The Sound of Sleat

Jon Schueler, Author, Jon Scheuler, Author, Magda Salvesen, Editor Picador USA $30 (359p) ISBN 978-0-312-20015-2
The life of Abstract Expressionist painter Schueler (1917-1992) defies the artistic cliche of divine talent undone by self-destructive passions. This collection of journal entries and correspondence covering more than 20 years of his life presents a hardworking man who made many sacrifices for his art but found only limited success. The book begins with Schueler's first journey in 1957 from his Manhattan home to the Scottish Highlands and ends with his relative obscurity in the late 1970s. In subsequent years, while discovering in the Highland landscape the theme and aesthetic reflected in his paintings for the rest of his career, Schueler struggled to maintain contact with New York City's gallery scene (his first dealer was the influential Leo Castelli), with his American contemporaries (such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler), with the new wife he'd left in the States and with his children from his first marriage. As the artist moves between New York and Scotland in the years that follow, his loneliness and sexual frustration are a consistent motif, as is his single-minded drive to paint and its destructive effects on all his relationships with a succession of women. Throughout, Schueler has trouble balancing artistic focus and personal happiness. As he grew older, he acknowledged (grudgingly) that fame had passed him by. He had to swallow his pride and lower prices in order to sell his work--but his art lost none of its urgency. Assembled posthumously by the editors (Salvesen is his widow; Cousineau, a professor of literature), this book is particularly apropos in light of the recent critical rediscovery of Schueler, upcoming exhibits and monographs. It offers a refreshing, realistic depiction of an American artist toiling away outside the fashionable heart of the art world. 32 b&w photos; 16 color plates (not seen by PW). With a foreword by Russell Banks. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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