The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper by John Richardson - review by Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber

Out of the Snake Pit

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper


Jonathan Cape 288pp £20 order from our bookshop

What does John Richardson think he is doing? He is half-way through his monumental Life of Picasso, with two volumes down and at least two more to go – you would think that, at seventy-five, he would feel some urgency to finish it. But he has taken time out to write this fluffy memoir. Of course it’s good fun, but it would be tragic if he didn’t finish his Picasso.

Perhaps Richardson felt he needed to pay a belated tribute to the ‘Sorcerer’ who gave him his entree to Picasso – Douglas Cooper. Cooper was a shit by all accounts including this one, a bully and a troublemaker with a lacerating tongue, but he was one of the greatest connoisseurs of modern art. Armed with family money from Australia, he bought the big four Cubists – Picasso, Braque, Léger and Gris – before the War, when they were still cheap, and ended up with a collection worth half a billion.

Richardson was presumably a dazzlingly handsome young man when Cooper met him in 1949. (Actually, he is still handsome – he starred in some ads for Gap T-shirts a few years ago.) Richardson was then twenty-five, conveniently invalided out of the Irish Guards and making an exiguous living as a

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