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Portrait of the Artist

In his 91 years on earth, Pablo Picasso immersed himself in everything from painting to sculpture to costume design. Not to mention all the women he bedded, wedded, tortured and left.

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John Richardson today.

Photo By Pasha Antonov

In his 91 years on earth, Pablo Picasso immersed himself in everything from painting to sculpture to costume design. Not to mention all the women he bedded, wedded, tortured and left. Perhaps most significantly, the artist became involved with a young ballerina named Olga Khokhlova, whom he met while he was working with the Ballets Russes on the play "Parade" in 1917. The marriage that followed was, by all accounts, disastrous and combusted when Picasso fell in love with a 17-year-old girl named Marie-Thérèse Walter.

Here, the legendary historian John Richardson discusses Picasso, the women in his life and the third volume of his biography of the artist, "A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932" (Knopf), which comes out on Nov. 13.

WWD: How did the process of doing this volume differ from the first two? Did your opinion of Picasso change in any way after writing this one?

John Richardson: My opinion of Picasso didn't change, but my knowledge of what happened totally did. Basically, this third volume is about him getting married in 1918, and then, 10 years later, meeting one of the loves of his life, this sexy Swedish girl, Marie-Thérèse, at which point the marriage completely comes apart. Everybody had always swept the wife under the rug and she played a very key role in his art and in his life. The marriage started off incredibly badly. Just before the wedding, this Russian ballerina [Khokhlova] had this mysterious accident and wound up on a stick at the wedding. And it must have been appalling for her and appalling for him, because Picasso liked lots of boom-boom and here is his wife's leg in plaster for the whole of the honeymoon. And she did have this enormous influence on Picasso. She did turn him into a kind of conventional bourgeois Parisian with a nice apartment and a butler and a cook, and a nanny and a governess. He gave into it. His paintings became very classical and he led this very classical life, and he went to all the right parties and became very much a part of the beau monde in Paris. And then he reacted violently to it and put all the blame for it on his wife.
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