The first volume of John Richardson’s definitive life of Picasso was published by Cape in 1991, the second in 1996. This long-awaited third volume has all the virtues of the previous two: a many-spiced cocktail of gossip and connoisseurship, written with the spontaneity of an extended letter by one who, through age and circumstance, has an insider’s knowledge of the subject. Richardson knew the haut monde and the demi-monde about which he writes and, crucially, he knew Picasso.
The style and attitude of the book suit its subject, who enjoyed being à la page and was elitist to the point of believing himself to be God. ‘God is really another artist … like me … I am God, I am God, I am God’, he insisted to a Spanish friend in the 1930s. Today, when egalitarianism is a driving force in academia as elsewhere, such belief in hierarchies and excellence may well strike a younger generation as quaint. But that was the way it was and, for those like the author lucky enough to have known it, the way it should remain.
The ‘triumphant years’ signal Picasso’s emergence as a celebrity, exemplified by his subscribing in 1919 to a press-cutting service for the first time. These were the years of his stage collaborations with Diaghilev, which required his first and only extended visit to England, when he stayed in London at the