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The Sorcerer's Apprentice is John Richardson's vivid memoir of the time he spent living with and learning from the omniscient but irascible art collector, Douglas Cooper. For ten years the two entertained a circle of friends that included Jean Cocteau, Isiah Berlin, Fernand Leger and, most intriguingly, Pablo Picasso. Compulsively readable and illustrated throughout, this book is a triple portrait of the author, Cooper, and Picasso, as well as a revealing look at a crucial artistic period.
...Richardson is too casual, airy, when he invokes a society to which his readers do not belong. So he writes that Blunt's Soviet controller was "seemingly a Hungarian publisher for all we knew". Here is a superior form of name-dropping. It may be relevant that Richardson had a courtier's role during his years in Provence. He has the manner of someone who had known court secrets. Richardson is glad to report the indiscreet royal stories with which Blunt enlivened Cooper's dinner table, though in fact these tales are not very interesting. A far better story is his account of Picasso's sudden whimsy in deciding the Princess Margaret would make him a suitable bride. In a characteristic ex-courtier way, he allows us to know that "many years later I told Princess Margaret the story of Picasso's quest for her hand. Like her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, she was not amused...."
—The London Times Literary Supplement
To cheer myself up, I would sneak off with friends my own age. Sometimes we would cruise the Soho pubs, especially the Golden Lion, or the French Pub, where we would watch Francis Bacon on the prowl. Sometimes we would go to the Gargoyle Club, whose mirrored dance floor had seen up the knickers of most of the girls I knew, not to mention their mothers', but it was too full of raffish upper-class drunks for my taste. In quest of hotter music, we would go to the darker, loucher Caribbean Club, where we would find more stimulating company -- Lucian Freud or Michael Wishart or some wild girls we had known at the Slade -- and boogie the night away. I picked up my first and last whore at the Caribbean. Carmencita, she was called. As I hoped to be a father, I thought this experience would straighten me out. No such luck. Carmencita had a terrible cold and, instead of being exhilaratingly whorish, was depressingly genteel. After it was all over, she told me there was "a little pink taowel at the bottom of the bed."
And then one fateful day, in the spring of 1949, Cuthbert said he was taking me to a party given by John Lehmann, the editor of a little magazine called New Writing, in honor of the publication of Paul Bowles's painfully good book, The Sheltering Sky. I was delighted. American writers had a way of heading straight for Paris and missing out on London. Scenting free drink, Grub Street arrived en masse, and the wine ran out even faster than usual. Lehmann was famously parsimonious, and used postwar shortages as a cover for his economies. Unless they had brought hip flasks, thirsty guests had to fall back on assorted bottles of invalid port, cooking sherry, or a nausea-inducing"cup." Bowles had arrived from Tangier with a supply of hashish fudge, something few of us had tried.
As the mixture of drinks, not to mention the fudge, began to take effect, I realized I was being stalked by a stout pink man in a loud checked suit. At first I did not recognize him out of uniform. "You may not remember me," he said in his aggressively accented voice. "We met at the house of that Poufmutter, Mrs. King. My name is Douglas Cooper." This time I was too full of curiosity to flee. I blurted out that I wanted to see his pictures. "Right now, my dear, if you can tear yourself away from these hideous mediocrities," he replied. Despite (or maybe because of) Francis's warnings, I agreed to do so. Then, remembering that Cuthbert expected me to dine with him, I hurried over to ask him whether he minded. "Of course I don't," he said. As if to confirm that this was not true, he allowed a tear to trickle slowly out from under his glasses. People noticed, nudged each other, and pointed. "Poor old Cuthbert," somebody said as I left the room. Parked outside was Douglas's car (at least he said it was his): an ancient Rolls-Royce two-seater with a jump seat at the back. It was painted bright yellow and black like a wasp -- a villain's car if ever I saw one. I climbed up into it, and after some tallyho blasts on an antiquated horn, we sped away -- and then abruptly stopped, a mere two or three hundred yards away. Home, Douglas announced, disconcertingly. That this would soon be my home never occurred to me.
Army and Navy Child
Back on the Road
The Revelation of Castille
Miscreants, Pets, and Neighbors
A Trip with Picasso
The Visitors' Book
Graham Sutherland and the Tate Affair
God Save the Queen
Painters and Paintings
Picasso and Dora
Picasso and Jacqueline
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Beginning of the End