Letters to Gwen John (Hardback)
  • Letters to Gwen John (Hardback)
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Letters to Gwen John (Hardback)

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£18.99
Hardback 352 Pages
Published: 07/04/2022
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Waterstones Says

Through imagined correspondence between herself and painter Gwen John, artist and author of Self-Portrait Celia Paul delivers a riveting, unique examination of life devoted to making art.

A unique combination of memoir and artistic biography, interspersed with original artworks, from the acclaimed artist and author of Self-Portrait.

We are both painters. We can connect to each other through images, in our own unvoiced language. But I will try and reach you with words. Through talking to you I may come alive and begin to speak.

Celia Paul has felt a lifelong connection to the artist Gwen John. There are extraordinary parallels in their lives and work. Both have always made art on their own terms. Both were involved with older male artists. Both worked hard to keep themselves and the sacred flame of their creativity from being extinguished by others.

Letters to Gwen John is Paul's imagined correspondence with Gwen John, whose life and work have loomed so large in hers. These intimate, passionate, haunting letters allow Paul to reach across eras, to weigh up the sacrifices she has made, and to explore the rich possibilities of a life apart. With illuminating insights into the life and work of Gwen John, Letters to Gwen John is a unique form of memoir and conversation, and an unforgettable insight into a life devoted to making art.

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781787333376
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 773 g
Dimensions: 206 x 140 x 38 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Beautiful, tender, and riveting. I have taken this book into my heart. - Claire-Louise Bennett, author of CHECKOUT 19

[A] quiet, musing, moving book of imaginary letters from one artist to another. - The Times, Books of the Year*

A miraculous, door-opening book - Julia Blackburn, author of TIME SONG

Since the publication of her memoir, Self-Portrait, Celia Paul has become almost as famous for her writing as her art... [In Letters to Gwen John] the analogies between the two painters - solitary, spiritual, quietly magnificent - become even clearer. - Laura Cumming, Observer

Paul interweaves John's biography ... with accounts of her own life and lyrical readings of John's paintings ... summoning a version of the artist at her most imaginative and prolific. - Times Literary Supplement

At once diary and confessional, biography and autobiography and something between the two... This book lets the reader into a world of sadness, loneliness and isolation. At its heart, however, is that unexpected kernel of confidence and self-belief that the author shared with Gwen John. - Honor Clerk, Spectator

[An] intimate, immediate form of memoir [combined] with elements of biography and art criticism. The end result is a beguiling, singular work of art - a portrait of two lives, entwined through time and space... Paul's prose...glints and gleams on the page. - Lucy Scholes, Daily Telegraph

Powerfully honest... Her voice is deceptively plain and her insights about her own art, as well as the choices she had to make as a woman, are both illuminating and full of courage... a beautiful book. - Daily Mail

It is really Paul who's centre stage, and she is fascinating; I do not feel, at this point, that I could ever tire of her mind, and the unlikely, singular way it turns. - Rachel Cooke, Observer

An excellent new book. . . . In a nod to the epistolary novel, she addresses her letters to 'Dear Gwen.' It's a risky conceit, but as the intimacy grows - if not with John, then certainly with us - their clarity on the grammars of gender is compelling, and utterly contemporary. Truthfulness does not run one way, any more than power and vulnerability do. - Drusilla Modjeska, New York Times Book Review

An utterly revelatory piece of art writing. - Conversation, Best Art Books of 2022*

It's a work of biography, analysis, reverence, and supplication, and it's filled with buoyant representations of both Paul's and John's work. A charge runs through it, the crackly static electricity of two connected souls touching hands across a century. - Hillary Kelly, Vulture

Paul's prose is spare and luminous, revealing her painter's eye in attention to colour, texture, and depth... The included paintings, both John's and Paul's, are breathtaking. Fellow artists will relish this lucid look at what is required to "live and paint truthfully." - Publishers Weekly

Remarkable dialectics of loneliness and desire, of love and manipulation, that Paul handles with patient - even disarming - frankness... Alongside the imaginative biography of John, and alongside the dated journal entries, the book is also a foray into Paul's past. The effect is one of a dreamscape, a mesh of past and present, as the borders between the two female artists soften and start to give. - Victoria Baena, Baffler

Celia Paul, in both her painting and her writing, is a formidable guardian of her own inner life, as well as a careful chronicler of what it means to traverse a boundary that is barely perceptible, hardly there at all, and yet is the place where truth emerges, hangs in the balance, is not quite distinguishable from a lie. Letters to Gwen John...is a profound act of truth-telling made possible by the thrilling risk of tarrying at that contested border. Paul's writing is a kind of ritual, as well as a pilgrimage, in which she leads us into those hidden places where understanding is beside the point, and invites us simply to dwell with her and whomever else she summons. - Artforum, Jack Hanson

A loving and inquiring text, a lyrical correspondence between two women filtered through the inner life of one. It is also an intimate cataloguing of how loneliness and desire transmute to artistic awakening. - Makenna Goodman, Astra

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Hardback

“A revelation of the insight into one artist by another.”

I found this extremely interesting in its deeply kind and empathetic contemplation of the life lived by a fellow painter. Paul's facility with language and self-awareness conjures a rendition of another's... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 4
Katy Wheatley

“A Love Letter to a Painter and to Painting”

I had read Self-Portrait by Celia Paul before I read this, and I think that to get the absolute most out of this book, it would be good to have read it too. It's not that the two don't work separately, but... More

Hardback edition
1 similar book recommended
Helpful? Upvote 4

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