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Lord, James

    Full Name: Lord, James

    Other Names:

    • James Lord

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 27 November 1922

    Date Died: 23 August 2009

    Place Born: Englewood, Bergen, NJ, USA

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): sculpture (visual works) and twentieth century (dates CE)


    Expatriate writer in France and Giacometti scholar. Lord was born to Albert Lord, a New York stock broker and Louise Bennett (Lord). He attended Wesleyan University, but a self-admitted poor student, he enlisted in the United States army after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. His facility with French qualified him for Military Intelligence Service af the invasion of Normandy; he was stationed in France. While there, Lord searched out Pablo Picasso in 1944 locating him in his studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins. Following the war, Lord left Wesleyan with graduating, returning to Paris in 1947, perhaps because his homosexuality might be better accepted there. Despite his sexual proclivities, he entered into an affair with Picasso’s mistress, Dora Maar (1907-1997) after she and the artist were split. He kept meticulous journals of the conversations that he had with nearly all the litterati of post-war Paris. His intention was to become a writer, but excessive socializing kept him from production. Lord met the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti in 1952 at the Café aux Deux Magots, and frequently visited his studio in Montparnasse. The two remained friends throughout the artist’s life. After two unsuccessful novels, Lord was asked to write a book on Giacometti by the Museum of Modern Art to accompany the 1965 retrospective exhibition on the artist. A Giacometti Portrait was hailed a success and is today valued as a source for information and insight on the artist. In 1970 Lord began a full-length treatment of the scultpor, completed only in 1985 and published as Giacometti: A Biography. The book’s frank description of Giacometti’s sadistic tendencies and mental problems drew the ire of many of the sculptor’s friends, who signed a public protest letter against the book. Lord set out to write a series of memoirs based upon personalisties. Picasso and Dora: A Personal Memoir appeared in 1993 followed by Six Exceptional Women the following year and Some Remarkable Men in 1996. A Gift for Admiration was published in 1998. He adopted his life-companion, Gilles Foy-Lord, officially as his son. While working on a book of his experiences in the army, My Queer War, he suffered a heart attack at his home in Paris and died at age 86. Portraits exist of Lord by Picasso, Giacometti, Balthus, Lucian Freud, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Lord’s style is that of a raconteur and witness to the event itself. All of his writing weaves autobiography, reportage with gossip (Times London). His portraits of his experiences with Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Balthus, Peggy Guggenheim and the art historian Douglas Cooper provide rich documentary evidence on these personalities.

    Selected Bibliography

    A Giacometti Portrait. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965; Alberto Giacometti Drawings. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1971; Giacometti: A Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1985; Picasso and Dora. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.


    Lord, James. Picasso and Dora. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993; Lord, James. A Gift for Admiration: Further Memoirs. New York : Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1998; Lord, James. Plausible Portraits of James Lord: with Commentary by the Model. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003; Making Memoirs. North Pomfret, VT: Elysium Press, 1995; [obituaries:] Grimes, William. “James Lord, Biographer and Memoirist, Dies at 86” New York Times, August 29, 2009 p. A 19; “James Lord: Expatriate American Socialite.” Times (London), September 28, 2009 p. 61.


    "Lord, James." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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