John Richardson's A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932
, referred to above, is now available on Amazon.http://www.amazon.co...9...p;x=10&y=17
A review by Andrew Butterfield -- New York Review of Books
, Dec. 20, 2007 -- is available on-line.http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20892
Over the next seven years, Picasso created the costumes and settings for several major ballets, not only Parade and Pulcinella, but Tricorne and Cuadro Flamenco, all for Diaghilev's company, the Ballets Russes. In addition, he designed Satie's ballet Mercure, made the drop curtain for another Diaghilev ballet, Le Train bleu, and conceived the sets for Cocteau's adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone. Work for the theater enabled him to design on a larger scale than he ever had before, and, more importantly, to collaborate with three of the greatest modern composers, de Falla, Satie, and Stravinsky. The hours he spent watching dancers also profoundly affected his art: during the 1920s for the first time figures in motion became an important part of his imagery. According to Richardson, Picasso's 1925 masterpiece, The Dance, owes some of its demonic energy to memories of women shimmying to ragtime in Massine and Vladimir Dukelsky's ballet Zéphire et Flore.
It was on his trip to Italy, too, that Picasso first met Olga Khokhlova, a dancer with the Ballets Russes. At the outset of 1917 Picasso was determined to get married; he had recently proposed to and been rejected by two women in quick succession. He now set his sights on Olga. Her appeal for Picasso mystified his friends and continues to puzzle historians. More than one contemporary described her as a "nothing," and about the best anyone could think to say of her was that she had good taste in clothing. Picasso's earlier girlfriends had all been bohemians; the woman he had proposed to just a few months before was a high-spirited, bisexual nymphomaniac. By contrast Olga was the proper and snobbish daughter of a Russian colonel and still a virgin. Picasso's early portraits of her have a tender and melancholy air and Richardson plausibly suggests that it was Olga's vulnerability that attracted the painter to her. He argues, too, that her social ambition appealed to Picasso's secret bourgeois streak.
With his marriage to Olga in 1918 Picasso entered into what his friend Max Jacob called his "époque des duchesses." Picasso shed his espadrilles and overalls and starting wearing bespoke suits instead. He moved to Paris's fashionable eighth arrondissement, taking an apartment next door to the gallery of his principal dealer, Paul Rosenberg. He discarded and estranged old companions from his early days in Paris, and lost his closest friend, Guillaume Apollinaire, who died in the influenza epidemic. That Picasso told Gertrude Stein in the same letter of his move and of Apollinaire's death shows how quick was the break from his former way of life.