the triumphant years


Volume three of John Richardson’s A Life of Picasso has now appeared and, like the first two installments of the biography,[*] it is a work so rich with information and insight that it will forever change our understanding of the artist. The book opens in 1917 when Picasso was thirty-five and closes in 1932 when he was fifty-one; it was during this span that he became the richest and most famous painter on earth. Yet the volume’s subtitle, “The Triumphant Years,” refers more to his sustained artistic success than to his worldly prosperity.

Throughout this period, in a rush of ceaseless creativity, Picasso devised and explored one new experiment in style after another, shifting back and forth between many different modes of representation at a rate of speed and with a measure of confidence unmatched in the history of art. It was for Picasso a time of innovation nearly as bold and original as that of the first Cubist period that began with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, but the very diversity of his experiments has made them difficult for historians to grasp or explain. Revealing himself to be a master of criticism as well as of biography, Richardson not only casts new light on each of the innovations Picasso discovered, he also shows, better than anyone has before, how the various experiments were interrelated.

more from the NYRB here.