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Laura Cumming has been the art critic of the Observer since 1999. She has contributed to the London Evening Standard, the Guardian, and Vogue. Her book The Vanishing Velquez was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize and was a New York Times bestseller. She lives in London.

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Art critic (observer newspaper)



“Life reproves the imagination: look closer.” So Cummings does. This is the story of her mother, who was inexplicably kidnapped from the beach, aged three, and safely recovered twelve days later. However, it's not a straightforward narrative, beginning at her birth and ending in her old age, and progressing through schooldays, marriage, adult life. For Betty (Laura Cummings' mother), life was something of a mystery, posing unanswered questions which Laura painstakingly unpicks, but not necessarily in date order. Her first point of reference is that adored mother Betty, and her own brief memoir. But there are the villagers from the community where Betty was brought up, and the secrets they kept. There are legal documents. There are photographs. And there is Laura's own willingness not to take what she finds out at face value. Her references to the work of artists whom she feels illuminate her story, either by referencing Betty's own home landscape, or by having something to say about the kind of community in which she lived - Brueghel's 'The Fall of Icarus' - are the jewels of this book, enriching and bringing colour to an already involving story. The passages examining Betty's father George's photographic portrait of her mother Veda are among the most memorable in the book.

Finally, Laura's recognition that people are nor simply heroes or villains (though her mother remains her hero) brings the book to a thought provoking conclusion. Baddies turn out to have their redeeming features. Goodies keep silent. Humans are complicated. This is a book that may stay with you once you have turned the last page.
… (més)
Margaret09 | Hi ha 11 ressenyes més | Apr 15, 2024 |
Laura Cumming is an art historian and she tries to solve the mysteries surrounding the life of Dutch painter Carol Fabritius. Fabritius died tragically in 1654 in Delft when a store house of gunpowder exploded and destroyed about half of the small city. He was a student of Rembrandt but developed his own unique style although Cumming points out that very few of his paintings have survived. As well as describing the work of Fabritius, Cumming tells the reader about the art of her own father and the works and styles of many Dutch artists. The descriptions are wonderful and give the reader a sense of the life and preoccupations of Dutch society during the 1600's. Cumming pays tribute to her father with her writing on his life . I really enjoyed reading this book. There are a number of reproductions of the art that Cumming describes… (més)
torontoc | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Apr 6, 2024 |
A memoir of art and life and sudden death

This is quite a difficult book to classify and I suppose it is a memoir but not as they are conventionally conceived. For me this was a study of Dutch paintings of the 1600s with offshoots into the life of Cumming and her painter father James Cumming and the impact he had on the way she 'sees' paintings.

The first thunderclap in the book is the explosion of gunpowder stored in a cellar next door to where the artist Carel Fabritius, who along with everyone else in the building, died. It isn't clear how the explosion was started - a spark from a lamp or a metal key turning in the keyhole - but the whumph was so loud it was heard 70 miles away. Fabritius was 32 years old. Sudden death. What then follows is a journey through Dutch paintings and how they have featured in Cumming's life: a painting she visited time and time again when living in London, paintings she saw on their only family visit abroad to Amsterdam and Delft, iconic paintings but all linking back to Carel Fabritius.

What I particularly loved about this book was Cumming's writing. She writes about paintings creating images with words and shows us that we can all look at and describe what we are seeing. For instance, she writes about Adriaen Coorte's Still Life with Shells

For me the most startling mobilisation involves a group of shells arranged along the ledge like a corps de ballet in the footlights. They are all on tenterhooks. A long spiny shell poised on tiptoe stretches an arm out towards a dainty little red one, as if longing to touch her, or to invite a pas de deux. It's spines tick-tack along the stone, like Prufrock's claws at the bottom of the sea. A pearly conch sounds out its rising music. The eye sees, and it hears.

Of course her artist father was instrumental in how Cumming saw things - as probably was her artist mother. At school she was taught that the Golden Age Dutch paintings were all about things; things that were revered and therefore needed to be recorded for posterity - look at my wealth. Her father laughed at this,

Paintings are not substitutes, he said, they are something else altogether. A likeness is never the only reason an artist paints a picture.

I was much less convinced by other aspects of the book. Yes there are sudden deaths and it is about aspects of life but they weigh lightly in the book and feel like add-ons. But the writing about art. It is sublime.
… (més)
allthegoodbooks | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Nov 26, 2023 |
I read this as I enjoy books about art and I enjoyed the author’s previous book, On Chapel Sands.
I found this book interesting, but not really engaging, as it is too digressive and meandering, not that I don’t like the asides and commentary, but they loosen the structure of this book too much for me.
The book interpolates:
• Detailed descriptions of paintings from the Dutch “Golden Age”, concentrating on the works of Carel Fabritius, of whose paintings I was only aware of The Goldfinch before reading this book.
• Descriptions of Cumming’s father, James Cumming, his life and paintings.
• General observations and ruminations on life, and art, and mortality.
Sometimes the author makes links between these mini-essays, but sometimes not, although throughout she returns to descriptions of Fabritius’ paintings, from the opening discussion of A View of Delft in the National Gallery, London (which I can’t remember noticing), to her final comments upon The Goldfinch in the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

The book is well written, informative and interesting, but I missed something. Perhaps I feel that the book is an act of catharsis for the author, rather than of discovery for the reader.

I read the Kindle edition of this book, which has the advantage over the hardback edition of being able to zoom in to the detail of the illustrated paintings, which appear rather small in the undersized hardback (21cm x 15cm, with a lot of white space around the illustrations).
… (més)
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CarltonC | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Aug 30, 2023 |



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