McCully, Marilyn

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McCULLY, Marilyn




Home—London, England. Office—c/o Author Mail, Harry N. Abrams, 100 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011.


Art historian. Organizer of Pablo Picasso exhibitions for museums, including Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.


Whitbread Prize (with John Richardson), 1991, for A Life of Picasso: Volume 1: 1881-1906, The Early Years.



A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences, Arts Council of Great Britain/Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1981.

(And contributor) Homage to Barcelona, the City and Its Art, 1888-1936, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1987.

Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906, National Gallery of Art/Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1997.

Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay, Royal Academy of the Arts (London, England), 1998.


Els Quartre Gats: Art in Barcelona around 1900 (exhibition catalog), Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, NJ), 1978.

Der Junge Picasso: Frühwerk und Blaue Periode (exhibition catalog), Kunstmuseum Bern (Bern, Germany), 1984.

(Author of introduction) Picasso, Works on Paper: Barcelona, Blue and Pink Periods, Lefevre Gallery (London, England), 1988.

Pablo Picasso: The Artist before Nature (exhibition catalog), Auckland City Art Gallery (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

(With John Richardson) A Life of Picasso, Volume I: The Early Years, 1881-1906, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.

(With John Richardson) A Life of Picasso, Volume 1: 1881-1906, The Early Years Volume 2: 1907-1917, The Painter of Modern Life, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

Paul Wunderlich (exhibition catalog) Volume 2, Galerie Brockstedt (Hamburg, Germany), 1999–2001.

Picasso: scolpite e dipingera la ceramica (exhibition catalog), Ferrara Arte (Ferrara, Italy), 2000.

(Editor) Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor of art criticism to periodicals; contributor to books, including "Putrefying Individuality": Picasso's Masks, edited by William Rubin, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1996.


Art historian Marilyn McCully has edited or collaborated on several books focusing on the works of artist Pablo Picasso. Her works are often connected with catalogues for important exhibitions she has organized at such museums as the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

McCully's Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906 is a catalogue written to accompany a major exhibition of Picasso's early works that traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts during 1997. According to a review by N. M. Lambert in Choice, this catalogue emphasizes Picasso's drawings from his pre-Cubist period and discusses the many influences on the artist's work. McCully edited the volume with the intention of reflecting new areas of research, such as those with feminist, formalist, and political perspectives. "Just when you think there is nothing new to say about the artistic accomplishments of Pablo Picasso, along comes a new show with a fine catalog to prove that there is plenty of room to look anew at the life and accomplishments of the Spanish master," commented Terry W. Hartle in the Christian Science Monitor. The contributors to the catalog address a variety of topics, including the autobiographical elements of Picasso's works; the early evidence of his technical skill as a draftsman; the wide-ranging experimentation with other artists' styles before arriving at his own unique artistic vision; and Picasso's "focus on individuals who occupied the margins of society," such as prostitutes, the poor, the blind, circus performers, and others who lived outside the mainstream. Contributor Henri Zerner noted in the Times Literary Supplement that the essays in Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906 make "a valuable contribution."

In 1999 McCully edited another book designed to accompany an exhibition, this one at the Royal Academy and later at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay discusses the artist's ceramic works, which often go unrecognized. Beginning in 1947, after Picasso's first visit to Vallauris, a town in the south of France that was a traditional center for pottery making, he began to create with the fired clay objects that would number in the thousands by the end of his life. McCully's book contains lavish illustrations of some of this work, in addition to essays by McCully, the artist's son Claude Picasso, and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Picasso's grandson. According to reviewer Bart Schneider in the Hungry Mind Review, for those who missed the exhibition, the book "is an extraordinary consolation."

McCully has also collaborated with art historian John Richardson on a multi-volume study titled A Life of Picasso. The first volume covers the years 1881 to 1906, and was published in 1991 to great critical acclaim. Drawing on Richardson's longtime friendship with Picasso and his widow, Jacqueline Roque, as well as access to the artist's studio and a number of his private papers, this volume begins with the birth of Picasso in Malaga, Spain. It follows the painter to Paris for his Blue Period and Rose Period, and ends with the groundbreaking painting "Les demoiselles d'Avignon," which Richardson called "the most innovative painting since Giotto." Richardson and McCully make use of "prodigious research to bring new shades of meaning to well-known and minor works alike, and to reveal Picasso's elaborate construction of his own life, without diminishing the complexity of either his art or his psychological makeup," observed Susan Grace Galassi in Nation. The authors do not "paper over Picasso's less than admirable qualities—his machismo, his obsessive concern with himself, his need for subservient friends, his grandiosity, his misogyny—even while acknowledging their vital role in his art," Galassi commented.

Several critics were impressed at the depth of the scholarship in the first volume of A Life of Picasso.Edward Butscher in Georgia Review found it to be "splendid on the art, tracing fundamental lines of descent, coolly dissecting cross-references and inevitable early failures." New York Times Book Review critic John Russell asserted that the book "has the steady, unhurrying pace and the superabundance of detail that were the mark of biography in High Victorian days.… The record is set straight, without bias, even where the buzzword 'manipulative' is the only one that fits Pablo Picasso's treatment of others.… Thanks in part to his collaborator, Marilyn McCully, Mr. Richardson has been able to fill out the story of Picasso's early life week by week, and sometimes almost day by day." In a review for the New Republic, Elizabeth Cowling acknowledged McCully as an expert in Picasso's early work and in Catalan art at the turn of the twentieth century. According to Cowling, the volume is "enthralling" and has a "lucid and unpretentious style," producing "an ideal book for the general reader." Cowling asserted that "One will turn to [this] book as much for analysis of the art as for information on the life. I cannot think of any other biography of Picasso of which that could be said."

Similar praise was given to the second volume of A Life of Picasso, which covers the years 1907 to 1917 and was published in 1997. This volume begins with "Les demoiselles d'Avignon" and continues through Picasso's cubist period. According to Michael Fitzgerald in Art in America, by 1914 Picasso was "beginning to depart from Cubism by experimenting with the more representational styles that would culminate in his neoclassicism of the late teens and early '20s." According to the critic, A Life of Picasso is aided immensely by the expertise of McCully, "who supplies the rigorous research, wide historical knowledge, and vetting of opinions that an academic background can provide." Fitzgerald stated that "as biographers, the authors' charge is to convey the man above all, and they succeed marvelously."

Published in 2001, Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier is based on two journals penned by Picasso's first mistress, annotated with comments and notes by McCully. In this work, complete with archival photographs, reproductions of Olivier's own artwork, and Picasso's portraits of her, Olivier's observations shed light on her stormy relationship with the painter as well as bring to life the art scene in Paris in the early twentieth century. In Art in America, contributor Michele C. Cone noted that "the journal's importance rests not only on what it says about the Picasso-Olivier relationship, … but on what it reveals of her life before she became involved with Picasso—that is, on its contribution to social history." In her foreword to the work, McCully adds that Olivier's "lively observations of the comings and goings of artists and writers, patrons and dealers, bohemians, tricksters and clowns, who all played their part in the years before the First World War, are invaluable."



McCully, Marilyn, editor, Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.


Art History, March, 1998, Neil Cox, review of "Putrefying Individuality": Picasso's Masks, pp. 129-132.

Art in America, June, 1997, Michael Fitzgerald, review of A Life of Picasso, Volume II: 1907-1917, The Painter of Modern Life, pp. 29-30; June, 2001, Michele C. Cone, review of Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier, p. 29.

Ceramics Monthly, December, 1999, review of Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay, pp. 24-26.

Choice, September, 1997, N. M. Lambert, review of Picasso: The Early Years, p. 113.

Christian Science Monitor, September 10, 1997, Terry W. Hartle, "Picasso's Early Works Display a Complex Artistic Heritage," p. 15.

Georgia Review, fall, 1992, Edward Butscher, "Three Wildernesses: Pablo Picasso, Woody Allen, Anne Sexton," pp. 544-547.

Hungry Mind Review, fall, 1999, review of Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay, p. 12.

Library Journal, June 15, 1997, Ellen Bates, review of Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906, p. 65.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 26, 1987, review of Homage to Barcelona, p. 7.

Nation, May 20, 1991, Susan Grace Galassi, review of A Life of Picasso, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1881-1906, pp. 671-673.

New Republic, April 22, 1991, Elizabeth Cowling, review of A Life of Picasso, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1881-1906, pp. 39-43.

New Yorker, February 14, 1983, review of A Picasso Anthology, pp. 117-118.

New York Review of Books, February 6, 1997, James Fenton, "Becoming Picasso."

New York Times Book Review, March 3,1991, John Russell, "The One True Picasso."

Times Literary Supplement, August 1, 1997, Henri Zerner, "Picasso before Picasso," pp. 16-17; October 9, 1998, Norbert Lynton, "The Mediterranean Musketeer," p. 20.*

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McCully, Marilyn

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