PICASSO AND DORA by James Lord

PICASSO AND DORA

A Memoir

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An intricate and intimate view of Picasso's aloof mistress and model Dora Maar, by onetime-companion Lord (Giacometti, 1985, etc.). An American soldier in Paris in 1944, Lord seeks out Picasso and requests that the artist draw his portrait. Picasso takes Lord to lunch with Maar--the first encounter in what evolves into the author's infatuation with the muse. Maar and her role in Picasso's genius fascinate Lord, who toys with the idea of himself being a ``figment'' of Picasso's ``creative imagination.'' From the fall of 1953 into the spring of 1954, when Maar is 46 and Lord 31, the two have dinner almost every night and spend weeks together away from Paris. Lord claims constant enchantment: ``being with Dora...was the be-all and end-all of thinking as well as of feeling.'' And later: ``I never ceased to be under the spell of her beauty, the lambent gleam of her gaze, the bird-of-paradise voice...all the aura of tense serenity and power and pathos so poignantly portrayed by Picasso.'' Yet the pair's bond is defined by Lord's homosexuality (``seeking promiscuous oblivion in the embraces of boys''). At night, Maar and Lord separate with a ritual kiss, the writer constantly pondering the model's expectations. Lord's narrative, based on a journal, contains countless backstage details--from Picasso's insults at a party given by the collector Douglas Cooper to Dora's attachment to a cigarette lighter that had ``cost'' the artist ``a visit to the Place Vendome.'' But of deeper interest than these anecdotes is a long, climactic letter in which Lord finally denounces his and Maar's unequal roles and the pride, selfishness, and avarice that, he says, isolate Maar--who still lives in Paris, in the same apartment where they so often sat. An account memorable in its frankness about a ``friendship'' that was extraordinary but flawed--not least because of the friends' shared obsession with ``the monarch of twentieth-century art.'' (Illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-23208-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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