James Lord, Biographer of Artists, Is Dead at 86

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James Lord, an intimate of Picasso and Giacometti whose biographies and memoirs provide a vivid picture of the artistic milieu of Montparnasse after World War II, died Sunday at his home in Paris. He was 86.

The cause was a heart attack, said his longtime companion and adopted son, Gilles Foy-Lord.

Mr. Lord, while serving with Army intelligence during the war, traveled to Paris on a three-day pass in December 1944 and made a beeline to Picasso’s studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins. There he gained entry into the artistic set in Montparnasse. Returning to Paris after the war, he became a kind of Boswell to the artistic and social elite in France and, to a lesser extent, Britain.

In three volumes of memoirs, he left sharp portraits of Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Balthus, Peggy Guggenheim and other figures encountered in studios, cafes and salons. He wrote several important works on Giacometti, notably the definitive “Giacometti: A Biography,” and “Picasso and Dora,” a memoir dealing with the artist and his longtime mistress and muse Dora Maar.

All of Mr. Lord’s many encounters, it seemed, left an impression, which he turned into pithy vignettes, like the one involving Balthus and Giacometti that he recounted in “A Gift for Admiration.”

“I recall one afternoon with them at the Café de Flore,” he wrote, “when they argued at length over the perceptible dimensions of Géricault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ should it be viewed on the far side of the boulevard, Alberto loudly insisting that at such a distance it would appear to be only a few centimeters in height while Balthus calmly maintained that its appearance would correspond exactly to its actual size because one saw what one knew rather than what one mere hypothesized.”...

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