The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper
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- Publisher : University of Chicago Press (September 25, 2001)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 328 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0226712451
- ISBN-13 : 978-0226712451
- Item Weight : 1.12 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.1 x 9.13 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #560,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Many writers have already put forward their devoted recollections of Picasso (as if he were a demi-god on first name basis) - There are few of them still alive (excepting Gilot and Laporte) who have been able to convincingly portray the less godly side of the artist. Richardson is now stepping into memoir territory and he does so with a good deal of respect, admiration (not too much) and above all pragmatism. Where others have told of a universe controlled by Picasso, existing only for Picasso, Richardson remains soberly objective. This euphoria free examination of the networks which revolve around their sun makes it clear how Picasso was very a much a subject within his own principality.
Importantly the book opens a very generous window into the world of the seemingly decadent post war progressive upper class. These people are aware that the Art-world, as well as society in general, will awaken from it's long dormancy (or torpor) and finally embrace modernism through modern Art. Who is Cooper but a talented art critic, collector and well heeled mentor/lover - who gives us Richardson. Richardson in turn gives us Picasso - the man and not the legend. Could this all have been foreseen by Picasso? Possibly. We know Picasso had a soft spot for posterity and as he himself pushed seventy, meeting an earnest twenty five year old Richardson, he may have recognised an opportunity.
Richardson has noted everything in a judgement free and diplomatic frame of respect to Cooper, Picasso and the whole band of devotees. There is the feeling that this 'tertulia' (a newly created group of devoted friend/followers) exist only to stroke the ego of superstar Picasso during the time of his late oeuvre. Oddly, by not drawing attention to many of Picasso's insecurities (death, impotence, irrelevance) they may have inadvertently made matters worse. Typically, Picasso the pope of paradox, reserves his worse venom for himself.
While Picasso rages harder against the tides of nature, the mercurial and even scurrilous Cooper realistically bows, softening in time. Richardson affectionately commends his old chum Cooper to our consciousness, as he relates to us the man who was his conduit to the stars. Cooper's serious writings may have been superseded but there was one last bitchy critique (concerning Picasso's sometimes patchy late works) that refuses to sink from view - The incomprehensible smearing of a man on death's doorstep. Was it revenge or plain honesty that caused him to make such a deliberate break of faith? As we come to know Cooper, we could even believe it was both.
And what of Richardson himself. His ever varied and charming life is without doubt a fascinating read. In 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' we meet Richardson the apprentice as he overtakes his mentor (the sorcerer Cooper) and breaks free from a futureless relationship with him. Richardson has his own moment of truth re Picasso. Jacqueline had kept stating "Pablo is not dead"- Picasso is still very much alive. The entire Art world (particularly the art market) will concur. Richardson is speaking after all about the inheritors when he pointedly states," the old shaman's shadow..continues to bedevil his heirs" which seems particularly amusing. After all, isn't John Richardson one of them.