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Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to 'In Search of Lost Time' Hardcover – 13 Oct 2008

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Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to 'In Search of Lost Time' + Marcel Proust: A Life (Penguin Lives Biographies)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1st Edition edition (13 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500238545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500238547
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Beautifully presented ... leads the reader farther into an imaginative labyrinth towards those ponderous depths where the painterly and poetic merge' -- Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times

'Gets to the novel's troubled heart... [but] you do not need to have read a page of Proust to appreciate this beautiful book... magnificent'
-- The Daily Telegraph

`A riveting browse and will equip you for dinner party one-upmanship'
-- RA Magazine

`Academics, art historians or philosophical bookworms, you would be hard pushed to find a more exciting tome ... an extraordinary read'
-- Artists & Illustrators Magazine

`An intelligent and passionate introduction from a painter who deeply understands Proust ... this book seduces us with its ... easy access to gems of Proust's wit' -- The Irish Times

`An invaluable tool for all those students of literature who are yet unfamiliar with the canon of Western painting' -- The Art Newspaper

`Delightful' -- Michael Glover, The Independent

`Even hardened Proustians may be surprised at the outcome, which reveals In Search of Lost Time to be the Gesamtkunstwerk it always was'
-- Charles Darwent, The Independent on Sunday

`Irresistible to the Proust enthusiast, and hardly less so to those interested in art and its crossover with literature, this book will tempt every reader'
-- House & Garden

`This has been at my bedside for weeks; it will thrill any Proust lover' -- Jackie Wullschlager, The Financial Times


`An intelligent and passionate introduction from a painter who deeply understands Proust ... this book seduces us with its ... easy access to gems of Proust's wit'

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. W. Robbins on 30 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
Karpeles is well-qualified - as a practising artist and a devoted Proustian - to have undertaken the unprecedented task of assembling references to paintings and painters in Proust's great work. He had a good idea and saw it to publication. (There is, incidentally, a successful French version which is the one I have read, in order to examine Proust's actual texts rather than rely on translations.)
Karpeles sheds new light on Proust's extraordinary novel. His work substantiates his claim in the subtle Introduction that Proust regarded his references to paintings and painters as crucial to the book, not just because they stimulate the reader's visual imagination and evoke emotions and sensations, but also because the ideal - and therefore unreachable - worlds of art correspond to the unattainability of fulfilment in love. The novel of course refers to itself: it too presents an ideal or idealised world as the best paintings do. Proust also wants to show that painters operate unconsciously as well as deliberately: they create images for which words are inadequate. Proust's narrator often says he has no eye for art or for visual description when the opposite is of course the case.
No book is perfect - this one isn't.
(a)I share other reviewers' reservations about the size of certain reproductions (the publishers have not adopted a consistent practice in this regard) and the legibility of some captions. But the book is in other respects well-produced
(b)Karpeles sometimes chooses bizarre examples of the work of an artist mentioned by Proust (would he really have compared Albertine to Rembrandt's Bathsheba?) and does not follow up all the references to all of Proust's allusions either to images in art or to artists.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Felipe on 6 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
A well-produced book, with good illustrations, essential for those of us who wish to visualise the paintings and painters' styles mentioned in Proust's work.

One glaring omission by the author that "...has identified and located all of the paintings to which Proust makes exact reference" is Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'Ecce Ancilla Domini', named in the text as the inspiration for a budding actress's stage dress but not mentioned here - nor indeed is Rossetti. As Proust was an admirer also of Rossetti's poetry this seems a little unfortunate.

Perhaps it should have been noted in the introductory text that many of the modern photographs reproduced here show paintings after 20th century restorations and as a result may look somewhat different than they did to Proust. Vermeer's 'Diana and her Companions' for instance has now a rather significantly different appearance than it had a century ago. Further, Proust likely saw many paintings only in reproduction in his own time - black and white photographs or engravings for instance. So while a being an excellent visual guide to Proust's great work this volume does not necessarily represent what he actually saw, although this is of course a minor point.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Penelope Allisy-Roberts on 13 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a delicious book and has already given me a lot of background understanding to reading Proust's "In search of lost time". I would recommend it as an introduction to reading his actual work.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Phil O'Sofa on 24 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of both Proust and of painting I was looking forward to reading this. The format is simple enough: the author, or perhaps compiler would be a better word as this is rather an academic exercise, has taken every reference to a painting in Proust's 3,500-page novel, In Search of Lost Time, and provided us with an image of the artwork alongside the relevant paragraph from the book. Karpeles, an American artist, has obviously done a great deal of research: a labour of love, no doubt, and the result is very appealing, with over 200 paintings covered. But this is a book to be taken in small doses, such is the richness and the repetitive nature of the format.
What Karpeles has really achieved is to remind us what a brilliant writer Proust was and how many works of art he referred to in his great masterpiece. This is an admirable achievement, but it doesn't add up to much more than a pleasurable treat, something to dip into now and again.
My biggest complaint is with the pointlessly small type size of the captions that accompany each illustration: although the quality of the colour printing is excellent, anyone with less than perfect eyesight will find it a struggle to read, even though there is plenty of space on every page and the captions could easily have been made bigger.
Much as I enjoyed being reminded of Proust's incomparable writing, and also the reproductions of some beautiful paintings, I was glad that I'd borrowed the book from the library rather than forked out £25 for something I would be unlikely to spend much time reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 37 reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Essential for any Proust lover 30 Oct. 2008
By colotes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an absolutely essential companion to Proust's In Search of Lost Time. The book reproduces all the paintings and drawings that Proust makes clear reference to in his novel. It also contains works that he alludes to, but doesn't name or definitely describe, which Karpeles judges may have been the source of the inspiration. Some of these works are very difficult to track down; Karpeles does a truly wonderful service to all Proustians by gathering them together in one book. There are 206 illustrations, 196 in color. The quality of reproductions is excellent, although the details of some of the larger paintings suffer from reduced size.

The book is arranged by the seven volumes of the novel. Each work of art is accompanied by a short introduction setting the context within the novel and the excerpt which references it. Karpeles also provides a helpful index which lists every reference in the novel to either the painters or paintings mentioned. The references include the page numbers from the French Tadie Pleiade Edition as well as the Moncrieff/Kilmartin and Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright translations (but not the latest Penguin translation).

The footnotes at the end of the book are a gold mine of Proustian tidbits and should not be ignored. In addition to listing where the works are displayed and dimensions, Karpeles provides much interesting information and clarifies some textual issues. For example, in discussing the painter Mihaly Munkacsy, he explains that due to "Proust's often illegible scrawl ... Munkacsy's name was never used in the earliest editions of the novel .... The intense [editorial] scrutiny of Jean Yves Tadie restored Munkacsy to his rightful place ... and his correction resulted in the change also finally being made by ... Enright in his revision of the ... translation."

There are some minor inconsistencies in the way the works are reproduced. For the most part they are shown in their entirety, but for a small few only a detail is provided as Proust refers only to that portion of the work. Generally details are reproduced in addition to the entire work. An example is the "patch of yellow" in Vermeer's View of Delft, which is highlighted (but without a caption identifying it as THE patch) with an illustration in the beginning of the Introduction. Because of the vagaries of color reproduction I've always thought the patch was difficult to pick out except when looking at the View in person. I would have liked a detail of Carpaccio's The Patriarch of Grado Exorcising a Demoniac highlighting the prototype for Albertine's Fortuny cloak that Proust describes. But these are minor quibbles to an overall excellent book.

I should add that Karpeles makes a point not to reproduce paintings that may have been the inspiration of works that Proust "made up" such as Elstir's Miss Sacripant or his Le Port Carquethuit (any number of Monet's views of Rouen, Dieppe, or Honfleur may have been the model). He also confines himself to works Proust mentions in the novel, not in his letters or shorter pieces.

60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
The perfect companion to Proust 25 Oct. 2008
By Patrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a dedicated Proustian for twenty happy years, I have read his long novel several times but this new book by Eric Karpeles has taken my pleasure to a new level. Although I enjoy looking at paintings, I have a very limited knowledge of art history and, as a result many of Proust's allusions and even many descriptions were wasted on me. Vermeer's `View of Delft' is such an important part of the novel that I made a point of finding a copy of the painting - but I lacked the knowledge to track-down all the other wonderful references that Proust uses. Who was the daughter of Botticelli's Zipporah that could so win Swann's heart - even though she was not his `type'? Thanks to Karpeles, I now know what she looked like and have also become aware of all the other wonderful faces that Botticelli created.

What were the paintings of Pieter de Hooche that inspired this exquisite description of Vinteuil's sonata? "He began, as always, with the sustained tremolos of the violin part which for several bars was heard alone, filling the whole foreground; until suddenly it seemed to draw aside, and - as in those interiors by Pieter de Hooch which are deepened by the narrow frame of a half opened door, in the far distance, of a different color, velvety with the radiance of some intervening light - the little phrase appeared, dancing, pastoral, interpolated, episodic, belonging to another world." I have savored that description for many years but, being unfamiliar with the painter I could only go so far in my appreciation.

Eric Karpeles has assembled every pictorial reference that Proust made in all seven volumes of the novel. He has tracked-down the reference - however obscure or arcane - and his publisher has reproduced each one, alongside the original quotation. This is a magnificent book and I am in awe of what Karpeles (a well respected painter in his own right) has achieved. I suspect that the publisher will market this as a reference book, but it is so much more than that. I sat and read it from cover to cover as a work of art in its own right.
I am proud to put my name to this review.
Patrick Alexander Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time: A Reader's Guide
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A contribution long-expected by the lovers of "La Recherche" 13 Nov. 2008
By Reich Claude - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This publication will undoubtedly please any Proust fan and will make you wonder how nobody had the idea before. It lists and reproduces all the paintings alluded to in Proust's masterwork "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" (In Search of Lost Time). Each work is reproduced in full color, next to the passage of the book in which Proust mentioned it (or sometimes just alluded to it, only mentioning a detail of the work without naming it, and this is where the book does a wonderful documentation job).

The illustrated works (more than 200 of them) range from Renaissance paintings by Titian, Fra Bartolomeo, Da Vinci, etc, to Vermeer's famous View of Delft (illustrated next to the description of Bergotte's death), to modern works by Degas or Manet, but there are also numerous works by lesser-known artists, whose reproductions would be very difficult to find elsewhere (Léon Bakst, Gustave Jacquet,Jehan-Georges Vibert...).

This book is all the more important to the understanding of Proust as he himself acknowledged that "La Recherche" was a work whose theme was the birth of an artistic vocation in the narrator's soul, the novel itself being the result of this birth. He also wrote that " my book is a painting" (as quoted in the present book). Art, and painting in particular, holds a central part in the whole work and, until now, no one had undertaken the necessary task of documenting this. "Paintings in Proust" is at the same time a very helpful and a beautiful contribution to the study of one of the most important works in Western literature.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A new way to enter Proust's world 1 Nov. 2008
By Random reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A rare pleasure, and a book that makes Proust even more vivid. Whether used as a companion guide to a reading of the seven novels or on its own as a visual primer, Paintings in Proust is a joy to hold and to behold. You might want to visit [...]
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Essential 24 Sept. 2008
By Leslie Lees - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What can I say? This is the book I have been waiting for and it exceeds my expectations and hopes in every way. From the balanced and useful introduction to the great research on the pictures (and it really does cover everything - I know because I have compiled my personal list and collection of images). The indices are also useful.

My only disappointment is that it does not also provide page references for the penguin edition in addition to the Scott Moncreiff etc translation. That is a tiny criticism though in the face of this immensely useful and also beautifully made book.
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