John Richardson (art historian)
John Richardson is a British
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 art historian and Picasso biographer.

Life and work

John Patrick Richardson was born as 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. Initially, he wanted to become an artist; he met and made friends with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud
Lucian Michael Freud, OM, CH was a British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impasted portrait and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time...

, both of whom portrayed him later. A month short of seventeen, he enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art
Slade School of Fine Art
The Slade School of Fine Art is a world-renownedart school in London, United Kingdom, and a department of University College London...

, was called up, but soon fell ill and spent the rest of the war with his mother and siblings in London. During daytime, he worked as an industrial designer before becoming a reviewer for The New Observer. In 1950, he became acquainted with art historian and collector Douglas Cooper
Douglas Cooper (art historian)
Douglas Cooper, who also published as Douglas Lord was a British art historian, art critic and art collector. He mainly collected Cubist works.- Family background :...

, sharing his life for the next 10 years.

Liaison with Douglas Cooper

He moved to southern France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

) in 1952, as Douglas Cooper
Douglas Cooper (art historian)
Douglas Cooper, who also published as Douglas Lord was a British art historian, art critic and art collector. He mainly collected Cubist works.- Family background :...

 acquired Château de Castille in the vicinity of Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

 and transformed the run-down castle into a private museum of early Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

. Cooper had been at home in the Paris art scene before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and had been active in the art business as well; by building his own collection, he also met many artists personally and introduced them to his friend. Richardson became a close friend of Picasso, Léger
Fernand Léger
Joseph Fernand Henri Léger was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works he created a personal form of Cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style...

 and de Staël
Nicolas de Staël
Nicolas de Staël was a painter known for his use of a thick impasto and his highly abstract landscape painting...

 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 been published yet.

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
Georges Braque
Georges Braque[p] was a major 20th century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism.-Early Life:...

 retrospective in 1964. Christie’s then appointed him to open their US office, which he ran for the next nine years. 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. In 1980 he decided to devote all his time to writing. Besides working on his Picasso biography, he has been a contributor to, The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

and Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair (magazine)
Vanity Fair is a magazine of pop culture, fashion, and current affairs published by Condé Nast. The present Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935...

. In 1993 Richardson was elected to the British Academy
British Academy
The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...

 and in 1995 he was appointed Slade Professor of Art
Slade Professor of Fine Art
The Slade Professorship of Fine Art is the oldest professorship of art at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and London.-History:The chairs were founded concurrently in 1869 by a bequest from the art collector and philanthropist Felix Slade, with studentships also created in the University of...

 at Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...


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
1991 Whitbread Awards

. The second volume was published in November 1996, covering 10 years from 1907–1916, the birth of Cubism, followed by the third in 2007, about the next 16 years up to 1932, when Picasso just turned 50. The final volume has not yet been published; it is supposed to cover the 41 years to the rest of his life up to 1973.

15 years after Cooper's death, Richardson published his biography (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Picasso, Provence, und 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
Gagosian Gallery
Gagosian Gallery is a contemporary art gallery owned and directed by Larry Gagosian. There are currently eleven gallery spaces: three in New York; two in London; one in each of Beverly Hills, Rome, Athens, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong and Moscow.-1980s:...

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.


  • Picasso, Pablo: Aquarelle und Gouachen. Dt. Buch-Gemeinschaft, Berlin 1956
  • Manet, Edouard: Gemälde und Zeichnungen. Phaidon Verl., Köln 1959
  • Juan Gris. Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund 1965
  • Dorothy M Kosinski, John Richardson, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel: Douglas Cooper und die Meister des Kubismus. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel 1987, ISBN 978-3720400527
  • John Richardson, Marilyn McCully: A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906 (Vol 1). Random House, New York 1991, ISBN 978-0375711497
  • John Richardson, Marilyn McCully: Picasso, Leben und Werk, in 4 Bdn., Hld, Bd.1, 1881-1906. Kindler, München 1991, ISBN 3463401592
  • John Richardson, Marilyn McCully: A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916 (Vol 1). Random House, New York 1996, ISBN 978-0375711503
  • John Richardson, Marilyn McCully: Picasso, Leben und Werk, in 4 Bdn., Hld, Bd.2, 1907-1917. Kindler, München 1997, ISBN 3463401436
  • John Richardson: Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters: Beaton, Capote, Dalí, Picasso, Freud, Warhol, and More. Random House, New York 2001, ISBN 978-0679424901
  • John Richardson, Marilyn McCully: A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 (Vol 3). Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2007, ISBN 9780307266651
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