“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 JohnRichardson 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, JohnRichardson, courtesy Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Richardson with NanKempner at the Met Gala, circa 1980, photograph by Patrick McMullan; Richardson (right) with Boaz Mazor, circa 1975, photograph by Bob Colacello.
The poet, journalist, novelist, and editor Stephen Spender is the subject of an exhibition at Frieze London, presented by Hauser &Wirth and Moretti Fine Art.
The project explores Spender’s progressive ideas and artistic friendships, and features work by artists he personally knew and/or collected, including Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Henry Moore, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Serge Poliakoff, and Yannis Tsarouchis.
A beautiful exhibition catalogue—edited by Ben Eastham and formatted in the style of Horizon, the journal Spender, CyrilConnolly, and Peter Watson founded in 1939—includes artwork reproductions, poems by Spender, and essays on his deep affinities with art, literature, and political activism in the 1930s. “On Censorship” by Caroline Moorehead addresses Spender’s connection with its subject through the journal he co-founded, Index on Censorship.
(In the early 1990s, Spender himself prevailed on the court system to prevent the publication of While England Sleeps, David Leavitt’s novel that appropriated stories from Spender’s autobiography World within World and added scenes of gay erotica, which he dismissed as “pornography.” Spender married twice—Natasha Spender was his widow and he was the father of Matthew and Elizabeth—but, as disclosed in his New Selected Journals and letters to ChristopherIsherwood and others, Spender’s emotional and sexual life was marked by numerous same-sex relationships.)
“We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.” — Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, on August 15, 1967, at the unveiling of the CHICAGO PICASSO.
“Pablo Picasso’s first monumental sculpture in America—known simply as the CHICAGO PICASSO— designates the plaza in front of the Chicago Civic Center [now Daley Center] as a public gathering space. The sculpture stands 50 feet tall on a base of granite, and is constructed of the same Cor-Ten steel as the building behind it.
“In the 1960s, at the request of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill [SOM] senior partner William Hartmann, Picasso designed the site-specific sculpture to relate to the Civic Center. Hartmann envisioned the sculpture as an anchor for the center’s large granite plaza. Hartmann traveled to the artist’s home in southeastern France several times, presenting Picasso with photographs of Chicago and drawings of the projected 31-story Civic Center and adjoining plaza. Although Picasso had been sculpting for nearly 60 years, he had yet to create a large-scale civic sculpture.
“Picasso [who never visited the United States during his lifetime] spent over a year developing a maquette that he gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago. Working from the artist’s detailed guidelines, Hartmann supervised SOM’s team of structural engineers as they facilitated construction of the public artwork.” — SOM*
CHICAGO PICASSO, Daley Plaza, 50 West Washington Street, downtown Chicago.
Top: August 1967 unveiling and dedication ceremony of Chicago Picasso, Civic Center plaza, Chicago.
Middle: Pablo Picasso, Chicago Picasso (1967). Image credit: Wiki.
Bottom left: Pablo Picasso. Bottom right: Maquette, 42 inches high. Image credits: SOM and the Art Institute of Chicago.