PICASSO by Pierre Daix


Life and Art
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 At the end of this once-over-lightly biography, French art- historian Daix quotes Picasso as saying, ``It isn't what the artist does which counts, it's what he is.'' Unfortunately, it's what Picasso was that Daix fails to illuminate in his unremittingly respectful depiction of a highly complex, highly controversial life. Daix's original research is minimal; the material on Picasso's early life, for instance, is drawn almost exclusively from Jaime Sabartes's sycophantic Picasso (1947). Yet Daix's portrait of a near-saintly Spanish genius fails to jibe with the reminiscences of wives, mistresses, dealers, and fellow artists who knew Picasso. This tendency is particularly noticeable in the author's rendering of the relationships between Picasso and the many women with whom he was involved from 1904 until his death in 1973. Today, it's almost universally acknowledged that the artist's treatment of the other sex was often brutally opportunistic; yet Daix portrays these women as vaguely irrational and unnecessarily vindictive. In depicting the break-up of Picasso and Francoise Gilot, for example, he soft-pedals the artist's unfeeling treatment of the mother of his children. ``Picasso,'' Daix writes, ``was too much of a different generation to understand.'' (For an opposing view, see Arianna Huffington's scathing Picasso, 1988.) Daix is more straightforward in his treatment of Picasso's involvement with the Communist Party, admitting that the artist was naive in allowing himself to be cynically used by the Stalinists. Hagiography that fails to convince. Stick with John Richardson's better-written and far more reliable A Life of Picasso (1990). (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-430976-2
Page count: 460pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992


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