Picasso: A Biography
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"The best biography of Picasso."―Kenneth Clark
Patrick O'Brian's outstanding biography of Picasso is here available in paperback for the first time. It is the most comprehensive yet written, and the only biography fully to appreciate the distinctly Mediterranean origins of Picasso's character and art.
Everything about Picasso, except his physical stature, was on an enormous scale. No painter of the first rank has been so awe-inspiringly productive. No painter of any rank has made so much money. A few painters have rivaled his life span of ninety years, but none has attracted so avid, so insatiable, a public interest.
Patrick O'Brian knew Picasso sufficiently well to have a strong sense of his personality. The man that emerges from this scholarly, passionate, and brilliantly written biography is one of many contradictions: hard and tender, mean and generous, affectionate and cold, private despite the relish of his fame. In his later years he professed communism, yet in O'Brian's view retained to the end of his life a residual Catholic outlook.
Not that such matters were allowed to interfere with his vigorous sensuality. Sex and money, eating and drinking, friends and quarrels, comedies and tragedies, suicides and wars tumble one another in the vast chaos of his experience. he was "a man almost as lonely as the sun, but one who glowed with much the same fierce, burning life." It is with that impression of its subject that this book leaves its readers.
Picasso’s very old friend Juli González: the news of it reached him a few days before he painted the picture. In the same month he painted a couple of still-lives of horned ox-skulls, the one seen by day, the other by night; these too are somber, brooding pictures; and in their spare, angular stylization they mark a mid-point between two of the manners he was using at this time, on the one hand a faceted series of often straight-edged planes (one recumbent nude might almost come from the early
familiar, “I’ll find a little drawing.” A chill fell on the conversation but presently Picasso, who for some time past had been complaining of his want of space in Louis Fort’s house, observed, “I’ve always wanted to paint really large surfaces, and I’ve never been given any.” “Surfaces!” cried La Souchère. “You want surfaces? I can give you some.” He could indeed. The museum had a whole upper floor of vast rooms completely empty. Picasso took him at his word, moved into this warm, sunlit,
all events it was the happiest life he ever knew. But his youth was passing—indeed, it had passed: he was nearly forty—and his family urged him to marry. None of his brothers or sisters had yet produced a son, and the family name was in danger of extinction. They arranged a suitable marriage for him, and although he could not be brought to like the young woman of their choice he did make an offer to her cousin María—María Picasso y Lopez. Yet before the marriage could take place the Canon died:
Soulié’s shop. (The famous “Blue Room,” now in Washington and once offered to all comers by Berthe Weill, but in vain.) He bought it for ten francs, and then a few days later he walked into the Lapin Agile for the first time: “The low-ceilinged room was filled with young painters from the rue Gabrielle and the place Ravignan. Someone was reciting Verlaine. I sat at the big table in the middle and called for wine. In the course of the evening I learnt that the young man who had painted my picture
was cosa mentale—that the painter’s eye must see deep, and that it must know the essence of what it sees. He said, “You have to understand that there are two ways of seeing things, the one by just looking at them and the other by gazing at them with real attention. Just looking is merely the eye’s natural reception of the shape and likeness of the thing seen. Gazing with real attention is not only that but also an intense study of the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the object. So it