Monday, July 23, 2007

Five best books: lives of artists

Meryle Secrest, who has written biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Rodgers and Salvador Dalí (among others), is the author of Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject (Knopf, 2007).

She selected a five best "books which indelibly portray the lives of artists" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
A Life of Picasso by John Richardson (Random House, 1991, vol. 1; 1996, vol. 2)

John Richardson, the author, editor, curator and all-around aesthete, has the ability to combine superb scholarship with a delicious style and unfailing wit. In the mid-1980s, then about 60, he embarked on a four-volume study of Pablo Picasso's life. It took him six years to publish the first volume (with a staggering 900 illustrations), covering the artist's life from 1881 to 1906. The second (1907-17) came five years later. At last, after more than a decade in the making, the third volume (1917-32) arrives this fall. It is joyous news, for Richardson's work so far is a paragon of biography-writing, rich with research and inspired in its insights. Richardson gives us Picasso in all his sensitive, brutal, vulnerable and cruel complexity.

Read more about Secrest's list.

--Marshal Zeringue