The most remarkable thing about writing on Picasso, John Richardson observed at a recent panel discussion on artists’ biographies, was that no matter what you said about him, the opposite was also true. The list of contradictions that emerges from Richardson’s writings on the artist seems nearly endless. No less mercurial in life than on canvas, the painter could be tender and brutal, forthright and devious, charming and horrifying, trivial and astonishing. Picasso could be a daredevil and a coward, a loyal friend and an appallingly indifferent one, a playful companion and a cruel one. He seems to have delighted in sheer contrariness, even obfuscation, assuring one questioner that a painting was definitely vertical and another that it was no less definitely horizontal. Even Picasso’s most frequently quoted, apparently definitive aphorisms turn out to be questionable. He once told Richardson that he could never remember whether he had...

 
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