Portraits of Privacy - Campaign Styles

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Portraits of Privacy

Sir John Richardson

Picasso's Biographer

Sir John Richardson, who turns 92 in February, has spent more than a quarter of a century writing three of what will be a four volume biography of Picasso who he first met during the summer of 1948 when he was taken to the artist's Paris studio by Douglas Cooper, the art historian with whom he lived for ten years. Richardson, who was 24 at the time, was immediately captivated by Picasso.

"This was in Paris after the war and Picasso would hold open studio days once or twice a week," Richardson said. "They weren't exactly a mob scene. The first time I went there must have been around 25 people there and you'd have a two minute chat with Picasso, nothing very serious."

The first time I went there must have been around 25 people there and you'd have a two minute chat with Picasso, nothing very serious.
He [Picasso] was good at spotting susceptible individuals.

The two met didn't meet again until around 1951, when he and Cooper visited Picasso in Vallarius in the Southeastern France where he was living. "At one moment he turned his eyes on me and held my gaze for long enough to induce a responsive quiver," Richardson has recalled many times. "He was good at spotting susceptible individuals."

Picasso was also the most photographed artist in the world. Over the years photographers like Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, Man Ray and Jacques-Henri Lartique captured him in different guises. Picasso himself also took self-portraits, or what we would now called selfies, posing in different ways as if he were trying on different identities – the dandy, the artiste, the macho man.

Picasso abhorred publicity yet he couldn't escape it

"But there was a very private side to him too," Sir John said the other day. "Picasso abhorred publicity yet he couldn't escape it. There are many references in his work to this problem of privacy versus notoriety. Often his self-portraits are more of a disguise than they are a reality."