Lord, James 1922-
LORD, James 1922-
Born November 27, 1922, in Englewood, NJ; son of Albert (a Wall Street broker) and Louise (Bennett) Lord. Education: Attended Wesleyan University.
Home—France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10001.
No Traveler Returns (novel), Weidenfeld and Nicholson (London, England), 1955, J. Day (New York, NY), 1956.
The Joys of Success (novel), J. Day (New York, NY), 1958.
A Giacometti Portrait, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1965, revised edition, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1980.
Alberto Giacometti Drawings, New York Graphic Society (Greenwich, CT), 1971.
Giacometti: A Biography, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1985.
Sam Szafran: Recent Works, April 23-May 18, 1987, Claude Bernard Gallery (New York, NY), 1987.
Picasso and Dora: A Personal Memoir, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1993.
Six Exceptional Women: Further Memoirs, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1994.
Some Remarkable Men: Further Memoirs, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.
A Gift for Admiration: Further Memoirs, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.
Plausible Portraits of James Lord: With Commentary by the Model, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.
Mythic Giacometti, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
Also contributor of text to catalogues for art exhibitions.
American expatriate James Lord has had the good fortune to know many of the most famous artists of the twentieth century. His introduction into the Paris artistic community came during World War II, when, as an American soldier stationed in France, Lord tracked down renowned painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso and knocked on his door. Deciding to remain in France following the war, Lord eventually published his memories of Picasso, Picasso's mistress Dora Maar, sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and many other famous men and women in his numerous, highly praised books of memoir and biography.
Lord did not originally intend to become a memoirist, but throughout his life he kept meticulous journals, recording conversations that he had shortly after they occurred. When he began his memoirs, with Picasso and Dora: A Personal Memoir, these journals provided an invaluable aid to his memory. However, once he uses a journal to write a volume of memoirs, he destroys it, he told New York Times Book Review interviewer Sarah Boxer. "An autobiographer is doing something for himself he doesn't want done by someone else," he explained. "There's a lot of material in my journals I wouldn't want others perusing."
Lord's second volume of memoirs, Six Exceptional Women: Further Memoirs, tells of his relationships with women both famous, including writer Gertrude Stein, her companion Alice B. Toklas, and the French actress Arletty; and unknown, including Lord's Greek friend Errieta Perdikidi and his own mother, Louise Bennett Lord. Lord's use of language in this volume was particularly praised. Booklist's Donna Seaman wrote that Lord has "an eloquence that gives full expression to his refined and generous sensibility," while New York Times Book Review contributor Florence King thought that Lord's "English [is] so pure and polished that the sentences almost ring like tapped crystal."
Lord gives his male friends a similar treatment in Some Remarkable Men: Further Memoirs, in which he "lifts the biographical portrait to the level of daring, soul-searching, adventurous art form," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. The book discusses Lord's friendships with English novelist Harold Acton, dramatist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, painter Balthus, and sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Lord tells humorous anecdotes about the men, but "underneath Lord's witty, dilettantish style, his recollections have a serious core about living the artistic life, with its hidden costs and uncertain legacies," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Giacometti, who appears in Some Remarkable Men, is one of Lord's most frequent subjects. Lord was friends with the Swiss surrealist artist from 1952 until Giacometti died in 1966, and his first book about the man was published in 1965. That book, A Giacometti Portrait, recounts conversations that Lord had with Giacometti while sitting as a model for one painting, which took eighteen sittings to complete. As such, it provides a fascinating glimpse inside the mind of an artist at work. "If there is a more endearing study of the artist as maniac, as child, as intelligence, as driven haunted slave, or selfless master, as who knows which of the nine orders of angels, I have not encountered it," William Maxwell declared in New Republic.
Lord gives a fuller account of Giacometti's life in Giacometti: A Biography, begun in 1970 and finally published in 1985. The book, which talks candidly of Giacometti's sadistic tendencies and mental torment, drew protests from more than forty of the sculptor's friends, who signed a public letter of protest against it. However, Giacometti: A Biography was praised by some critics. A Kirkus Reviews contributor, who declared the book "a definitive biography," commented that "one gets the impression upon reading this biography that [Lord] … got a rare glimpse into the soul of a genius." Lord "has written a painstaking, powerful biography … about a man he obviously loved without letting that love get between Giacometti and the truth," thought Washington Post Book World critic Seymour Krim. Giacometti: A Biography "is a very tender book," Krim concluded, "made strong by the rigors of close detail."
Over his years of friendship with various artists, many of them created portraits of Lord. Some of these works of art, which include sketches, photographs, paintings, and even sculptures, are collected in Plausible Portraits of James Lord: With Commentary by the Model. Covering twenty-four artists, including Picasso, Giacometti, and Balthus, Plausible Portraits of James Lord is "highly personal in content and tone yet self-reflective, detached, and perceptive," Cheryl Ann Lajos wrote in Library Journal. Lord places each work in context by explaining how he came to sit for each portrait and how he felt about it. As with his earlier books, Lord's use of language was praised by critics, including Booklist's Donna Seaman, who called Lord's "syntax … gloriously complex, sensibility exquisite, tone arch, and candor bracing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Spectator, January, 1994, M. D. Carnegie, review of Picasso and Dora: A Personal Memoir, pp. 62-64.
Art in America, November, 1994, Jill Johnston, review of Picasso and Dora, pp. 33-34.
ARTnews, January 1994, Jack Flam, review of Picasso and Dora, p. 107.
Belles Lettres, summer, 1994, review of Six Exceptional Women: Further Memoirs, p. 4.
Booklist, April 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Six Exceptional Women, p. 1420; April 15, 1998, Ted Leventhal, review of A Gift for Admiration: Further Memoirs, p. 1410; April 15, 2003, Seaman, review of Plausible Portraits of James Lord: With Commentary by the Model, p. 1439; June 1, 2004, Seaman, review of Mythic Giacometti, pp. 1693-1694.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1980, review of A Giacometti Portrait, p. 692; August 1, 1985, review of Giacometti: A Biography, p. 778; August 15, 1996, review of Some Remarkable Men: Further Memoirs, pp. 1213-1214.
Library Journal, January 1, 1972, Andrew Robison, review of Alberto Giacometti Drawings, pp. 65-66; September 1, 1996, David Keymer, review of Some Remarkable Men, p. 188; March 15, 1998, Richard K. Burns, review of A Gift for Admiration, p. 61; May 1, 2003, Cheryl Ann Lajos, review of Plausible Portraits of James Lord, p. 111; May 1, 2004, Douglas F. Smith, review of Mythic Giacometti, pp. 104-105.
London Review of Books, March 19, 1987, David Sylvester, review of Giacometti, pp. 8-9.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 27, 1996, Bret Israel, review of Some Remarkable Men, pp. 6, 9.
Nation, October 28, 1996, Vivian Gornick, review of Some Remarkable Men, pp. 48-49.
New Republic, July 19, 1980, William Maxwell, review of A Giacometti Portrait, pp. 27-29.
New York Review of Books, April 25, 2002, Marilyn McCully, review of Picasso and Dora, pp. 25-28.
New York Times Book Review, July 18, 1993, Sarah Boxer, "Geniuses Don't Doubt Themselves" (interview with Lord), p. 21; May 1, 1994, Florence King, review of Six Exceptional Women, p. 12; June 7, 1998, Ted Loos, review of A Gift for Admiration, p. 23; July 13, 2003, Roxana M. Popescu, review of Plausible Portraits of James Lord, p. 24.
Observer (London, England), June 29, 1986, Tim Hilton, review of Giacometti, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1985, review of Giacometti, p. 56; February 28, 1994, review of Six Exceptional Women, p. 64; July 29, 1996, review of Some Remarkable Men, p. 76; March 9, 1998, review of A Gift for Admiration, p. 53; April 7, 2003, review of Plausible Portraits of James Lord, p. 61.
Southern Review, July, 1987, Harry Goldgar, review of Giacometti, pp. 719-727.
Spectator, April 25, 1981, John McEwan, review of A Giacometti Portrait, pp. 22-23.
Times Literary Supplement, August 21, 1981, Peter Greenham, review of A Giacometti Portrait, p. 960.
Town and Country, April, 1998, James Villas, "The Man Who Knew Everyone" (profile of Lord), pp. 65-68.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1993, review of Picasso and Dora, p. 127.
Vogue, April, 1994, Jed Perl, reviews of Six Exceptional Women and Picasso and Dora, pp. 214-215.
Washington Post Book World, September 15, 1985, Seymour Krim, review of Giacometti, pp. 1, 4.
WWD, June 16, 1994, Lorna Koski, interview with Lord, p. 16.*