Peter Conrad at The Guardian:
John Richardson’s serial biography of Picasso stalled when Richardson died three years ago at the age of 95. After this hiatus it now resumes, but in a different mood. The first three volumes were triumphalist, emphasising Picasso’s victorious advance from Barcelona to Paris and the X-ray vision that enabled him to fracture reality and modernise the visual world. In the fourth volume, with Europe caving in to fascism and Spain convulsed by civil war, the surrealist Michel Leiris sets the agenda with a baleful warning. “Picasso,” Leiris announced in 1937, “sends us our letter of doom.”
That declaration refers to Guernica, Picasso’s panorama of the bombed Basque town, where distraught civilians and gutted animals writhe under a radioactive monochrome sun while in the corner a villager’s emergency trip to empty her bowels in an outhouse exposes what Picasso called “the most primitive effect of fear”.