This book is a gallery of profiles of some of the most curious and creative figures that John Richardson has encountered during a career of more than fifty years. The subjects range from the monstrous art collector, Dr Barnes of Philadelphia to Peggy Guggenheim, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Dali and such contemporary figures as the painters Brice Marden and Lucian Freud.
John Richardson's reputation was established internationally with the publication of the first two volumes of his monumental biography of Picasso. With two further volumes in preparation, Richardson has devoted many years to the study of the great painter, who befriended him in Provence in the fifties. In this book, Richardson comes from out of the shadow of Picasso to describe a wider cast of writers, artists and eccentrics.
This collection is a portrait of a vanished age of which Richardson may be one of the last observers, and in some cases he is consciously saving his subjects' reputations from oblivion. In other cases, artists as celebrated as Warhol, Lucian Freud and Braque are described with an intimate knowledge of their working processes. He knows their world and speaks with the authority of one how understands it. His portraits are always insightful, often poignant and sometimes scabrous.
Richardson, like Truman Capote, one of his subjects, is the supreme raconteur. The wit is both barbed and revealing. His ability to present us with sharply etched close-ups of those who are usually observed from afar has no precedent in the artistic records of the last century.