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Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960 af…
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Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960 (original 1998; udgave 2020)

af William Boyd (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
14032192,268 (3.12)26
The infamous literary prank that fooled a legion of art critics in the 1990sArtist Nathwell Tate was born in 1928 in Union Beach, New Jersey. On January 8 1960 he contrived to round up and burn almost his entire output of Abstract Expressionism. Four days later he killed himself. This book offers an account of Tate's life and work.--- When William Boyd published his biography of New York modern artist Nat Tate, a huge reception of critics and artists arrived for the launch party, hosted by David Bowie, to toast the late artist's life. Little did they know that the painter Nat Tate, a depressive genius who burned almost all his output before his suicide, never existed. The book was a hoax, and the art world had fallen for it. Nat Tate is a work of art unto itself - an investigation of the blurry line between the invented and the authentic, and a thoughtful tour through the spirited and occasionally ludicrous American art scene of the 1950s.… (mere)
Medlem:Cordelia25
Titel:Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960
Forfattere:William Boyd (Forfatter)
Info:Penguin (2020), Edition: 01, 80 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

Work Information

Nat Tate: An American Artist: 1928-1960 af William Boyd (1998)

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In a departure from the novels for which he came to fame, William Boyd devotes this book to a brief life of Nat Tate, a largely unrecognised and sadly short-lived American artist, best known for his series of paintings and drawings of bridges. Boyd recounts Tate’s all-too-short life and the book is illustrated with a selection of Tate’s better works.

Boyd’s account is sympathetic and engaging, and liable to draw in new admirers of Tate’s works, many of whom might find themselves wondering why they had not encountered his art before. Hints to the reason for that might be found in Boyd’s account, one of the most prominent sources for which is the journal of British man of letters, Logan Mountstuart. Mountstuart himself is, of course, the subject of what many consider to be Boyd’s masterpiece, Any Human Heart (although I now wonder if he has now surpassed even that novel with his latest book, Love is Blind).

The truth is that Nat Tate is as fictional as Logan Mountstuart. With support from David Bowie and Gore Vidal, Boyd launched the life and works of Nat Tate as part of a prank against the New York art world, many of whose members initially claimed to rem ember the subject from years before.

The tone of the brief life is brilliantly captured, and certainly feels entirely credible. Some of the artworks cited as being by Tate were actually by Boyd himself, with the others being drawn from the photograph collections of some of Boyd’s friends who were in on the act.

All very amusing and entertaining. I rather wish that Tate had been real. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 16, 2018 |
Complete with cover flap comments from David Bowie and Gore Vidal attesting to its subject’s importance this is an account of forgotten US artist Nathwell ‘Nat’ Tate, whose final artistic act was to burn as many of his works as he had managed to lay hands on (“perhaps a dozen survive”) before committing suicide by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry. The usual biographical conditions apply, obscure origins, father unknown, mother died young, adoption by her rich employer (emphatically not Tate’s father but an avid admirer and buyer of his work,) an influential teacher at Art School, chance viewing of his work by the founder of a gallery, socialising with other artists, the development of his style - aslant to that of his contemporaries and details of which Boyd provides - descent into alcohol, meetings with Picasso and Braque, disillusionment. The text is interspersed with photographs of three of the surviving paintings and various important stages of Tate’s life, four of which depict Tate but in only one is the adult artist the sole subject. Boyd gives us a convincing, if short, portrait of an artist and his life.

Yet the story of Tate is of course entirely fictitious. Not fictional, such biographies imagining the circumstances and lives of real people abound, but fictitious. Tate never existed. He is a total invention by Boyd.

On the book’s publication in 1998 the cover picture, containing as it does a cropped version of that black and white photograph of the adult “Tate” obviously photoshopped over a coloured one of New York, might have provided a clue to those not in on the joke but anyone at all familiar with Boyd’s work coming to it post hoc would be immediately aware of its confected nature on its first mention of Logan Mountstuart, protagonist of the author’s 2002 novel Any Human Heart. Boyd would also employ photographs to an equally verisimilituding end within the text of his 2016 novel Sweet Caress.

A hint of Boyd’s purpose in writing this book (apart from sending up the hagiographic artistic biography of the forgotten genius) may be gleaned from the passage where there are speculations on possible reasons for “Tate”’s destruction of his work and his suicide. “Tate was one of those rare artists who did not need, and did not seek, the transformation of his painting into a valuable commodity to be bought and sold on the whim of a market and its marketeers. He had seen the future and it stank.” ( )
1 stem jackdeighton | Aug 18, 2017 |
I must confess I didn’t even know this book was a hoax when I pulled it down from the shelf at the local library. (I’d just finished two of Boyd’s works — Any Human Heart and Fascination — and I was looking for something else, short enough to read and digest in an afternoon.)

Nat Tate is essentially exposition. It’s a simple monograph about a relatively simple guy: an American artist who happened to kill himself at the unhurried age of 32. Problem is, he never existed—no, not even long enough to kill himself. Consequently, we can’t feel any pity. Not for Nat Tate; not about his early and abrupt exit.

We can, however, be amused at the New York art scene in its heyday.

It’s a pleasure to see a Brit explode (and yes, exploit) an American myth—namely, that money and acclaim somehow determine the true value of art. And the artists of that day? Apparently buying right into the concept with feet, heart and liver.

But quite apart from the conceit of this monograph, what do I like best about Boyd’s prose? He teaches me new—or rather long-neglected—words. In this little treatise, for instance: “scumble”; “brimful”; “irruption”; “gnomic”; and “tetchy.” In Fascination? “rebarbative” — a word he used twice in that collection and once in this monograph.

I’ve always believed that writers are “the guardians of the language.” Up until I’d read William Boyd, however, I’d frankly begun to question the sanity of my insistence on this point. When I’d once pointed out to a fellow writer that William Fucking Faulkner had used “implied” not once, but twice (when he really meant to write “inferred”) in Light in August, I thought my fellow writer might just show me down from his Brooklyn rooftop garden lickety-split, yet without benefit of wings or a soft landing spot.

I like Boyd’s style. More to the point, I trust him with the language. We may not agree on many of the tactics of story-telling, but I trust his general strategy. Why? Because his mechanics are sound. And one shouldn’t even think about writing a story until one has mastered the basic mechanics.

And where does one begin? By reading, for starters, the likes of William Boyd. “You are what you eat, and you write what you read,” I always say.

RRB
5/13/13
Brooklyn, NY
( )
1 stem RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am not familiar enough with the art scene to really understand much of this book. The premise was interesting enough, I suppose, but I struggled to finish this thin book. I could not have hung on for much longer. ( )
  jessicamhill | Dec 14, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
So this book was originally published as a hoax, the biography of an artist that never existed. William Boyd was trying to prank the art world, getting a bunch of critics to show up to a party where none of them would admit they'd never heard of the fellow before. It's been republished now for some reason.

I read it right after rereading Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy, which was appropriate as it added to the experience of feeling like I was tracking someone who may or may not have actually existed. (This is doubly appropriate, as Paul Auster was at the original 1998 launch party for the biography.) The use of photographs in the book is kinda Lemony Snicket-esque; all of the photos of "Tate" are of people whose face you can't see, much like the pictures in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography. The book has this weird feeling of not-quite-parody throughout, with exchanges like this:

She recognized the Hart Crane debt in Tate's powerful, intense drawings and was immediately captivated. 'That Crane fellow ought to pay you a commission,' Franz Kline once jokingly observed to Nat when he later became a succès fou. 'Hart is dead,' Nat replied, flatly, 'so it doesn't matter.' Kline denied this heatedly and fiercely until he was advised they were talking about Hart -- not Art. (27)

It's almost funny, but more just off-putting, like you've entered a Kafkaesque world where everyone is doing strange things, but there's no seeming purpose to it, and the book is filled with moments like it. Which makes it hard to make something of it.

Would I have found it funny if I knew something about the New York art scene of the the 1950s? (Franz Kline was apparently a real abstract expressionist painter, for example.) Maybe, which speaks to my major complaint that the book needs some kind of apparatus-- an introduction or appendix talking about what was done and why, an explanation of the references, an account of the launch party, and an account of the discovery that Nate Tate wasn't. Without that, it's just an odd little curiosity that doesn't really have a reason to exist, lingering in the world long after it should have vanished from existence.
  Stevil2001 | Oct 13, 2011 |
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The infamous literary prank that fooled a legion of art critics in the 1990sArtist Nathwell Tate was born in 1928 in Union Beach, New Jersey. On January 8 1960 he contrived to round up and burn almost his entire output of Abstract Expressionism. Four days later he killed himself. This book offers an account of Tate's life and work.--- When William Boyd published his biography of New York modern artist Nat Tate, a huge reception of critics and artists arrived for the launch party, hosted by David Bowie, to toast the late artist's life. Little did they know that the painter Nat Tate, a depressive genius who burned almost all his output before his suicide, never existed. The book was a hoax, and the art world had fallen for it. Nat Tate is a work of art unto itself - an investigation of the blurry line between the invented and the authentic, and a thoughtful tour through the spirited and occasionally ludicrous American art scene of the 1950s.

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