“On February 6, 1954—not quite halfway through my twelve years with Douglas [Cooper]—I turned thirty. Douglas planned a birthday celebration that would also serve as a belated housewarming. But on February 5, the arctic chill that had paralysed much of Europe turned even fiercer, and for the first time in decades Castille was beautifully blanketed with a heavy fall of snow… We put the party off until Easter.
“On Easter Sunday… some of us went to the bullfight… In the course of the corrida, Picasso and Jacqueline [Roque] announced that they and the rest of their group—sixteen in all, including Picasso’s son, Paulo… and Jean Cocteau, plus entourage—would like to dine at Castille; he also announced that he had a present for us… an Ingresque drawing that had obsessed me ever since I first saw it pinned on a wall at Le Fournas: an uncompromisingly frontal image of a naked girl, legs wide apart, seated like an odalisque on a pile of cushions. It had been heavily worked. To create highlights and smudge shadows, Picasso used an eraser—a device he admitted borrowing from Matisse… I was surprised at his giving us something so personal until I realized that the gift must have been made at Jacqueline’s behest. She would have had every reason to want this erotic image removed from the studio wall: it represented one of her rivals, Geneviève Laporte. Characteristically, Picasso brought the drawing in the box that had contained the Dior wrap we had given Jacqueline for Christmas. No less characteristically, he kept the box; he liked to incorporate emballage in his work. As Picasso handed over the drawing, he said, presciently, ‘When you two split up, you’re going to have to cut it in half.’ After we broke up, Douglas simply kept it. Sadly, the drawing disappeared when Castille was burgled some years later. So far as I know, it’s still in the hands of the Mafia.” — John Richardson*
The writer, curator, collector, raconteur, art world insider, and great Picasso biographer John Richardson died in Manhattan this week. Volume IV of A Life of Picasso was nearly complete at the time of its author’s death, and should be published later this year.
*John Richardson, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 203–204.
From top: John Richardson (left) and Pablo Picasso, photograph by André Villers (detail), courtesy Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and ADAGP, Paris; Andy Warhol, John Richardson, courtesy Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Richardson with Nan Kempner at the Met Gala, circa 1980, photograph by Patrick McMullan; Richardson (right) with Boaz Mazor, circa 1975, photograph by Bob Colacello.