Art Historian and London Library Vice-President

We were saddened to hear of the death on 12 March of Sir John Richardson, celebrated art historian and a Vice-President of The London Library since 2014.

During his long life (he died, aged 95 on the 12 March 2019) he became celebrated as a leading authority on Pablo Picasso and the avant-garde. The first volume of his acclaimed biography of Picasso was published in 1991 and won the Whitbread Book of the Year award. Two further volumes were published in 1996 and 2007 respectively. The fourth was still in progress when Sir John died.

His two volume memoir The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1999) and Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (2001) recorded his life with the art critic Douglas Cooper, and the many connections Richardson developed with the avant-garde in the south of France after the Second World War and then with a range of artists and contacts in the art world in Britain and the US.

In 1994, he presented Richardson on Picasso, a BBC series of half-hour programmes related to the Tate’s Picasso exhibition. He presented a Channel 4 Picasso series in 2001, and contributed to a range of TV programmes about Picasso and other artists.

In the post-Cooper years (the pair separated in 1958), Richardson lived in New York where he had access to most of the big American collectors, worked for the American office of Christie’s and contributed to a range of journals including the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair and Burlington Magazine. From 2008 he also worked as a consultant to the Gagosian Gallery in New York, where he organised six Picasso exhibitions, the last of which took place in 2017.

He was knighted in 2012 and in 2013 The London Library awarded him their Life in Literature Award. In 2014 he became a Vice-President of the Library, a position he held for the rest of his life.