Friday, 3 March 2017

Proto-Brookner

In January 1978, just a few years before she (stealthily) began to write novels, we find Anita Brookner at the Royal Academy, looking at pictures by Courbet ('The Last of the Old Masters', Soundings).
...that world of pungent women, of euphoric half-drunk men ... Rumpled sleazy girls, exhibiting their cheap mittens and their white stockings to the shocked spectator ... Regis Courbet snoozing after dinner in his malodorous but convivial kitchen, trout the size of carp, yards of female hair, sniggering all-male parties, damp-fleshed nudes, an amazing tendency for everyone to fall asleep ... La Tour de Peilz, that silent pretty village where it seems to be always dusk ... That portrait of Berlioz, as watchful, as distanced as might have been his doctor father at the bedside of a dying man ... the hooked trout with agonized human eyes; a sad and lonely picture of apples with a pewter tankard; a coldly red sunset over Lake Geneva...
The novelistic nature of Brookner's descriptions of paintings is immediately striking. Did her novels grow organically out of her art criticism, or was the art criticism a mere preparation for the novels?

Coldly red: 'Sunset, Vevey, Switzerland', 1874

Agonized human eyes: 'The Trout', 1872

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