Francoise Gilot: Life with Picasso
The first time I consciously came across Francoise Gilot was when I read a newspaper article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011. What caught my eye and made me read the article straight away were the photographs of the then 90 year old lady. Her personality strikes me as elegant, confident and intelligent, her life interesting, Picasso plays the most widely known but not the only part in.
The book was written eleven years after she had left Picasso, she was the only woman to do so. They met in 1943, she was 21 he was 61. The book accompanies the 10 years of their relationship, the birth of their two children and their separation.
For me the book is about two things: Art and Love.
What I found most interesting was the conversations between Gilot and Picasso about art and its creative process. Gilot explains Picasso's approach to designing an artwork, his way of thinking, his intentions and finally the process of creation. She describes in detail his techniques of painting, lithography and sculpture. I only have a very basic knowledge about art, but this book changed how I am looking at art now.
The book is about absolute love, passion, happiness and sadness, exhaustion and desperation. Picasso was a very difficult person to be with and the book shows how Gilot devoted her life to him, how she dealt with his moods, how she could laugh about him and how much she loved him.
Gilot is a fantastic witness of the time and her book is so much more than the story of her relationship to Picasso, it is also a historic document of that time.
Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs
Last Christmas I had asked Santa for a Samsung smart phone. Apart from an ipod, I don't own any other Apple products and felt the brand is trying to make you buy all of their devices. Would I have wanted an iphone after reading the book?
I had ordered the English version of the book online, something I strongly recommend. The computer related terms are English words anyway and the author's style is straightforward and without the use of complicated sentences.
It took me a couple of weeks to read through the 600 pages of the book. It is like reading a drama: somehow I was waiting to read about all the products we are so familiar with now: the ipod, iphone and ipad. Once the book reached these chapters, I slowed down a bit, as if a climax had been reached.
The book is amazing, probably the best biography I have ever read. The is partly due to the author and his style of writing, but mainly the life and personality of Steve Jobs is what makes that book stand out for me. I did not know much about Jobs before and was not too keen to find out about him either, but now I have started reading newspaper articles and watched old clips on Youtube about him and the Apple brand. The story is simply fascinating.
It all starts out in his garage and ends up in one of the biggest brands of our time. Jobs could achieve this by being the person he was. The last biography I read was about Picasso and it is amazing how similar they might have been. Genius on one side, cruel, manipulative and mean on the other side.
Jobs had asked Isaacson to write this book in 2004, probably aware that someone will write about him if he dies of cancer and by choosing Isaacson (former chairman and CEO of CNN, author of biographies of Einstein, Kissinger and Franklin) he made sure to have one of the best writing about him. This is the way he choose people he wanted to work with at Apple as well, he just calls up the person who he thinks is best for a certain job.
Jobs did not want any control over the book, fully aware that Isaacson will also write about how mean he could treat even his closest fiends. Over two years Isaacson collected the material, doing many interviews with Jobs and people close to him. The book covers his childhood, private life and his career.
What made a big impression on me:
Jobs attention (you could call it obsession) to detail in everything (food, clothes, architecture, design, presentations, advertising)
The way Jobs built his team (choosing the best, firing who is not good enough any more)
What surprised me:
Jobs deep love for Bob Dylan
What I missed:
I would have wished for more background information about what happened elsewhere at the time of the early computing since there was not only Apple. This is probably a lot to ask, since one book would not have been enough. I googled some people and companies Jobs had dealt with in order to find out more about them to complete the picture. To Isaacson's credit: all the big names seem to have a place in his book and a brief summary on what they were doing at the time (for example Bill Gates). Once I had finished the book there were no open questions, sometimes the author deals with a different person in a different chapter and you find out about it a little later in the book.
After all I can say: I am very happy with my smaller phone and the open strategy works for me.
Getting to know Picasso
When I returned home after I had visited the Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, I remembered a book I had bought a while ago at the Rozelle markets. It is called 'Picasso: Creator and Destroyer' by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington. After looking at the range of his work at the gallery and the different ways of expressing himself I got curious to find out more about this artist, even though I had never really warmed to his work. The book took me in straight away. The author did a thorough research and I got the feeling to get a good portrait of Picasso's personal life. That's what the book is mostly about. It does no go into the depth of his artistic creations but rather gives an impression of his social life, the people he spend time with and his torn personality. Picasso seems to have had such a powerful and charismatic appearance that people who met him wanted to be in his presence and were not able to withdraw from him and his magic. Picasso used his power to manipulate others and to promote himself as a genius of the artworld. I don't know enough about art to lead a profound discussion about his artistic achievements and that's why the book is perfect for me. I am interested in his life as a man, husband, father and lover.
The things that I will remember from this book, that made an impression on me or that did surprise me:
1. Francoise Gilot, the strongest of his partners. I will read her book.
2. Picasso was a coward.
3. Picasso and Braque were best friends.
4. Picasso, being a communist, received the Stalin Peace price.
5. Picasso's passion for bullfights.
6. Gertrude Stein
7. Picasso's involvemnt with Ballets