I was asked to a memorial event at the Courtauld Institute to commemorate Anita Brookner. It may have been assumed that I knew her, but I didn’t, although I read her art historical books as a student, including her study of Greuze: the rise and fall of an 18th. century phenomenon, which had been the subject of her PhD. published in 1972. Her grandfather was a Pole who established a cigarette factory which supplied cigarettes to Edward VII. She studied at the Ecole du Louvre, at the Courtauld under Blunt, who she admired for his integrity, and where she lived on marmite, cigarettes and slimming biscuits. Her life fell so clearly into two parts: the first half as an art historian, teaching at the Courtauld, writing reviews for Benedict Nicolson at the Burlington, the first female Slade Professor at Cambridge, an inspiring, if psychologically reserved teacher; then the moment when she wrote her first novel over the summer holidays and created an alternative, and fictional, identity.
3 thoughts on “Anita Brookner”
Thanks for this, Charles. I knew Anita Brookner because I was one of three graduate students at the Courtauld who took a class with her in, I think, 1977. I only found out much later, and not from her, that she had made an anonymous donation to a student travel fund that allowed me to spend time in Paris examining 19th-century French artworks firsthand. That’s above and beyond professorial responsibility, and I honor her memory for it.
How interesting because she presumably wasn’t especially well paid as a Lecturer. Neil spoke of her as a teacher. Charles
Her critical writings shouldn’t be forgotten : her book of essays, SOUNDINGS, is particularly intelligent and perceptive on Delacroix and Ingres (hardly surprising when you consider her fiction).