... no studiedly dry academic treatise, but a portrait of the artist by a longtime friend ... The advantage is that Richardson and, by extension, we have intimate access to the painter not only at the easel but at home and at the bullfight and on the run from one lover to another, and on, and on ... The disadvantage of Richardson’s closeness to Picasso is an occasional lapse into an embarrassing chattiness ... as much a portrait of an age, in all its color and its tragic, and often trivial, goings-on, as it is a biography of one of the titans of that age ... Richardson is slow to display sympathy for any of Picasso’s loves.
[Richardson is] a fluent writer with a gift for narrative and a sensitive ability to read the artist’s work in relation to his life ... Throughout the biography, Richardson invariably refers to women by their first names and men by their last names, although the undeniably masculine Gertrude Stein is occasionally granted the dignity of her surname. Once out of short pants, Pablo becomes Picasso. The infantilizing gesture toward female figures, no doubt unconscious, is revealing. Although Richardson is frank about Picasso’s misogyny, his tone is breezy ... compromised by coy aggrandizement of the artist’s work and complicity with his behavior ... It is this broader cultural myth, founded on context-dependent prior beliefs, that requires interrogation, not by censorship, but by discussion, a discussion that is absent from Richardson’s biography.
This is the fourth volume in art historian Richardson’s phenomenally detailed and unfailingly perceptive biography of a protean artist he knew personally. This granted him unique access to invaluable material, including diaries and magnetizing photographs, many documenting Picasso’s key involvement with surrealist photographer Dora Maar ... Richardson, who died in 2019, has given the world a magnificently illuminating, vital, and invaluable biography covering two-thirds of the complex life of a perpetually rejuvenating titan of art.