illustrated with 121 photographs and art reproductions, this vivid reminiscence shines with its firsthand glimpses of painters Francis Bacon, Georges Braque, Graham Sutherland, poets W.H. Auden and James Schuyler, art historian/spy Anthony Blunt, Bernard Berenson, Jean Cocteau, Isaiah Berlin and many more. First serial to Vanity Fair. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226712451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226712451
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Richardson has set aside his scholarly masterpiece (A Life of Picasso: Volumes I & II completed, Volumes III & IV eagerly awaited)to produce something bubbly and light; it is not soda-pop, though, but vintage champagne. Far different from the careful and meticulous research of his Picasso oeuvre, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a welcome intermission and a clearing of the palate.
Richardson writes about himself and his friends, and especially about his love affair with Douglas Cooper ("The Sorcerer" of the title), art collector, critic and expert on cubism from whom Richardson learned a great deal, both good and bad.The book illuminates not only the relationship between the older, impossible, Cooper and his young apprentice, but also back lights aspects of Picasso, Braque, Lèger and Juan Gris as they are reflected in the tumultuous lives of that odd couple.
The author is an inveterate gossip, as good biographers should be. He likes to tell the little details that deflate or humanize others. He does not have the malice of Capote (although sometimes he comes close), and he is obviously too amiable and forgiving to twist the knife or seek idle revenge.
One cannot be sure about the motives that led to putting out this light froth between the serious stuff; I am glad it is out there, though, and glad I read it. Being taken into Mr. Richardson's confidence and getting to know him will make the enjoyment of his next Picasso volumes all the more intense.
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By A Customer on January 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Readers looking for the third installment in the Picasso series should know that this wonderful book is not it -- we have another year or two to wait for that delightful experience. This is indeed an autobiographical journey with Richardson into the lives of some of the most fascinating people ever, not the least of whom is the delicious Mr. Richardson himself. Highly, highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Richardson's fine survey of Douglas Cooper, who assembled the world's most important private cubist collection, provides an excellent consideration of both the man and his involvement in the arts and Richardson's personal involvement with Cooper's works. Chapters offer new views of Picasso based on Richardson's friendship with the artist, plus many other unusual insights on artists and works of the times. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
By Picasso's most distinguished biographer, this memoir of life in Provence in the 1950s with art collector Douglas Cooper mesmerizes with its cast of quirky characters. The inside glimpses of Picasso at work and play are the book's highlight, but one can't underrate other protraits of the arts intelligentsia of the time. Many great candid photos enhance the superbly written text. Why did Richardson stay with Cooper for more than a decade if Cooper, the world's first huge cubist collector, was as horrid a person as portrayed? That's unanswered, and Cooper is long dead and unable to defend himself. Both men, not quite closeted gays in the '40s and '50s, were esteemed companions for some of the era's greatest creatives, so one must temper this acidic portrait with a bit of doubt. Well worth reading even if you haven't looked into the author's Picasso bio, still in progress.
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Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book anticipating the pleasure with which I read Mr.Richardson's first two installments of his Picasso bio. Sadly I found this offering unconvincing. It is as much autobiographical as it is a biography of Douglas Cooper (The Sorcerer). The cast of characters is long and illustrious. Mr.Richardson devotes entire chapters to various incidents involving these players. Who cares? One's interest in them is only marginal at best.
The best of the book is reserved for Picasso. I found the chapter describing the suicide of his last mistress (Jaqueline Rocque) absolutely riveting and deeply disturbing. From beyond the grave he was still able to dominate her. Typical Picasso: total control of his women, even in death.
Douglas Cooper was obviously a clever and perceptive art dealer who built up a treasure of modern art and sadly stored it in a chateau with too many doors.
In summary I can only presume Mr.Richardson was paying off a debt to himself and others with this excercise. I am looking forward to Mr.Richardson's further episodes in the life of the true sorcerer; Pablo Picasso.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by friends who work in the art world. Even though it is not available in Kindle format, I ordered the paperback and enjoyed it enormously. I knew (and know) very little about art history of this period (Picasso, Braque, Legre, etc.), but it was a fascinating look into what was going on with John Richardson, best known as the leading biographer of Picasso, as the narrator who 'lived it'. Every page bursts with rich gossip and anecdotes, it made me dizzy. The only criticism, which I had heard from others, is the lack of high quality illustrations that would have helped the reader appreciate some of the stories recounted. While just about every page does include a picture, they are tiny, and in B & W. I had my iPad with me as I read along, so I could look up many of the famous paintings pointed out by Richardson, as well as to look up many of the unforgettable and fascinating personalities mentioned (e.g., Toto Koopman, anyone?).
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