BOOKS: MAKING A MASTERPIECE

VOLUME 2 OF A SUPERB PICASSO BIOGRAPHY TELLS THE STORY OF THE ARTIST'S BREAKTHROUGH PAINTING

The first volume of John Richardson's biography of Pablo Picasso, published in 1991, took the artist from birth to the brink of a masterpiece. In the second volume, A Life of Picasso: 1907-1917 (Random House; 500 pages; $55), Richardson begins with the painting that revolutionized 20th century art and goes on to portray the most productive and aesthetically innovative decade of his subject's life. Reading this story is akin to being allowed behind the scenes at an apotheosis.

"The filthiest studio I have ever seen," said a 1908 visitor to the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre, where Picasso worked and lived with...

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