Jean Varda was legendary in the 20th century art world. “Acclaimed in Europe for his “Byzantine-Cubist mosaics,” fashioned from broken glass, mirrors, and crockery, and later, after he moved to the United States, for his colorful collages, he was equally acknowledged as a teacher, a raconteur, and a man of infinite charm and wit.” Later in his life, Varda was viewed as an outlandish character who surrounded himself with very young women and lived and partied on a wreck of an old ferryboat in Sausalito, near San Francisco.
This biography starts from Varda’s birthplace in the ancient Ottoman Empire to France and England, where he consorted with Braque, Picasso, Matisse, and writers like Ezra Pound, Aldous Huxley, and Dylan Thomas. The author describes his days in California, where his friends included Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Maya Angelou, and Alan Watts. He was known as the leader of a raucous, often libertine sub-culture of artists and hangers-on who scandalized mainstream society with their antics.