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12 October 1989
Albertine gone 
by Marcel Proust, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Chatto, 99 pp., £11.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3359 7
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Marcel Proust: A Biography 
by George Painter.
Chatto, 446 pp., £20, August 1989, 0 7011 3421 6
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The Book of Proust 
by Philippe Michel-Thiriet, translated by Jan Dalley.
Chatto, 406 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 7011 3360 0
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Marcel Proust. Selected Letters: Vol II, 1904-1909 
essays by Philip Kolb, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Collins, 482 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 00 217078 7
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... in an aviation accident, and a posthumous letter from him so like Albertine’s, show a reliance, in this extremity, on what life rather than art can do. In its loving detail and its quiet humour Painter’s today quite undated biography matches and complements Proust’s own method, and his own dedication. He is especially good at bringing out the ways in which real life could not be used by Proust ...

Someone like Maman

Elisabeth Ladenson: Proust’s mother

8 May 2008
Madame Proust: A Biography 
by Evelyne Bloch-Dano, translated by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 310 pp., £16, October 2007, 978 0 226 05642 5
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... really as ‘light as snowflakes’? Is it true that ‘nowhere else’ did Jeanne ‘feel as foreign’ as in her in-laws’ house in Illiers, where a crucifix hung over her bed? In the 1950s, GeorgePainter failed to interview the many witnesses still around, preferring instead to piece together a version of Proust’s life from his fiction, which he then used to explain the novel. Bloch-Dano ...

At the Palace Museum

John-Paul Stonard: Chinese Painting

14 June 2017
... is probably a T’ang copy of a fourth-century original). The earliest hanging scroll on display during my visit was Boats and a Riverside Mansion, traditionally attributed to the ninth-century painter Li Sixun. The silk has darkened and the colours faded, but you can still see the extreme refinement of the tiny brushstrokes, the infinite pains taken to define figures and foliage.The landscapes ...
22 November 1979
The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work 
by Germaine Greer.
Secker, 373 pp., £12.50, November 1979, 1 86064 677 8
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... where they impinge, as teachers, lovers or parents, on painters who were women. Ms Greer has searched written records and the reserve collections of galleries for every mention and trace of a woman painter. Her findings are numerous but seldom lively, and she has relentlessly put them all in. Her text is weighted down, sometimes twice to a page, with mere lists, which, since there are notes at the back ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Magdalen College Portraits

3 May 1984
... I resolved on a more ambitious venture: nothing less than a journey to Oxford when I drove part of the way myself. The journey had an unexpected purpose. Some years earlier a professional portrait painter, June Mendoza, had asked me to sit for my portrait. After it was finished she offered it to Magdalen College, which, being taken up with the restoration of the college buildings, had no spare money ...
15 March 1984
Swans Reflecting Elephants: My Early Years 
by Edward James, edited by George​ Melly.
Weidenfeld, 178 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 297 77988 5
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... two of the sofas which represent Mae West’s lips, and the painting Autumn Cannibalism, depicting two ‘Iberian beings’ eating one another with the help of spoon and fork and, according to the painter, expressing the pathos of civil war. Almost every item James collected would have made an appropriate exhibit in what Dali called Surrealism’s ‘lawsuit against Reality’, but I particularly ...

Red

Stephen Bann

5 July 1984
Time in a Red Coat 
by George​ Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 249 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2804 6
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Harland’s Half-Acre 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 230 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2737 6
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The Border 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 113 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 09 156320 8
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... from time to time, in case it has slipped our mind, that they rest their case in the end on a much more precise theory and practice of language than the on-going bustle of narrative will allow for. George Meredith, to take a good example, plays havoc with the expected sequence of events, expanding and contracting particular elements of the plot so that we can feel the sinews of narrative creaking and ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits

12 March 2009
... The 1999 exhibition at the Royal Academy celebrated Van Dyck the Antwerp prodigy, precocious master of the northern baroque, Rubens’s star pupil, a painter of mythologies and altarpieces – not just of portraits. In England, where Van Dyck spent most of the last decade of his 42 years, the demand for other genres was limited but the appetite for ...

‘Tiens! Une madeleine?’

Michael Wood: The Comic-Strip Proust

26 November 1998
À la recherche du temps perdu: Combray 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Stéphane Heuet.
Delcourt, 72 pp., €10.95, October 1998, 2 84055 218 3
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Proust among the Stars 
by Malcolm Bowie.
HarperCollins, 348 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 255622 7
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... pressed this contradiction to a point of sublimity.’ A la recherche is not a thinly disguised autobiography, as the ‘convincing and accessible near-novels by biographers like André Maurois and GeorgePainter’ suggest, and it reaches out to a universe far more varied than ‘the thin thread of Proust’s biography’. These are fighting words in our biographical days, but the reminder is more ...
7 October 1982
... in those laborious 473 pages to grasp Orwell’s character as well as Mr Peter Lewis did in his recent and sprightly picture book (which, incidentally, largely reflected Sonia’s view of the true George, though no reviewers noticed this). Perhaps so. I’m only irritated that Koestler failed to notice why I was so explicitly sceptical of the concept of character. Let me try again. I have talked to ...
2 August 1984
... 82. Before noon four people in quick sequence – one suspects that they were all Wamps – rang up my old friend Bob Smylie, the editor of the Irish Times, to tell him of the death of this great painter. Now, Bob is a very fat man with a very thin skin and to adapt the remark of the old priest in a sermon on the Holy Ghost, ‘the one thing, dear brethren, that the Holy Ghost can’t stand is ...
29 July 2015
Ever Yours: The Essential Letters 
by Vincent van Gogh, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker.
Yale, 777 pp., £30, December 2014, 978 0 300 20947 1
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Van Gogh: A Power Seething 
by Julian Bell.
Amazon, 171 pp., £6.99, January 2015, 978 1 4778 0129 1
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... was to end no more successfully than most of his other youthful schemes; but the fundamentalist, all-or-nothing streak in human beings, once aroused, never entirely goes away. So the striving painter who, in the most successful of his schemes, took himself off to Arles, first working alone, then alongside Gauguin, then alone again, then in the mental hospital in Saint-Rémy, was continuous with ...

Green Minna

Peter Campbell

7 October 1982
The Autobiography of George​ Grosz: A Small Yes and a Big No 
translated by Arnold Pomerans.
Allison and Busby, 246 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 85031 455 0
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... George Grosz made the drawings and paintings for which he will be remembered during the First World War and in the Twenties and Thirties. In his autobiography (first published in German in 1955), Old Grosz ...

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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... artists, including of course Giacometti and Bacon, but he exalts several others, including Auerbach, Dubuffet and Newman. He tentatively withdraws his estimate of Bomberg as ‘the finest English painter of the century’, and repents some early limiting judgments on Picasso; ‘the young critic cuts his teeth on Picasso. He proves his manhood by putting down Picasso, which is quite easy because he ...

A Likely Story

Frank Kermode

25 January 1996
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 
by Michael Auping, John Elderfield and Susan Sontag, edited by Marla Price.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £28, October 1995, 0 500 09256 7
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Howard Hodgkin 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Thames and Hudson, 192 pp., £24.95, October 1994, 0 500 27769 9
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... regret the passing of an age when it seemed easy to write about painting and painters. The grapes of Zeuxis, as Pliny admiringly observed, were so real that birds came and pecked at them. Vasari, a painter himself, believed that in his day art had rediscovered those lost antique skills, built on them, and was now close to perfection. To make representations look deceptively real, and to remain ...

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