Next week booksellers will converge on New York for the trade show BookExpo America, where publishers roll out their summer and fall titles. One of the most noteworthy of the forthcoming books about art is Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud(Thames & Hudson, October 2010). Beginning in late 2003, the art critic Martin Gayford spent seven months posing for Lucian Freud, whom some regard as the greatest living realist. Gayford sat for two portraits and describes the experience in Man With a Blue Scarf. Here is an excerpt:
“The experience of posing seems somewhere between transcendental meditation and a visit to the barber’s. There is a rather pleasant feeling of concentrating and being alert, but no other need to do anything at all except respond to certain requests. ‘Would you mind moving your head just a little?’, ‘Could you move the scarf just an inch? As it is, it looks a little bit “dressed”.’At moments sitting seems almost an embarrassingly physical affair: an enterprise that concerns the model’s skin, muscles, flesh and also, I suppose – if there is such a thing – self.”
This excerpt comes from an advance reading copy of Man with a Blue Scarf. Some material in the finished book may differ.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying R. A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile, a new historical true crime book about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa. At the end of her tale, Scotti revealed that an early scene had been based on newspaper article that might have been entirely false, so questionable was the reporter’s credibility. This technique is very different from the one normally favored by true-crime writers — withholding some facts — and undermines the book. It’s one thing to dole out clues carefully and it’s another to insert material that may be fiction. The belated revelation that this had occurred cast much of the earlier material in the book in a new light that flattered neither Scotti nor Vanished Smile.
The cover of the advance reader's edition of 'Vanished Smile'
I’ve been reading R. A. Scotti’s historical true-crime book Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa (Knopf, April 2009), which I mentioned yesterday. And it’s been a pleasure after trudging through the finalists for the 2009 Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books, the winners of which will be announced Monday. Another quote from Scotti’s fascinating tale, this one about Picasso’s Rose period:
“In those happy days, Picasso would sell his art by the armful – a hundred francs (then worth about twenty dollars) for a stack of drawings; two thousand francs for thirty canvases. A few dealers – notably, Ambrose Vollard, astute and fair, and Clovis Sagot, an unscrupulous ex-clown who sold art out of an old apothecary – were scooping up Picasso’s harlequins and saltimbanques for the price of a meal … money was a luxury, and freeloading was a way of life. ‘You could owe money for years for your paints and canvases and rent and restaurant and practically everything except coal and luxuries,’ Picasso remembered.”
(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.