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Celebrating the Genius of Pablo Picasso: A Library Program and Reading List

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Celebrating the Genius of Pablo Picasso: A Library Program and Reading List

picasso program

2023 has marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, the artistic genius born in Málaga, Spain at the beginning of the 20th century. Throughout the year, exhibitions, initiatives, and events have been held around the world to commemorate his life and work. In addition, the Center for Picasso Studies was inaugurated at the Musée National Picasso-Paris.

The exhibitions and programs of “Picasso Celebration 1973-2023” highlighted the artist’s accomplishments throughout the 20th century and his continued influence on 21st-century artists.

Here at the Livingston Library, we too will celebrate the life and artistic legacy of Pablo Picasso. 

On December 4 at 7pm, join speaker Janet Mandel to learn about the life and works of the 20th century’s true artistic genius, who recorded his vision of this tumultuous century via his passion for avant-garde art, beautiful women, and original ideas.  You will discover Picasso’s inexhaustible creativity and explore his unique life, as revealed through beautiful images of his major paintings and sculptures.

These non fiction books and novels inspired by his life are available with your Library card and can help you discover more about Picasso’s life and oeuvre.

blue period

The Blue Period : A Novel by Luke Jerod Kummer

A riveting novel about the tragic romance that nearly destroyed a young Pablo Picasso–while granting him his first flight of creative genius.  From rowdy Barcelona barrooms to the incandescent streets of turn-of-the-century Paris, Pablo Picasso experiences the sumptuous highs and seedy lows of bohemian life alongside his rebellious poet friend with a shadowy past, Carles Casagemas. Fleeing family misfortune and their parents’ expectations, the two young artists seek their creative outlet while chasing inspiration in drugs, decadence, and the liberated women of Montmartre–creatures far different from the veiled ones back home.  The new life feels like bliss, and nothing can come between them…until a dark-haired, enigmatic muse enters the picture. The two artists’ passion for Germaine will lead to a devastating turn. Amid soul-searching and despair, however, Picasso discovers a color palette in which to render his demons and paint himself into lasting history.

Cooking for Picasso: A Novel by Camille Aubray

This captivating novel is inspired by a little-known interlude in the artist’s life.  Celine, a Hollywood makeup artist who’s come home for the holidays, learns from her mother, Julie, that Grandmother Ondine once cooked for Picasso. Prompted by her mother’s enigmatic stories and the hint of more family secrets yet to be uncovered, Celine carries out Julie’s wishes and embarks on a voyage to the very town where Ondine and Picasso first met. In the lush, heady atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur, and with the help of several eccentric fellow guests attending a rigorous cooking class at her hotel, Celine discovers truths about art, culture, cuisine, and love that enable her to embrace her own future.

A Life of Picasso. Volume II, 1907-1917 by John Richardson

Richardson reveals that the young Picasso saw himself in the Baudelairean role of “the painter of modern life”. Hence his great innovative painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, with which this book opens. As well as portraying Picasso as a revolutionary, Richardson analyzes the more compassionate side of his genius. The misogynist of posthumous legend turns out to have been surprisingly vulnerable. Heartbroken at the death of his mistress Eva, the artist tried desperately to find a wife. Richardson recounts the untold story of how his two great loves of 1915-17 successively turned him down; and how these disappointments, as well as his horror at the outbreak of World War I and the wounds it inflicted on his closest friends, Braque and Apollinaire, shadowed his painting and drove him off to Rome — back to the ancient world. 

A Life of Picasso. Volume III, the Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 by John Richardson

in 1917, when Picasso and Cocteau left wartime Paris for Rome to work with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on their revolutionary production of Parade. Visits to Naples, above all to the Farnese marbles in the Museo Nazionale, would leave Picasso with a lifelong obsession with classical sculpture as well as the self-referential commedia dell’arte. After returning to Paris and marrying one of Diaghilev’s ballerinas, Olga Khokhlova, he abandoned bohemia for the drawing rooms of Paris. Hence, his so-called Duchess period, which coincided with his switch to neoclassicism, and would ultimately be absorbed into a metamorphic form of cubism.  In 1927 the artist’s life underwent a major change; he abandoned society for a life out of the spotlight with a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl, Marie-Thérèse Walter.  The last three chapters constitute an annus mirabilis—spring 1931 to spring 1932—during which the artist celebrated his fiftieth birthday.

A Life of Picasso. Volume IV, the Minotaur Years, 1933-1943 by John Richardson

The beautifully illustrated fourth volume of Picasso’s life–set in France and Spain during the Spanish Civil War and World War II–covers friendships with the surrealist painters; artistic inspiration around Guernica and the Minotaur; and his muses Marie-Thřs̈e, Dora Maar, and Franȯise Gilot; and much more. It includes 271 stunning illustrations and drawing on original and exhaustive research from interviews and never-before-seen material in the Picasso family archives.  It was during this time that Picasso began writing surrealist poetry and became obsessed with the image of himself as the mythic Minotaur–head of a bull, body of a man–and created his most famous etching, Minotauromachie. imagery and inspire a brilliant sequence of paintings. Richardson tells Picasso’s story through his work during this period, analyzing how it shows what the artist was feeling and thinking. Richardson’s biographical volumes on Pablo Picasso combine critical astuteness, exhaustive research, and stunning narrative to make the volumes an art-historical breakthrough as well as a pleasure to read.

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a customer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.  A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life. With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.

picasso and the painting

Picasso and The Painting that Shocked the World by Miles Unger

In 1907, Picasso began the vast, disturbing masterpiece known as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Inspired by the painting of Paul Cézanne and the inventions of African and tribal sculpture, Picasso created a work that captured the disorienting experience of modernity itself. The painting proved so shocking that even his friends assumed he’d gone mad, but over the months and years it exerted an ever greater fascination on the most advanced painters and sculptors, ultimately laying the foundation for the most innovative century in the history of art.

Picasso and Portraiture : Representation and Transformation

The hundreds of works reproduced here – most of them unfamiliar, some virtually unknown – demonstrate the remarkable range of Picasso’s experimentation in all its stylistic and psychological diversity. The book opens with an authoritative, broad-ranging essay by William Rubin; the nine essays that follow – all by major contemporary scholars and critics – examine different periods and aspects of Picasso’s career and clarify personal relationships between the artist and his subjects. It closes with an essay by Mr. Rubin on the late portraits. Numerous photographs, some never before published and many by outstanding photographers, present the portrait subjects as seen through the eye of the camera.

Picasso the Foreigner : an Artist in France, 1900-1973 by Annie Cohen-Solal

A groundbreaking study of Pablo Picasso that reveals how the artist fought to overcome the stigma he faced as a foreigner in France.

Picasso’s War : How Modern Art Came to America by Hugh Eakin

The untold story of the exhibition that made America the center of the art world-and Picasso the most famous artist alive-in the shadow of World War II.

Picasso’s Women : Fernande to Jacqueline  by John Richardson

This volume traces the artist’s depictions of eight women who played a prominent role in the artist’s life and art: Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova Picasso, Sara Murphy, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, Sylvette David, and Jacqueline Roque Picasso. Each woman served as a catalyst for experiments in color and form that would continue to change as the contours of the relationship shifted. It is through this process that Picasso’s work was constantly reinvented and renewed.

You can find these films and others on Picasso if you access Kanopy with your Library card–The Mystery of Picasso, Surviving Picasso, Young Picasso, and Pablo Picasso: The Legacy of a Genius.

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

2 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I have a beautifully done original oil painting of Picasso’s Three Musicians signed by “Livingston”. He makes a face between the “i” and the “n” in his signature. I am trying to find our more about this artist Livingston, who was a 20th c painter. do you think you can help me?

    1. Hi Claire,
      Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find any further information on this, but we’ll check back in if anything turns up…

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