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Memoirs of a Pet Lamb

David Sylvester, 5 July 2001

... official, my grandfather uttered something unpronounceable beginning with a hiss and the name of Sylvester was conferred on him. His wife was Rose Waxman, a sister of two leading Yiddish actors, Maurice and Fanny Waxman, whose roles on the London and New York stages included Hamlet and Medea. My father was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, grew up in ...

Bacon’s Furies

Robert Melville, 2 April 1981

Interviews with Francis Bacon 1962-1979 
edited by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 176 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 500 27196 8
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... In the preface to his new edition of montaged interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester draws our attention to what has become the last section of the fifth interview. Altogether, there are seven interviews but Sylvester considers the end of the fifth to be the most illuminating passage in the book: ‘I always think of myself not so much as a painter but as a medium for accident and chance … I think perhaps I am unique in that way; and perhaps it’s a vanity to say such a thing ...

In Denbigh Road

Peter Campbell: David Sylvester, 7 February 2002

... David Sylvester, who contributed regularly to this paper, died last June. People who worked with him usually agree that he was the most engaged and patient looker at art they ever knew. Robert Rosenblum rightly says, in David Sylvester: The Private Collection, that there was something comical about his high seriousness, but it is also true that, ‘unlike the rest of us ironists’, he could make one feel (or at least feel one ought to feel) that ‘art might matter more than life itself ...

Not His Type

Frank Kermode, 5 September 1996

About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 448 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 7011 6268 6
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... In a preliminary chapter called ‘Curriculum Vitae’ David Sylvester explains that he became interested in art when, at 17, he was fascinated by a black and white reproduction of a Matisse. He at once began to paint in oils, but soon discovered that he lacked talent and began to write about art instead, devoting himself thenceforth to the black and white of the page ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... an upper-class socialist. He liked cricket, bridge (with, among others, the ‘Machiavellian’ David Sylvester), chess (with Martin Amis, who felt humbly as if he always had, or anyway always ought to have, the black pieces). Women found him instantly attractive. And he rode a motor bike. The illustrations here are more than adequate reminders of his ...

Get out

Julian Bell: Francis Bacon, 19 October 2000

Looking back at Francis Bacon 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 272 pp., £29.95, June 2000, 0 500 01994 0
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... the homosexual artist, had converged to discuss painting and the human condition. The thought that David Sylvester and Francis Bacon were caught up in this dialogue seemed at once daunting and salutary to some of us then learning to paint in the same town. Their Interviews – first published in 1975 – conveyed such unassailable aplomb. ‘All art has ...

Robbing banks

George Melly, 25 June 1992

by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £45, May 1992, 0 500 09227 3
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by Sarah Whitfield.
South Bank Centre, 322 pp., £18.95, May 1992, 1 85332 087 0
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... of a bedside table defaced by cigarette burns. This fantasy has some bearing on the task facing David Sylvester in writing this marvellous book. He has discovered a room behind the wardrobe. In 1912, Magritte, 13 at the time, lost his mother who, after several unsuccessful attempts at suicide, managed to drown herself. According to Magritte’s ...

Men at Work

Tom Lubbock, 12 January 1995

Looking at Giacometti 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 256 pp., £25, October 1994, 9780701162528
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... or ‘one’ for ‘I’, wouldn’t make the needful point. In Looking at Giacometti, David Sylvester records a similar – though far more articulated – face-off with one of Giacometti’s lean and vertical female figures. And the effect here is not simply one of identification: I feel within my muscles the stance of the figure, feel I am ...

On David King

Susannah Clapp, 21 June 2018

... for drawings and paintings – and commissioned photographs. Some of the most powerful were by David King. He used to come blazing into the office with his huge black-and-white portraits, already measured up for size: no question, ever, of anything being cropped. One was of the writer Francis Wyndham, then in his sixties, in conversation with a 34-year-old ...

At Piano Nobile

Eleanor Birne: Jean Cooke, 18 April 2019

... week – Bratby finished his studies at the Royal College of Art and, thanks to a famous essay by David Sylvester in Encounter, found himself at the head of a movement. ‘Everything but the kitchen sink? The kitchen sink too,’ Sylvester wrote to describe the work of Bratby and others – Derrick Greaves, Edward ...

Golf Grips and Swastikas

William Feaver: Francis Bacon’s Litter, 26 February 2009

Francis Bacon: Incunabula 
edited by Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £39.95, September 2008, 978 0 500 09344 3
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... he chose to disparage, not least the work of former friends and rival contemporaries. When David Sylvester once asked what precisely was so deplorable about it (a ‘kind of caution’ perhaps?), Bacon’s response was studiedly offhand. ‘Well,’ he drawled, clearing his throat. ‘Well . . . Illustration surely means just illustrating the ...

At the Courtauld

John-Paul Stonard: Chaïm Soutine, 30 November 2017

... areas of colour, enlivened by tiny touches of chromatic variation – an excuse for pure painting. David Sylvester said of Soutine’s landscapes that the motif is ‘secondary to the forces it has unleashed’, and the same holds true for the portraits. Flickers of colour only half follow the folds of the white uniform in The Little Pastry Cook ...

In the Studio

Rye Dag Holmboe: Howard Hodgkin, 3 June 2021

... rooms and the individuals and things that existed inside them. He played a parlour game with David Sylvester in which they challenged each other to remember the names and exact positions of paintings in small museums that they knew by heart. His memories of childhood interiors were so precise that they sometimes read like the entries of auction ...

At the Whitney

Hal Foster: Jeff Koons, 31 July 2014

... with it, as he suggests in the account of a primal scene he gave in an interview with David Sylvester: Childhood’s important to me, and it’s when I first came into contact with art. This happened when I was around four or five. One of the greatest pleasures I remember is looking at a cereal box. It’s a kind of sexual experience at that ...

Open in a Scream

Colm Tóibín, 4 March 2021

Francis Bacon: Revelations 
by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan.
William Collins, 869 pp., £30, January, 978 0 00 729841 9
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... to be done to explain that his paintings were not just garish expressions of his own neuroses. David Sylvester and Michel Leiris, who both wrote perceptively about his work, emerged as friends and champions. As early as 1951, Sylvester asserted that Bacon was ‘the major English artist of his time’. He soon had ...

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