Artistic Personalities

In 1957, Janet Flanner published a Profile called “The Surprise of the Century.” The “surprise” was Pablo Picasso, a genius who struck his friends as unprecedented, as both an artist and a person—a “complete phenomenon.” (“The excesses of his artistic endowment, of his will, of his life appetites, and of his character,” Flanner writes, “appear to have been idiosyncratic from earliest childhood.”) This week, we’re bringing you close encounters with great artists in their prime. Ellen Willis reports on the turbulent vision of Janis Joplin and her band, and Whitney Balliett chronicles the musical innovations of the jazz legend Charlie Parker in “Bird.” Janet Malcolm explores the complexity of Sylvia Plath’s work and life in “The Silent Woman,” and Jervis Anderson accompanies the novelist Ralph Ellison on a trip to his home town and recounts the author’s thoughts on race in America. In a 1974 Profile, Calvin Tomkins traces Georgia O’Keeffe’s path from the Art Students League, in New York, to her legendary ranch in New Mexico, and, in “The Duke in His Domain,” Truman Capote visits Marlon Brando on the set of “Sayonara.” Finally, S. N. Behrman writes about Joseph Duveen, who—as the art dealer to William Randolph Hearst, Henry Clay Frick, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and other major collectors—shaped the art world as we know it today. We hope that you find these glimpses of artistic minds as fascinating as we do.

—Erin Overbey and Joshua Rothman, archivists