Eleanor Birne

Eleanor Birne is a literary agent. She is working on a book, provisionally titled The Women who Built Virago.

Gwydir Street​ in Cambridge, just off the appealingly scruffy Mill Road, is a narrow street of Victorian terraced houses. In the 1980s my secondary school English teacher lived there: he would drive his Morris Minor out to our village to tell us about books and music and more books. In my mind, Gwydir Street was the sophisticated centre of the urban world. Walk down it now, past the old...

At Piano Nobile: Jean Cooke

Eleanor Birne, 18 April 2019

Jean​ Cooke liked painting her sofa. ‘I kept painting that sofa,’ she said. ‘It dominated my life. People came and sat down on it and I painted them.’ In Sofas Galore (c.1980), two figures recline at opposite ends of a pale peach Chesterfield, its creases and buttons lovingly re-created in paint. The two figures are the same person: Jason, Cooke’s son. One...

From The Blog
13 March 2019

In the early 1970s, Sargy Mann was diagnosed with cataracts. He continued to paint, but he had to look much harder than most people. Eventually he went completely blind, but kept on painting.

At the Royal Academy: Tacita Dean

Eleanor Birne, 7 June 2018

‘All​ the things I am attracted to are just about to disappear,’ Tacita Dean once told Marina Warner. Dean’s three almost simultaneous new shows – at the Royal Academy, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery – are full of transient things: paintings of an ant moving across a rock; images of clouds, of decaying fruit; portraits on film of people...

At Kettle’s Yard: The Reopening

Eleanor Birne, 22 March 2018

Jim Ede​ had been living abroad – first Tangier, then the Loire – when he found himself ‘dreaming of the idea of somehow creating a living place where works of art could be enjoyed, inherent to the domestic setting, where young people could be at home unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery, and where an informality might infuse an...

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