Nabokov and the Art of Painting
Gerard de Vries, D. Barton Johnson
Vladimir Nabokov was one of the greatest novelists of the previous century and his mastery of English and Russian prose is unequalled. Nabokov had originally trained to become a painter and shared Marc Chagall’s tutor in Paris. In Nabokov and the Art of Painting the authors demonstrate how the art of painting is interwoven with the narratives. His novels, which refer to over a hundred paintings, show a brilliance of colours and light and dark are in a permanent dialogue with each other.
Following the introduction describing the many associations Nabokov made between the literary and visual arts, several of his novels are discussed in detail: Laughter in the Dark, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Pnin, Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada. Separate chapters are devoted to Leonardo da Vinci and Hieronymus Bosch, as Nabokov had a special appreciation for both painters. The authors show how the pictorial gave an extra depth to the great themes of love and loss in Nabokov’s work.
“Sounds have colors and colors have smells.” This sentence in Ada is only one of the many moments in Nabokov’s work where he sought to merge the visual into his rich and sensual writing. This lavishly illustrated study is the first to examine the role of the visual arts in Nabokov’s oeuvre and to explore how art deepens the potency of the prominent themes threaded throughout his work.
The authors trace the role of art in Nabokov’s life, from his alphabetic chromesthesia—a psychological condition in which letters evoke specific colors—to his training under Marc Chagall’s painting instructor to his deep admiration for Leonardo da Vinci and Hieronymus Bosch. They then examine over 150 references to specific works of art in such novels as Laughter in the Dark, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Pnin, Lolita, Ada, and Pale Fire and consider how such references reveal new emotional aspects of Nabokov’s fiction.
A fascinating and wholly original study, Nabokov and the Art of Painting will be invaluable reading for scholars and enthusiasts of Nabokov alike.
Pictorial jaunt brings us back to Botticelli. In Look at the Harlequins! Nabokov says that in Bend Sinister, ‘the mad scholar… eathes Botticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers (LatH 162). The passage in Bend Sinister, however, does not bear out this programmatic reference. There is just one observation related to Ophelia to stress the tenderness of her skin: ‘the uncommon cold of a Botticellian angel tinged her nostrils with pink and suffused her.
Pleasing that it seems more divine than human’, is evoked in Speak, Memory by a number of delicate allusions, which, taken together, make the reference apparent.9 In chapter 10 of his autobiography, Nabokov discusses the years of ‘romantic agitation’ of his boyhood. Half of its paragraphs are devoted to the aphrodisiacal Polenka, who lives in a cottage in a village near the Nabokov estate, Vyra (SM 209-213). Nabokov describes how during the summer of 1911 he rode his bike to that village every.
Pagina 103 Francisco de Zurbarán, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose, 1633 differences between the paintings on Antiterra, where the narrative is set, and on Terra, the world of the reader. Demon If these preliminary allusions to paintings serve to demonstrate the sophistication of the eleven- and fourteen-year-old siblings, the next example plays a strategic plot role. The siblings’ parents, Marina Durmanov and Demon Veen, launch their affair during a performance of a play based, via.
The descriptions of identifiable Terran paintings (and other representational forms) seem to differ in some degree from their counterparts in the reader’s world. The series of paintings associated with Lucette do not end with her death. Her spirit continues to hover over Van and Ada and to influence Van’s memories and pen. One of these manifestations involves a tinted engraving. In 1905, Ada (with husband and sister-in-law) meets Van in Switzerland, where the couple plan to start a new life.
Page 36: ‘Van Gogh’s’ Arlésienne. Artist: Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch. Title of work: L’Arlésienne. Comment: Van Gogh portrayed Mme. Ginoux at least six times between 1888 and 1890. Page 38: ‘René Prinet’s “Kreutzer Sonata”’. Artist: René Prinet, 1861-1946, French. Title of work: The Kreutzer Sonata, 1898. Comment: The painting shows, in Nabokov’s words, an ‘ill-groomed girl pianist rising like a wave from her stool after completing the duo, and being kissed by a hirsute violinist. Very.