John Richardson was born in London in 1924. He studied art at the Slade School but soon gave up painting for art criticism. In 1949 he moved to France, where he lived for the next twelve years, befriending Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Cocteau. In the early 1960s Richardson moved to New York, where he was appointed head of Christie's US operation, and eventually became a full-time writer and editor. He has published books on Manet and Braque and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. The first volume of A Life of Picasso, covering the years 1881-1906, was published in 1991 and won the Whitbread Prize. The second volume of A Life of Picasso, covering the years 1907-1917, was published in 1996.
In 1993 Richardson was made a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 1994-95 he served as the Slade Professor of Art at Oxford. Currently he divides his time between Connecticut and New York City, where is working on the third and fourth volumes of A Life of Picasso.