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Paperback | $17.00 Trade | £11.95 | ISBN: 9780262611473 | 128 pp. | 7 x 9 in | February 1999

A Day with Picasso


In 1978, while collecting documentary photographs of the artists' community in Montparnasse from the first decades of the century, Billy Klüver discovered that some previously unassociated photographs fell into significant groupings. One group in particular, showing Picasso, Max Jacob, Moïse Kisling, Modigliani, and others at the Café de la Rotonde and on Boulevard du Montparnasse, all seemed to have been taken on the same day. Biographical research led Klüver to focus on the summer of 1916 as the likely time the photos were taken. Further investigation eventually allowed him to identify the photographer as Jean Cocteau and to determine the day that Cocteau had taken the photographs: August 12, 1916. In a tour de force of art historical research, Klüver then reconstructed a scenario of the events of the four hours depicted in the photographs—and re-created a single afternoon in the lives of Picasso and friends, a group of remarkable people in early-twentieth-century Paris.


“An amazing feat of detective work.” —Michael FitzGerald, Artforum's Bookforum

“Very amusing and almost wildly ingenious.” —Rosamond Bernier, New York Times Book Review


“In this tale of twenty-four photographs Billy Klüver uses his gifts of research and narration to make us see and feel with Cocteau himself experience. How good it is to live for a while in a worthy world that is not our own.”
John Pierce, Visiting Professor of Music, Emeritus, Stanford University

“This is the kind of visual history, apart from works of art themselves, that is the most vivid and evocative. Klüver has not simply unearthed a suite of thrilling pictures, but he’s managed to tell us, with all of the tools of the finest empirical history-writing, just how all the pieces fit.”
Kenneth E. Silver, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, New York University

“Klüver has brought off an astonishing feat. He has recreated an afternoon in Montparnasse so vividly and exhaustively that he has succeeded in illuminating a whole period of the artist’s life and clarified key relationships. Thanks to his ability to apply scientific research and imaginative sensibility to iconographical problems, Klüver is doing for twentieth-century art historians what Baedeker did for nineteenth-century travelers.”
John Richardson, author of A Life of Picasso


Best Critical Study, 1998 Golden Light Book Awards sponsored by the Maine Photographic Workshops