Patrick Taylor-Martin

Collecting Celebrities

Picasso and Dora: A Memoir

By James Lord

Weidenfeld & Nicholson 352pp £20 order from our bookshop

Although James Lord has no new interpretation to offer, no book about Picasso could fail to be interesting on some level. As for the inscrutable Dora Maar, painter, photographer and Picasso’s mistress, at the end of this book she remains as enigmatic and mysterious as ever.

In fact, it is the author – the subject in which Lord is most interested – who emerges in strongest relief. He is self-obsessed to an embarrassing degree. There is nothing about himself which he is unprepared to share with his readers. Indeed the confessional posture often comes perilously close to masochism. He gleefully quotes an extract from Thornton Wilder’s published diaries in which he is described is ‘a sort of less vivacious Boswell, diligently and unsuppressibly cultivating Picasso and Gide and Cocteau and Marie-Laure de Noailles, and anybody who is anybody in Paris’. On the evidence of this book the feline Wilder seems to have got Lord’s measure pretty accurately. Far from being discomposed, Lord squirms exquisitely under the lash of Wilder’s pen, remarking that it shows ‘an extraordinary, almost supernatural prescience on Thornton’s part. I know that [he] did not mean to be complimentary, but I count myself the gratified recipient of, at least, an amenity’.

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