the lord


The writer Thomas Mann, responding by letter to a young James Lord, wrote that he possessed ‘the gift of admiration’ which ‘above all enables a talented person to learn’. James was the third of four sons, born to Albert, a stockbroker, and Louise, whose family had made their wealth manufacturing stoves. He spent his early childhood in a tranquil suburb of New York – holidaying in Paris, Maine. By the age of just eight Lord already displayed a talent for writing, completing a biography of Beethoven before his early teens. But he struggled with the strictures of his private education and eventually left Wesleyan University, Connecticut, without graduating. Lord served as an officer in the intelligence services and by the age of twenty-two found himself in recently liberated Paris on a three-day pass. Wasting no time, he located Picasso’s address on the Rue de Grands-Augustins in Montparnasse. Lord writes ‘[I] braced my brashness at the pinpoint of Picasso’s doorbell.’ Shortly afterwards he was sharing breakfast with the artist and his long-time muse and mistress, Dora Maar, who was a photographer, poet and painter in her own right, as well as the inspiration for many Picasso masterpieces, most notably The Weeping Woman. It was start of a relationship that would have defining consequences for all three. ‘It is important to know,’ wrote Lord later of the experience, ‘how perverse, cruel, ruthless, sentimental, and promiscuous Picasso could be. Indeed, how could anyone honestly study his work and imagine him to be otherwise?

more from Ted Hodgkinson at Granta here.