Elizabeth Avedon, editor  The Vintage Contemporary Artists series.

In an age when artists are regularly accorded the level of celebrityhood once reserved for movie stars, more attention than ever is being focused on their personal lives. It’s peculiar to think that we know so little about the life of Titian that we can’t even vouch for the year he was born (was it 1487 or 1490?), but that every student of modern art is so fully acquainted with the life of Picasso that he can readily recite not just the artist’s dates, but those of his wives and many lovers. For some time now, the assumption has been that an artist’s life is not irrelevant; perhaps it can enhance our understanding of the work. Yet the notion that an artist is more important than his work, that his life is of interest regardless of his work—this is a recent development and one which serves as the...


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