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
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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.)
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