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The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Memoir of Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper

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John Richardson's riveting memoir about growing up in England and, at twenty-five, beginning his twelve-year adventure with the controversial art collector Douglas Cooper. With a new introduction by Jed Perl, here is John Richardson's richly entertaining memoir of his life with the brilliant but difficult British art expert Douglas Cooper--a fiendish, colorful, Evelyn Waugh John Richardson's riveting memoir about growing up in England and, at twenty-five, beginning his twelve-year adventure with the controversial art collector Douglas Cooper. With a new introduction by Jed Perl, here is John Richardson's richly entertaining memoir of his life with the brilliant but difficult British art expert Douglas Cooper--a fiendish, colorful, Evelyn Waugh-like figure who single-handedly assembled the world's most important private collection of Cubist paintings. John Richardson tells the story of their ill-fated but comical association, which began in London in 1949 when Richardson was twenty-five and moved onto the Ch�teau de Castille, the famous colonnaded folly in Provence that they restored and filled with masterpieces by Picasso, Braque, L�ger, and Juan Gris. Richardson unfurls a fascinating adventure through twelve years, encompassing famous artists and writers, collectors and other celebrities--Francis Bacon, Jean Cocteau, Luis Miguel Domingu�n, Dora Maar, Peggy Guggenheim, and Henri Matisse, to name only a few. And central to the book is Richardson's close friendship with Picasso, which coincided with the emergence of the artist's new mistress, Jacqueline Roque, and gave Richardson an inside view of the repercussions she would have on Picasso's life and work. With an eye for detail, an ear for scandal, and a sparkling narrative style, Richardson has written a unique, fast-paced saga of modernism behind the scenes.


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John Richardson's riveting memoir about growing up in England and, at twenty-five, beginning his twelve-year adventure with the controversial art collector Douglas Cooper. With a new introduction by Jed Perl, here is John Richardson's richly entertaining memoir of his life with the brilliant but difficult British art expert Douglas Cooper--a fiendish, colorful, Evelyn Waugh John Richardson's riveting memoir about growing up in England and, at twenty-five, beginning his twelve-year adventure with the controversial art collector Douglas Cooper. With a new introduction by Jed Perl, here is John Richardson's richly entertaining memoir of his life with the brilliant but difficult British art expert Douglas Cooper--a fiendish, colorful, Evelyn Waugh-like figure who single-handedly assembled the world's most important private collection of Cubist paintings. John Richardson tells the story of their ill-fated but comical association, which began in London in 1949 when Richardson was twenty-five and moved onto the Ch�teau de Castille, the famous colonnaded folly in Provence that they restored and filled with masterpieces by Picasso, Braque, L�ger, and Juan Gris. Richardson unfurls a fascinating adventure through twelve years, encompassing famous artists and writers, collectors and other celebrities--Francis Bacon, Jean Cocteau, Luis Miguel Domingu�n, Dora Maar, Peggy Guggenheim, and Henri Matisse, to name only a few. And central to the book is Richardson's close friendship with Picasso, which coincided with the emergence of the artist's new mistress, Jacqueline Roque, and gave Richardson an inside view of the repercussions she would have on Picasso's life and work. With an eye for detail, an ear for scandal, and a sparkling narrative style, Richardson has written a unique, fast-paced saga of modernism behind the scenes.

30 review for The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Memoir of Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper

  1. 5 out of 5

    Doria

    A great, juicy, gossipy read by a marvelous writer and art critic, who seems to have known everyone who was anyone when it counted most. Taking a break from his more scholarly tomes, Richardson invites us backstage, giving us an insider's view of the exciting and lurid art world scene of the mid twentieth century. Kept for many formative years as the clever and attractive Maitre en Titre of the once-powerful and venomous art critic Douglas Cooper, he met everyone from Picasso to Auden, Braque, P A great, juicy, gossipy read by a marvelous writer and art critic, who seems to have known everyone who was anyone when it counted most. Taking a break from his more scholarly tomes, Richardson invites us backstage, giving us an insider's view of the exciting and lurid art world scene of the mid twentieth century. Kept for many formative years as the clever and attractive Maitre en Titre of the once-powerful and venomous art critic Douglas Cooper, he met everyone from Picasso to Auden, Braque, Peggy Guggenheim, the list is endless. His anecdotes are witty and have a zesty ring of truth to them, which gives his account both piquancy and poignancy, particularly as so many of his friends and lovers came to bad ends. This is a terrific accompaniment to any scholarly examination of important figures of the time period, but also a good series of yarns in its own right.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marshall

    This is an interesting, but at times bizarre time capsule, of the era the noted art historian learnt his trade from Douglas Cooper, in his day one of the leading authorities on Cubism and a leading collector of Cubist art. Cooper comes off a perpetually petulant pain in the ass. This book, along with the biographical insights on Picasso, Braque and other consequential modern artists, art authentication, is a mid century “Absolutely Fabulous,” replete with toxic narcissism and at times comic vind This is an interesting, but at times bizarre time capsule, of the era the noted art historian learnt his trade from Douglas Cooper, in his day one of the leading authorities on Cubism and a leading collector of Cubist art. Cooper comes off a perpetually petulant pain in the ass. This book, along with the biographical insights on Picasso, Braque and other consequential modern artists, art authentication, is a mid century “Absolutely Fabulous,” replete with toxic narcissism and at times comic vindictiveness. At the heart of the book is Picasso and his post war circle, Cocteau and a still revolving door of mistresses and muses. Many of the people in this circle professed to be Communists, in sympathy with Picasso’s political views, while driving about in Hispano Suizas, dining off caviar and truffles, and drinking bottle after bottle of champagne. This shows what can happen if communists focus on art as opposed to heavy industry. The unapologetically upper class members of this world who did not profess allegiance to Moscow cheerfully take heroin (for the skin), smoke opium, and try to cheat each other in the sale of paintings of doubtful provenance. There is a tantalizing “almost moment” in the book in which Churchill almost has lunch at Picasso’s palatial villa. Had this happened Picasso insisted that he would explain Churchill’s shortcomings as an artist to him since Churchill has raged on about the shortcomings of “modern art.” This is an insightful, at times hilarious memoir by Picasso’s biographer, recalling a rarified time in the art world where to be a bohemian, did not mean living a “dix-huitieme” lifestyle (to use an adjective frequently employed by Richardson).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    This is a book that I never would have read, had I not been in a book group where it was selected. But having said that, I'm glad I read it, even though it is a bit padded with name-dropping and details that seem superfluous. It's essentially Richardson's memoir of his impression of the mid 20th century European art scene with Picasso at its center. Cooper enters the picture as an art historian and collector, a friend of Picasso, and a pretty unlikeable person. He was wealthy (and although unst This is a book that I never would have read, had I not been in a book group where it was selected. But having said that, I'm glad I read it, even though it is a bit padded with name-dropping and details that seem superfluous. It's essentially Richardson's memoir of his impression of the mid 20th century European art scene with Picasso at its center. Cooper enters the picture as an art historian and collector, a friend of Picasso, and a pretty unlikeable person. He was wealthy (and although unstated, probably explains why Richardson, a much younger man stayed with him for twelve years, aside from them being gay lovers), extremely petty and vindictive, savaging anyone who disagreed with him. Near the end of their twelve years together, Richardson wrote a critical art piece that outshone his mentor, Cooper, and they acrimoniously split up. Hence, the title. The virtue of the book is to give the reader a sense of the world of art during this period, not the paintings in themselves, but the business end, the wheeling and dealing of collecting, buying, and selling of paintings, particularly anything done by Picasso. Cooper and Richardson renovated a chateau in southern France near where Picasso lived, and filled the walls with works by Picasso, Braque, and Leger. It was a small world and at the time had not yet been overrun by tourists. A who's who list of friends, wealthy and famous, would drop by to visit Richardson and Cooper It was a time, too, when the paintings had value, yes, but would not be worth the astronomical sums that they would later bring at auctions. Richardson's memoir has a sharpness to it that is critical of the monstrous ego of Cooper, as if this were payback time for the grievances that Richardson suffered at the hands of Cooper, one being a burning of all of his personal effects. Richardson who began as a journalist, obviously took copious notes to produce such a detailed account of Cooper's life, centered in Provence. Richardson has also written a three volume (and a fourth is pending; Richardson is now 94) critical biography of Picasso and his works, undoubtedly Richardson's major accomplishment. This book, while of some interest, to Picasso lovers, seems like a side effort.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Moritz Mueller-Freitag

    John Richardson, who died last year aged 95, was something of a Robert Caro for the art world. Like Caro, he devoted much of his life to writing monumental biographies of the highest literary quality. His multivolume series A Life of Picasso was four decades in the marking and has been widely praised as a work of art in its own right. In between volumes on Picasso, Richardson published a memoir, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which recounts his romantic relationship with the complex and often prickl John Richardson, who died last year aged 95, was something of a Robert Caro for the art world. Like Caro, he devoted much of his life to writing monumental biographies of the highest literary quality. His multivolume series A Life of Picasso was four decades in the marking and has been widely praised as a work of art in its own right. In between volumes on Picasso, Richardson published a memoir, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which recounts his romantic relationship with the complex and often prickly art collector Douglas Cooper. The narrative centers on the author’s formative years, which he spent living with Cooper in a palatial château in the South of France (Picasso was a neighbor). The account illustrates that Richardson was a legendary raconteur and a font of gossip. It’s a shame that the story stops in 1960 and doesn’t cover the post-Cooper years in New York.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Lorenzo

    I was really looking forward to reading this book and hearing more about Pablo Picasso. But I was rather disappointed to read mostly gossip about the people who made new schools of art famous. Mr. Richardson does not seem to have much respect for many of the rich folks he talks about in the memoir. While some of the names are familiar, many of them are people most of us have never heard of before. In my opinion, Mr. Richardson lived a life of leisure and lived off his paramour Douglas Cooper, who I was really looking forward to reading this book and hearing more about Pablo Picasso. But I was rather disappointed to read mostly gossip about the people who made new schools of art famous. Mr. Richardson does not seem to have much respect for many of the rich folks he talks about in the memoir. While some of the names are familiar, many of them are people most of us have never heard of before. In my opinion, Mr. Richardson lived a life of leisure and lived off his paramour Douglas Cooper, who was extremely rich. He complains about the moods and rantings of Mr. Cooper but seems content to live in the lap of luxury few will ever know. While he does finally break things off with Cooper and finds his own way, he certainly took an awful lot of time doing so. I do understand that the rich are different than you and me but reading of some of the excesses of Mr. Richardson and his friends particularly during World War II made me feel resentment towards them. The portions of the book where Picasso was mentioned (and there were many) I found very interesting. In particular his relationships with women gave me a new perspective into his work. That I did enjoy. All in all the book did not interest me as much as I hoped it would. If you like memoirs as a genre you will more than likely really enjoy this one. If you like name dropping, you will really enjoy this one. But if you would like more substance you might want to pick something else.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I’d read Richardson’s books on the life and oeuvre of Picasso prior to reading this, his autobiography of sorts (it is focused on his life with Douglas Cooper, an early collector and eminent art historian of cubist works). Richardson recounts a fascinating adventure, during which he met many persons important to the arts at that time. These are primarily first-hand experiences. He writes beautifully, candidly.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Lafong

    Terrific insights into the modern art world from the collectors to the artists themselves delivered by the author who was in the midst of this crazy world. Cooper, Picasso and Provence layed out right in front of you. A high art soap opera filled with big money and big emotions!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I read this too many years ago to write a proper review, but I enjoyed Richardson's memoir very much. I read this too many years ago to write a proper review, but I enjoyed Richardson's memoir very much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Very amusing...as long as one never had to actually deal with Douglas Cooper.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dave Wheelan

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael Howells

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan Eggleston

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Clarke

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg McConeghy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Shore

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Mahon

  19. 5 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Schirmer

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ahern

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dean

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Clark

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  25. 5 out of 5

    Doris Moore

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marene

  27. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Ganzevoort

  28. 4 out of 5

    Will

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynne F Corbett

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