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A Life of Picasso, Vol. 1: The Prodigy, 1881-1906 (A Life of Picasso #1)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  1,168 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
As he magnificently combines meticulous scholarship with irresistible narrative appeal, Richardson draws on his close friendship with Picasso, his own diaries, the collaboration of Picasso's widow Jacqueline, and unprecedented access to Picasso's studio and papers to arrive at a profound understanding of the artist and his work. 800 photos.
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Knopf (first published February 20th 1991)
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Jan 18, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing
Let me try to be a bit more coherent.

First, there is a nice on-line collection of Picasso's complete works (and much, much more) at this site:

The first volume of this biography covers the years 1881-1906 (but really goes through 1907): Picasso's youth, his early years in Paris, Blue Period, Rose Period, the remarkable sojourn at Gósol -- his dealings with Apollinaire, Alfred Jarry (who Picasso actually did not ever meet), the Steins, Matisse -- and his passion (via Paco
Jan 09, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m not sure how many volumes Richardson imagines. Three have been published to date, this first volume in 1991 and the most recent volume, which only goes to 1932, in 2007. When you take into account that Richardson knew Picasso, who died thirty plus years ago, and is therefore not a young man, and that he is not yet halfway through the artist’s life, and that he clearly believes that Picasso remained a major artist throughout his long life, he’s got some serious typing to do because at least t ...more
Charles Bechtel
Nov 01, 2012 Charles Bechtel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Artists, painters, historians, people who understand Pablo, people who don't
A while back I found myself, a canoeist for many years, the pilot of a river raft full of terrified landlubbers. I was chosen as pilot because I had wrestled with rapids and quick waters often, and was trusted. About halfway through the trip we were presented with a fast rapids in which an enormous boulder was centered. To one side ran fast water but few rapids, to the other were froths and boiling rages. I could manage either, but there was no way I could precede without managing at least one.

Oct 06, 2013 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another one on my quest to read biographies of all the artists. A tough slog, but fascinating sometimes.
Craig Masten
Jul 02, 2016 Craig Masten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A life of Picasso Volume I by John Richardson is certainly an antidote to the rather effusively positive recent review I gave to the novel Madame Picasso by Anne Girard. Her novel was certainly wonderfully written, but this comprehensive nonfiction treatment of Picasso paints a considerably darker, more complicated view of that great painter. In his oversized work Richardson tells you in great detail the life of Picasso and from his birth in 1881 to the year of his first breakthrough success in ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Volume One of Richardson's four volume biography of Picasso (Volumes One through Three are available. I believe Volume Four will be published in 2014). If you are looking for a quick read of Picasso's life, this probably is not the book for you. But if you are looking for a biography that weaves Picasso's life with his work in a manner that is both elegant and understandable, start reading this series.

John Richardson is an art historian. He lived near Picasso in the 50's and had a friend
I've been eyeing this book on our shelves for twenty years knowing one day I'd get to it. Richardson's volume 1 of Picasso's life takes him up to age 26 just before his breakthrough painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and the dawn of cubism. Every move the artist makes and every person he meets is covered in his years of struggle and poverty. Excellent on influence of Gertrude Stein and PPs rivalry with Matisse. It's clear Picasso felt he had to divest himself of all family connections especially ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had the very good fortune of enrolling in a course on Picasso at UMass Boston the year of the "Picasso Early Years Exhibit" at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston 1997-98. This was the primary text book we used for the course, and our class attended a lecture by the author at the MFA. They say timing is everything. It was an incredible course, and this book provided rich insight into Picasso's work and life and times.
Comprehensive,detailed account of the artist as a young man but a little too dry for my taste. Trudge up the mountain as the author goes through seemingly every piece of art Picasso ever made (and he made sooo much), and also introduces you to every single other bohemian he hung around with. The fact that he ends his account just before his breakthrough with cubism seems almost pervers.
Steve Thorp
Apr 30, 2012 Steve Thorp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A magisterial, monumental biography of the first 26 years of the most important artist of the 20th century. Impeccably researched and written, and crammed with drawings, paintings, photographs, the book reads like a novel. Essential if you enjoy reading biograpy, or about Western art, or the artistic process, or the life of a great artist, etc.
Ross Whamond
Jan 01, 2013 Ross Whamond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
A thoroughly enjoyable and informative insight into the early formative years.
Showing how Picasso developed his art through his different periods and.And the other artists and movements of the period.
Only improvement would be to have the illustrations in colour rather than black and white.

Looking forward to volume 2.
Jan 18, 2009 Sharyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story of Picasso's early years up until 1907 when he painted a modern masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Every page is illustrated with drawings, paintings, and photos that illuminate the text. You may not like Picasso as a person but getting a glimpse of the Paris art scene at the beginning of the 20th century is amazing.
Jul 02, 2015 Beau rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is not a review, but a remark.

Picasso is well limned here, that is fine. The thing that comes off as petty is how Richardson incessantly bad-mouths Gertrude Stein. Richardson is of the camp of believers for whom Gertrude was a fraud, while Leo Stein was the real genius. I do not share this view.
Dubmaster Rasta rob
started to read, stopped, continued, stopped, continued, stopped ... boring book.Just a collection of dates. Maybe good for an art history student, but not so much for someone who want's to read about peoples life.
Richard Wise
Dec 15, 2013 Richard Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A magnificent effort. This is my second reading after an interval of ten years. Richardson does a superb job of telling the story of one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century.
Mar 02, 2013 Brett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
SO so dry, encyclopedic in irrelevant minutiae, slow, and overly long. Could not bring myself to finish it.
David Jones
Jan 30, 2017 David Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
definative bio
Jan 30, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exhaustive in detail but still entertaining to read. Tons of pictures, there's nothing I can add that isn't in other reviews. Worth the time and I'm looking forward to starting book 2!
Mark Janowiak
Apr 26, 2010 Mark Janowiak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the 3 volumes in reverse order which really made no difference. These ARE the definative bios and I can't wait for firther volumes. Read them all!
Winter Sophia Rose
Brings To Life The Great Artist's First 25 Years!
Guy Cranswick
Sep 09, 2009 Guy Cranswick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superb personal and artistic/cultural biography
Lost In A Fog
Feb 28, 2008 Lost In A Fog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is the first of this amazing biography of a fascinating life....
Jc Olsen
Jan 25, 2015 Jc Olsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picasso. He was a genius.
Tandra Jorgensen
Jul 03, 2012 Tandra Jorgensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Extremely well written in every way. It sets a very high standard for all biographies.
Jan 03, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, visual
I'd love to get 'round to the other two volumes eventually!
Jan 10, 2009 Charlie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i meant only to look at the pictures, but so well written I find myself reading this textbook/novel book about the life of picasso (from zero to twenty five)
so far, amazing.
very very good.
Finally started reading it.
Dec 07, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richardson strikes a nice tone and remains clear-eyed even as he deals with the myths and personal failings.
Eric Huettenmueller
Aug 24, 2012 Eric Huettenmueller rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest books son Picasso's early life and career. Richardson knows what he's talking about and is in depth when writing. Great book that I recommend to everyone.
Marga Vr
Jan 31, 2008 Marga Vr marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
First of three volumes 548 pages
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There is more than one author with this name

Sir John Patrick Richardson, KBE, is a British art historian and Picasso biographer. The elder son of Sir Wodehouse Richardson, he was sent to board at two successive schools after his father's death in 1929. When he was thirteen he became a boarder at Stowe school, where he admired the architecture and landscape and was taught something about the work
More about John Richardson...

Other Books in the Series

A Life of Picasso (3 books)
  • A Life of Picasso, Vol. 2: The Painter of Modern Life, 1907-1917
  • A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years: 1917-1932 (Vol 3)

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