PICASSO: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington

PICASSO: Creator and Destroyer

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Huffington (Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend, 1981) is more interested here in the destructive nature of the man whom many regard as the greatest painter of the 20th century than she is in his creativity. Granted there was much about the Spanish-born artist that was despicable--his egomania, his cruelty, his male chauvinism. By focusing almost exclusively on these qualities, however, particularly as they affected the women in Picasso's life, the author has produced a biography that becomes more than a little repetitive in the telling. Much of the material here is, of necessity, familiar. Picasso's affairs with Fernande Olivier, ""Eva"" Humbert, Marie-Therese Walter, and Dora Maar; the ""Banquet Rousseau""; his friendships with Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, and the matador Dominquin: all have become part of his mythology in dozens of previous books and articles. Huffington does come up with some new details, although even a few of these fall more into the category of gossip than of corroborated fact. There are speculations, for example, about a possible homosexual relationship with an unnamed gypsy while Picasso was in his late teens, and intimations of a self-serving affair with an early promoter, the art-dealer Pere Manyac. In attempting to substantiate the homosexual allegations, the author points out the number of nude boys who appear in Picasso's paintings during the period, which is a little like claiming Van Gogh had a foot fetish because he created several paintings of shoes. Most damaging perhaps is the amount of attention given to Picasso's relationship with Francoise Gilot. While it is tree that Gilot was probably the most intelligent of the painter's many mistresses and wives, she has already told her story in her Life With Picasso, and Huffington's many interviews with her have apparently merely reinforced what has already been explored. A one-note, feet-of-clay biography, then, which may come as a shock to Picasso idolaters but which reveals little that is new or important.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster