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John Richardson: A Short Biography in Pictures

John Patrick Richardson was born in London in 1924 to Sir Wodehouse Richardson and Patty (née Crocker) Richardson. His father was a Quarter-Master General in the Boer War and the founder of the Army & Navy Stores in Britain. Sir Richardson died when John was five years old. He was sent away to boarding school and then enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art at age sixteen to pursue his artistic ambitions. At the outbreak of WWII, Richardson was called up for military service in the Irish Guards but very quickly contracted rheumatic fever and was invalided out of the army. He spent the rest of the war in London with his mother and siblings, working as an industrial designer and later writing for The New Observer. In 1949, Richardson met collector and art historian Douglas Cooper. They would become a couple for the next ten years, moving in 1952 to the Chateau de Castille in the South of France. Cooper introduced Richardson to many artists, including Picasso, Léger, and Braque who would all become close friends. In 1960, Richardson left Cooper and moved to New York City where he would organize several important exhibitions on Picasso and Braque. London-based auction house Christie’s asked Richardson to open their New York office and appointed him to run it for the next nine years. Following his time at Christie’s, Richardson joined M. Knoedler & Co. where he oversaw 19th and 20th century paintings. In 1980, John Richardson decided to dedicate himself to writing and focused on the biography of Picasso that he had begun thinking about during his years in France. The first of four planned volumes, A Life of Picasso, was published in 1991 and won a Whitbread Award. The second volume was published in 1996, and the third in 2007. Volume four was still in progress upon his death in 2019. Richardson was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2012 for his service to the arts. In addition to the Picasso biographies, Richardson wrote a memoir in 1999, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), and published a collection of essays in 2011 titled Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters.

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