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At Driscoll Babcock

Christopher Benfey: The Shock of the Old

15 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 Alice Walton for ...

Manly Love

John Bayley

28 January 1993
Walt Whitman: From Moon to Starry Night 
by Philip Callow.
Allison and Busby, 394 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 85031 908 0
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The Double Life of Stephen Crane 
by Christopher Benfey.
Deutsch, 294 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 233 98820 3
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... unused and disregarded. Crane himself liked it to be thought that his own clandestine surveys, accompanied by a real spy, had helped to contribute to American success in the war. Perhaps they had. ChristopherBenfey tells the story extremely well, with a light touch and a lot of scholarship. He likes and admires Crane but is judicious about the quality of his work and does not try to claim too much for it ...

I’m here to be mad

Christopher Benfey: Robert Walser

10 May 2018
Walks with Robert Walser 
by Carl Seelig, translated by Anne Posten.
New Directions, 127 pp., £11.99, May 2017, 978 0 8112 2139 9
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Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories 
by Robert Walser, translated by Tom Whalen, Nicole Köngeter and Annette Wiesner.
NYRB, 181 pp., £9.99, October 2016, 978 1 68137 016 3
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... received little recognition in his lifetime, as he struggled with substance abuse as well as mental illness. Until recently, aside from a pioneering selection of stories assembled by the translator Christopher Middleton in 1982, his work has barely been available in English. But now, thanks to a steady accumulation of volumes from New York Review Books, and a gifted group of translators willing to wrestle ...

Flowers in His Trousers

Christopher Benfey: Central Park’s Architect

5 October 2016
Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture and Society 
edited by Charles E. Beveridge.
Library of America, 802 pp., £30, November 2015, 978 1 59853 452 8
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... 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 ‘successive unpremeditated ...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment

20 May 2015
Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... 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 immersion was Rothko’s intention ...

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