Author: Miles J. Unger –
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing –
Genre: Biography, Art –
Overall rating: 5/5 –
Writing: 5/5 –
Duration: 15:25 (very long) –
Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner –
Narrator/performance: 5/5 –
Impressions: n/a –
Performance errors: 0/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 5/5 –
Some biographies will draw you in, some will not, relying on your interest in its subject. Not with “Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World” though. In a journalistic fashion, Miles J. Unger made sure you become interested before the story is told in chronological order. It all starts with a rather liberal depiction of a scene starring Picasso and his new young love and ends with a dry, factual ending. The best part of the book is in the middle. It is written in a stimulating manner, bringing up various contextual meanings, terms and associations, in several languages. Although the contents of the book might be a challenge to your average narrator, Malcolm Hillgartner read the book magically, most likely also enjoying the book while he read it for us. He navigated all of the names and terms without hesitation and before you know it, the rather complex subject of the origins of Cubism becomes familiar.
The book gives a very strong sense of place. The point of observation it is close to its subject without becoming too involved. The observing eye is watchful and fair. The story is filled with facts while the occasional quotation seems strongly relevant and interesting. The book is also constructed in a way where not everything is given away right at the start, keeping the reader interested and ready to take in the big reveal. There are certain questions but the answer, in a way, is also given. It is a strange effect for an audiobook about visual art.
The audiobook form means that it is easy to look up pictures it describes while listening. I certainly looked up more than half of the pictures described in this biography. I believe this exercise improved my understanding not only of Picasso and Cubism but several other painters and art movements.
The book is rather positive, upbeat. I would rate it somewhere between guilty pleasures and educational material.
This cover is strange, heavy and unappealing, especially if compared with the clear, focused content. It does not promise much. It could promise much more. The title is added onto the picture, it is not very clear and appears slapdash, hasty. Not a very good example of a biography or audiobook cover.