Cover image for Sacred monsters, sacred masters : Beaton, Capote, Dalí, Picasso, Freud, Warhol, and more
Sacred monsters, sacred masters : Beaton, Capote, Dalí, Picasso, Freud, Warhol, and more
Richardson, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 363 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NX504 .R53 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Robert Hughes has described Richardson's multivolume biography of Picasso as "a masterpiece in the making." In this collection of his best shorter pieces, culled from more than thirty years' artistic and literary commentary and reviews, Richardson demonstrates the same dazzling narrative style that has earned him the reputation as one of our foremost biographers. As a contributor to Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books, House and Garden, and The New Yorker, John Richardson has a reputation for stimulating readers with his frank, discerning characterizations of art-world personalities as well as celebrities from a variety of other milieus-- people such as Truman Capote, Armand Hammer, Lucian Freud, Andy Warhol, and Peggy Guggenheim. As readers await the third volume of A Life of Picasso, they will be diverted by this witty, wonderfully intelligent collection of approximately thirty essays, extensively revised and updated for this publication, each of which is illustrated with artwork or photographs.

Author Notes

After starting up Christie's U.S. operation and working at other art-related jobs, John Richardson, who is British, settled permanently in New York, where he devotes himself full-time to writing

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Urbane art historian and Picasso biographer Richardson revisits two dozen of his incisive essays to fashion a knowledgeable, illuminating, and wry follow-up to The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1999), his memoir about art collector Douglas Cooper. Each piece is a portrait of an intriguing art world figure whom Richardson either knew personally or felt compelled to rescue from oblivion, and his subjects span twentieth-century art, from the Sitwells and Picasso's surrogate mother, trendsetter Eugenia Errazuriz, to Warhol and Brice Marden. In between, Richardson, whose dry wit is as delectable as fine wine, tells riveting, sexually candid tales about peculiar but gratifying relationships, including those between Bonnard and his agoraphobic, bath-addicted wife; Cecil Beaton and Greta Garbo; the wretched Gala and Salvador Dali; and Peggy Guggenheim and nearly everyone. Other outstanding essays in this altogether savory volume include Richardson's vivacious portrait of the amazing Stettheimer sisters, eloquent tribute to Braque, critique of the eccentric art collector Albert Barnes, and memories of Truman Capote in Venice. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Art writer Richardson (A Life of Picasso: Volumes I and II) scored a success with a recent memoir, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, an account of his life shared with the (arguably) bitchiest art critic of the modern era, Douglas Cooper. He follows up that gossipy opus with more dirt 28 articles culled and updated, according to Richardson, from decades of journalism in such slicks as Vanity Fair and House and Garden about the famous and infamous, mostly the latter. He trashes a wide variety of notables, from Salvador Dal! to his former employer Armand Hammer, termed "a veteran con man." There are a few admiring essays, such as "Braque's Late Greatness," but only a very few. Mostly it is unrelieved bad-mouthing of the likes of "that simpering ninny Ana?s Nin... whose narcissistic attitudinizing has addled many an adolescent mind." While some of the subjects seem to deserve this and worse, like the "ratlike ruthlessness" of art swindler Domenica Guillaume, others might merit a little more consideration, like Peggy Guggenheim, who is termed "a clown: an endearingly sad one of the `He Who Gets Slapped' variety," or the transsexual travel writer Jan Morris, whose sex-change operation Richardson violently disapproves of. With a talent for clearly describing intricate art scandals, such as the problems with painter Pierre Bonnard's legacy, Richardson also has an ear for plausible aphorisms, like "Pampered lunatics often reach a great age." Still, the near-continuous tone of grating disdain, which can entertain in a glossy mag article, palls over an entire book. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Richardson takes off time from more somber works like his Picasso biography to offer some choice gossip on a host of celebrities he has encountered. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Picasso's Other Mother Some time ago, I wrote an article about a Chilean woman of singular originality and discernment called Eugenia Errázuriz. I wrote about her because she had been undeservedly overlooked, eclipsed by her "friend," the manipulative Polish patroness Misia (Godebska-Natanson-Edwards) Sert ("Princesse Youbeletieff" in Proust)-the subject of a deservedly popular biography by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale. Whereas Misia was known to Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie as "Tante Brutus" for her back-stabbing proclivities, Eugenia was supportive and reticent and endowed with a distinctive eye for modernism. Besides being one of Picasso's most perceptive patrons-the owner of some of his greatest, late-Cubist paintings-she managed to exert, in her subtle way, a more radically modernizing influence on mid-twentieth-century taste than most of those who were indebted to her realized. One of the few who did realize was the elegant Dutch furniture designer and decorator Jean-Michel Frank (uncle, incidentally, of that iconic Holocaust victim Anne Frank), who singled Eugenia out for her "indispensable influence." Cecil Beaton made even greater claims for Eugenia: "Her effect on the taste of the last fifty years," he wrote, "has been so enormous that the whole aesthetic of modern interior decoration, and many of the concepts of simplicity . . . generally acknowledged today, can be laid at her remarkable doorstep." These opinions do Beaton the more credit, given that Eugenia anathematized the very thing-Edwardian clutter and kitsch-that he elevated into a camp cult and ultimately a career as a set designer. Years later, while doing research in the Picasso archives, I came upon a cache of unpublished letters from Eugenia. These revealed that she had played an even more central role in Picasso's life than I had originally realized. Further information materialized in Jean-François Larralde and Jean Casenave's evocative book, Picasso à Biarritz (1995), which focused on the artist's honeymoon chez Eugenia at Biarritz in 1918. More recently, a shortish biography by Alejandro Canseco-Jerez appeared, Le Mécénat de Madame Errázuriz (2000), which contains a lot of new information about Eugenia's family and the sadness of her later years. Eugenia's letters to Picasso testify to a very close friendship lasting over thirty years. Eugenia's only rival for the artist's affections-in the realm of friendship rather than sex-was Gertrude Stein, whom he liked to call "Pard," as in a Western, much to her irritation. In 1915, however, Gertrude and her friend Alice Toklas had left Paris to spend the rest of the war driving an ambulance-"Auntie," it was callled-around France. In their absence, it was Eugenia who took over as Picasso's consoler and collector and a surrogate for Doña María, the stalwart, nurturing mother back in Barcelona whom he seldom saw. Canseco-Jerez maintains that Stein and Toklas were so jealous of Eugenia that they gave "a reception in honor of Picasso" in order to meet their rival and size her up. However, his account of this event and Gertrude's "jealousy" is far from convincing. By the time Eugenia entered Picasso's life, Gertrude had ceased collecting his work, and their paths had temporarily diverged. To the extent that Gertrude had come to see Picasso and herself as twin peaks of genius, Eugenia simply did not impinge. Who was this paragon? Eugenia Huici was born on September 15, 1860, in Bolivia, where her Chilean father had made a fortune mining silver. Civil war drove him, his Bolivian wife, and his two daughters, Eugenia and Rosa, back to his estates near Valparaíso. Picasso believed that Eugenia had inherited more than a drop of Inca blood; so did another of Eugenia's protégés, the poet Blaise Cendrars, who used to call her "L'Indienne." A girl of considerable beauty, Eugenia was brought up in the archaic conventions of Spanish colonialism. English nuns in Valparaíso supervised her education: they dinned into her the tenets of a faith that, like the superstitions of her Indian forebears, she would always cherish. Her schooling left her fluent, if not always comprehensible, in French and English and only a little more so in Castilian. "Une étrange sharabia" (gibberish) is how friends described her way of speaking. At the age of twenty, Eugenia married José Tomás Errázuriz, whose father and grandfather had both been presidents of Chile. Tomás's aspirations to be an artist horrified his family, so he was packed off to Europe to be a diplomat-a métier that left him free to paint. Relations of one or the other of the Errázurizes were en poste in virtually every capital. The Errázurizes spent their honeymoon in Venice, where their cousin Ramón Subercaseaux-Chilean consul general in Paris and an amateur painter-and his wife had rented a palazzo on the Grand Canal. Among the other guests was a young painter, whom Subercaseaux had been one of the first to discover, John Singer Sargent. When not engaged on a portrait of his hostess, Sargent did oil sketches of Eugenia, for whom he is said to have fallen. Unlikely. Sargent was more interested in his gondolier. Summer over, the Errázurizes settled in Paris, where they spent the next twenty years. He painted; she raised children (a son, Maximiliano, and two daughters, Carmen and María, known as "Baby") and repeatedly sat for her portrait-to Boldini, Helleu, Orpen, and many more. Eugenia stood out from the run of le tout Paris by disdaining fin-de-siècle froufrou and adopting a low-key style that set her off from the rest of her friends, not least Misia Sert. Although she would bring a small swatch of antique stuff, dyed the "Inca pink" of her native Andes, to the attention of Schiaparelli, who exploited it as "Shocking Pink," Eugenia's most important achievements had nothing to do with fashion; they had to do with avant-garde patronage and a minimalist vision of the decorative arts. By 1910, she already stood out for the unconventional sparseness of her rooms, for her disdain of poufs and potted palms and too much passementerie. No less discriminating was Eugenia's taste in people, including many of Proust's favorites (Madrazos, Bibescos, Helleus, Morands), and above all for her support of new developments in art, literature, music, and ballet. Around 1900, the Errázurizes settled in London, first in Bryanston Square. Later, they moved to Chelsea. Tomás contracted TB and spent more and more time in Switzerland, to the relief of Eugenia, who was beginning to tire of her husband and his tedious landscapes. They would eventually separate. In London, Eugenia saw much of her old friend Sargent, who likewise lived in Chelsea, and through him she absorbed the Whistlerian aestheticism still associated with this Thames-side stretch of London, but without becoming contaminated by it. She also made friends with a new generation of artists: Augustus John, who painted her portrait, and, rather more to her credit, Walter Sickert, whose work she proceeded to collect. In England, Eugenia learned to appreciate things that were very fine and very simple-above all, things made of linen, cotton, deal, or stone, whose quality improved with laundering or fading, scrubbing or polishing. This acute sense of patination and texture allied to color would one day endear her to Braque. In the absence of her husband, Eugenia took up with her bright young nephew, the diplomat Don Antonio de Gandarillas, who had a house overlooking the Thames on Cheyne Walk. Tony had married Juanita Edwards, the daughter of the Chilean ambassador to the court of Saint James's, but after discovering that he was homosexual and addicted to opium, she had retired to Chile. Eugenia would take over as his consort. Together they would attend the Ballets Russes and make friends with Diaghilev, who would become very dependent on Eugenia. So would Artur Rubinstein. The great pianist would credit her with all manner of miraculous interventions in his career. Thanks to his diplomatic immunity and charm and his large round eyes like a lemur's, Eugenia's neat little nephew managed to survive brush after brush with scandal. Besides a house in London, Tony had an apartment in Paris. And there on May 29, 1926, he and Eugenia gave a dinner to celebrate the première of Pastorale-one of Diaghilev's weaker ballets-which was attended by "everyone from Picasso to the Duchess of Alba." Also present was the brilliant surrealist poet René Crevel, who would soon become one of Tony's young men. Tony was also involved with the rising young painter Christopher Wood, the only British artist of his generation to be taken seriously in Paris and become a friend of Picasso's and Braque's as well as of Cocteau's. Tony supposedly got Kit (as Wood was familiarly known) hooked on drugs. When Kit threw himself under a train in 1930, Tony was blamed. Five years later, Crevel would also commit suicide. This time, the Surrealists were supposedly the cause. Excerpted from Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters: Beaton, Capote, Dalí, Picasso, Freud, Warhol, and More by John Richardson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Illustrationsp. xv
Between the Wars
Picasso's Other Motherp. 3
The Madness of Scofield Thayerp. 19
Beastly Dr. Barnesp. 29
Sibyl Colefax, Lion Hunterp. 43
Bonnard's Amphibious Wifep. 53
The Sad Case of Mr. Tastep. 65
The Stettheimer Dollhousep. 73
The Sitwellsp. 83
Mario Praz's Kindly Eyep. 105
Vita's Muddlesp. 113
Killer Collectorp. 125
Klee's Inheritancep. 145
Peggy Guggenheim's Bedp. 157
Beaton and Garbop. 169
Miro, the Reluctant Surrealistp. 181
From James to Janp. 191
Carlos de Beistegui, the Miserly Magnificop. 203
Judy Chicago's Giant Shriekp. 213
A Cote Capotep. 225
Braque's Late Greatnessp. 237
Fin De Siecle
Warhol at Homep. 247
Anthony Hopkins's Stab at Picassop. 261
Hammer Nailedp. 269
Dali's Galap. 291
Brice Marden's Hidden Assetsp. 303
Nina Kandinsky's Deadly Diamondsp. 315
Lucian Freud and His Modelsp. 323
In Memory of Pablito Picassop. 343
Indexp. 349