Christopher Benfey

Christopher Benfey teaches at Mount Holyoke College and is the author of several books, including A Summer of Hummingbirds.

I’m here to be mad: Robert Walser

Christopher Benfey, 10 May 2018

Best known​ for his short prose sketches, the idiosyncratic Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956) liked to call himself a ‘craftsman novelist’, cobbling together ‘a long, plotless, realistic story’. He insisted that his varied sketches – prose poems, portraits of friends and strangers, detailed accounts of walks through the city or countryside, stray bits of...

During​ the 1870s, the decade he turned fifty, Frederick Law Olmsted, the creative mastermind of New York’s Central Park, looked back on his career as a landscape architect, the compound profession he had virtually invented from elements of gardening, agriculture, architecture, landscape painting and civil engineering. Olmsted ascribed much of his success to serendipity, the...

At Driscoll Babcock: The Shock of the Old

Christopher Benfey, 16 June 2016

The last time​ a painting from the Hudson River School – the loose grouping of 19th-century American artists who evoked the placid rural villages and forested tourist destinations upriver from New York City – made the news was in 2005, when the New York Public Library, strapped for cash, sold Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849), for $35 million, to the Walmart heiress...

Back to Life: Rothko’s Moment

Christopher Benfey, 21 May 2015

In the​ old ‘Rothko room’ of the pre-expansion Phillips Collection in Washington DC, it was possible to feel that you had stumbled on a private sanctuary, furnished with a single bench, in which four extraordinary paintings – soft-edged rectangles of pulsing orange and saturated blue, yellows both earthly and otherworldly – slowly worked their enchantment. Total...

Manly Love

John Bayley, 28 January 1993

Demurely feline himself, and also the blandest of experts at suggesting but never revealing his own private life, the English writer Edmund Gosse enthused on the resemblance of the aged Walt...

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