The Underpainter

Jane Urquhart, Author Viking Books $22.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-670-87726-3
Justly praisedfor her three previous novels, Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and Trillium Award winner (for Away) Urquhart here offers a brilliantly imagined exploration of an artist's personality and the world in which he lives. Narrator Austin Fraser, now 83, looks back over his work and his life and acknowledges that he has used the demands of art to cloister himself from human relationships. He was born and now lives in Rochester, N.Y., but many of his seminal experiences took place in Canada: a town in Ontario, where he befriended George Kearns, the proprietor of a china shop, and tiny Silver Islet, on Lake Superior, where Sara Pengelly became his model and mistress. Readily confessing that he used their friendship and love for his own purposes while withholding any reciprocal emotion, Austin meanwhile describes the style of painting that resulted: he underpaints the canvas with real objects or people, then deliberately erases the details: the final abstracted version resembles his own etiolated existence. Two well-known artists, Robert Henri and Rockwell Kent, figure in the story, and their stringently opposed theories of art are lucidly described. In vivid contrast to Austin's sterile life, the annihilating force of WWI sweeps like a firestorm through the narrative. Austin stays safely at home, but George and beautiful nurse Augusta Moffat experience its carnage and continue to anguish long afterward. Canadian writer Urquhart's evocation of time and place--over seven decades and in three countries--shimmers with clarity. In contrast to Austin's paintings, the various narrative layers accrete to a clear and stunning vision. Such is Urquhart's mastery of language and subtlety of construction that the book carries the tension of an unresolved love story, the surprising revelation of tragic secrets, the visceral shock of war's terrible suffering and the heartbreak found in the recognition of finality and loss. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Show other formats
FORMATS
Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-0-7710-8664-9
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-14-026973-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7927-2237-3
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-7710-8654-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-7475-3521-8
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7710-8624-3
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-7475-3401-3
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.