Bullfighting with Picasso

Bull-headMartin Gayford at The Spectator:

Picasso was an aficionado, an ardent devotee of the sport; similarly, Richardson himself is an aficionado of Picasso, combining vast knowledge of his work with an intimate day-to-day acquaintance with the artist, a sense of how Picasso thought and felt. It is now 37 years since he embarked on his immense Life of Picasso, of which three volumes have appeared to date (the third taking the narrative only up to 1932).

Richardson was drawn to the work even before he encountered the man. At 14 years old, still a schoolboy at Stowe, he saw a copy of ‘La Minotauromachie’ (1935), at Zwemmer’s bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Now regarded as Picasso’s greatest print, this etching was then recent and priced at £50. He asked his mother for an advance on his allowance to buy it, but instead she gave Mr Zwemmer a dressing-down: ‘It’s a disgrace trying to palm off this stuff on children!’

The minotaur, like the bullfight, was a frequent theme in Picasso’s art. Together these two interlinked subjects — the bull-man and matador killing the bull — make up the Gagosian exhibition. Both are deeply connected with Mediterranean culture, going back to ancient Crete, and also with Picasso’s psyche. As Richardson points out, the artist seems to empathise now with the bull, now with the matador, and often with the Minotaur. Did Picasso identify with this horned and hirsute monster? ‘God, yes!’

more here.