Nabokov and the Art of Painting

Nabokov and the Art of Painting

Gerard de Vries, D. Barton Johnson


...from Amazon
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.

...from AUP
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.

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