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John Richardson (art historian)

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Title: John Richardson (art historian)  
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Subject: Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, 1991 in literature, Cubism, Private Passions
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John Richardson (art historian)


Youth and education

John Patrick Richardson was born on 22 February, 1924, the elder son of Sir Wodehouse Richardson, D.S.O., K.C.B., Quarter-Master General in the Boer War, and founder of London and the British Empire's Army & Navy Stores. His mother was Patty (née Crocker); he had a younger sister (b. 1925) and a younger brother.[1] In 1929, when he was five years old, his father died, and his mother sent him to board at two successive preparatory schools, where he was unhappy. When he was thirteen he became a boarder at Stowe school, where he admired the architecture and landscape and was taught something about the work of Picasso and other innovative painters. By 1939 and the outbreak of World War II he knew that he wanted to become an artist, and, a month short of seventeen, enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art (at that time 'evacuated' to Oxford), where he became a friend of Geoffrey Bennison and James Bailey. When he was called up, he obtained a position in the Irish Guards, but almost immediately contracted rheumatic fever and was invalided out of the army.[2] During this period he met and made friends with Francis Bacon[3][4][5] and Lucian Freud,[6] both of whom portrayed him later.[7] He spent the rest of the war with his mother and siblings in London.[8] During daytime, he worked as an industrial designer before becoming a reviewer for The New Observer.[9] In 1949 he became acquainted with art historian and collector Douglas Cooper, with whom he would share his life for the next ten years.

Liaison with Douglas Cooper

He moved to southern France (Provence) in 1952, as Douglas Cooper acquired Château de Castille in the vicinity of Avignon and transformed the run-down castle into a private museum of early Cubism.[10] Cooper had been at home in the Paris art scene before World War II and had been active in the art business as well;[11] by building his own collection, he also met many artists personally and introduced them to his friend. Richardson became a close friend of Picasso,[12] Léger and de Staël as well. Back then he developed an interest in Picasso's portraits and contemplated creating a publication; more than 20 years later, these plans expanded into his four-part Picasso biography A Life of Picasso, whose last volume has not yet been published.[12][13]

New York

In 1960, Richardson left Cooper and moved to New York, where he organized a nine-gallery Picasso retrospective in 1962 and a Braque retrospective in 1964. Christie's then appointed him to open their US office, which he ran for the next nine years.[14] In 1973 he joined New York gallery M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., as Vice President in charge of 19th- and 20th-century painting, and later became Managing Director of Artemis, a mutual fund specializing in works of art.[13]

In 1980 he decided to devote all his time to writing. Besides working on his Picasso biography, he has been a contributor to,[15] The New Yorker[16] and Vanity Fair.[17] In 1993 Richardson was elected to the British Academy and in 1995 he was appointed Slade Professor of Art at Oxford.[14]

Picasso biography

The first of four planned volumes of Richardson's A Life of Picasso biography, (originally planned to be published in one single volume), was published in 1991, describing 25 years from his birth to 1906, winning a Whitbread Award. The second volume was published in November 1996, covering 10 years from 1907–1916, covering the birth of Cubism, followed by the third volume in 2007, devoted to the period up to 1932, when Picasso turned 50.[18] Richardson is currently working on the final volume with the assistance of Michael Cary and Gijs van Hensbergen, which is scheduled to be published by Knopf in 2014.[19]

15 years after Cooper's death, Richardson published his biography (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper) in 1999 and a collection of essays in 2001 (Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters). He was curator of an exhibition of the late Picasso with title Mosqueteros in the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. For the London Gagosian Gallery, he curated another such exhibition in 2010: Picasso - The Mediterranean Years (1945-1962), 4. Juni - 28. August 2010.[20][21]

In 2011, Richardson was awarded France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his contributions to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

Richardson was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to art.[22][23]





  1. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 4
  2. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 9
  3. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 11
  4. ^ The Guardian: Demons and beefcake – the other side of Francis Bacon. By Charlotte Higgins, 22. November 2009, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  5. ^ The Guardian: Sado-masochism and stolen shoe polish: Bacon's legacy revisited Art historian John Richardson's revelations on the troubled artist he knew as a young man. By Charlotte Higgins, 22. November 2009, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  6. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 14
  7. ^ Charlie Rose: A rebroadcast of a conversation with John Richardson. Video, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  8. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 9/10
  9. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 15
  10. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1999, p. 87ff.
  11. ^ John Richardson: The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper., p. 23-24
  12. ^ a b The Guardian: Picasso nearly risked his reputation for Franco exhibition Had he accepted it would have been major coup for Falangists and destroyed Picasso's status as hero of left, says biographer. By Charlotte Higgins, 28. Mai 2010, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  13. ^ a b THE AI INTERVIEW: John Richardson. Artinfo. By David Grosz, May 29, 2008, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Random House: John Richardson
  15. ^ The New York Review of Books: John Richardson, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  16. ^ The New Yorker: John Richardson, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  17. ^ Vanity Fair: John Richardson, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  18. ^ The New York Times: More on the Career of the Genius Who Boldly Compared Himself to God. By MICHIKO KAKUTANI, November 6, 2007, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  19. ^ ARTnews: Uncovering Picasso's secrets, retrieved January 24, 2013
  20. ^ Gagosian Gallery, London: PICASSO - THE MEDITERRANEAN YEARS (1945-1962), retrieved August 13, 2010.
  21. ^ The Guardian: Picasso shows a softer face in London. The artist's later statues and ceramics, on show at the Gagosian gallery's Mediterranean Years, reveal a tender family man, retrieved August 13, 2010.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60009. p. 24. 31 December 2011.
  23. ^ New Year Honours List 2012: full list,
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