A unique combination of memoir and artistic biography, interspersed with original artworks, from the acclaimed artist and author of SELF-PORTRAIT. A unique combination of memoir and artistic biography, interspersed with original artworks, from the acclaimed artist and author of SELF-PORTRAIT. We are both painters. We can connect to each other through images, in our own unvoiced language. But I will try and reach you with words. Through talking to you I may come alive and begin to speak. Celia Paul has felt a lifelong connection to the artist Gwen John. There are extraordinary parallels in their lives and work. Both have always made art on their own terms. Both were involved with older male artists. Both worked hard to keep themselves and the sacred flame of their creativity from being extinguished by others. Letters to Gwen John is Paul's imagined correspondence with Gwen John, whose life and work have loomed so large in hers. These intimate, passionate, haunting letters allow Paul to reach across eras, to weigh up the sacrifices she has made, and to explore the rich possibilities of a life apart. With illuminating insights into the life and work of Gwen John, Letters to Gwen John is a unique form of memoir and conversation, and an unforgettable insight into a life devoted to making art.


ISBN13: 9781787333376
Format: Hardback
Number of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 7 Apr 2022
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication City, Country: London, United Kingdom
Dimensions (cm): 20.6(H) x 14(L) x 3.8(W)773
Weight (gm): 773

Author Biography

Celia Paul is recognised as one of the most important painters working in Britain today. She was born in India in 1959, before moving to England as a young child. Her major solo exhibitions include Celia Paul, curated by Hilton Als, at Yale Center for British Art (2018) and The Huntington (2019); Desdemona for Celia by Hilton, Gallery Met, New York (2015-16); and Gwen John and Celia Paul, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2012-13). Her work was included in the group exhibition All Too Human at Tate Britain (2018), and is in many collections, including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Saatchi Collection and Metropolitan Museum, New York.


Beautiful, tender, and riveting. I have taken this book into my heart. -- Claire-Louise Bennett, author of CHECKOUT 19
A miraculous, door-opening book -- Julia Blackburn, author of TIME SONG
Since the publication of her memoir, Self-Portrait, Celia Paul has become almost as famous for her writing as her art... [In Letters to Gwen John] the analogies between the two painters - solitary, spiritual, quietly magnificent - become even clearer. -- Laura Cumming * Observer *
Devastatingly honest... At once diary and confessional, biography and autobiography and something between the two... This book lets the reader into a world of sadness, loneliness and isolation. At its heart, however, is that unexpected kernel of confidence and self-belief that the author shared with Gwen John. -- Honor Clerk * Spectator *
[An] intimate, immediate form of memoir [combined] with elements of biography and art criticism. The end result is a beguiling, singular work of art - a portrait of two lives, entwined through time and space... Paul's prose...glints and gleams on the page. -- Lucy Scholes * Daily Telegraph *
It is really Paul who's centre stage, and she is fascinating; I do not feel, at this point, that I could ever tire of her mind, and the unlikely, singular way it turns. -- Rachel Cooke * Observer *
It's a work of biography, analysis, reverence, and supplication, and it's filled with buoyant representations of both Paul's and John's work. A charge runs through it, the crackly static electricity of two connected souls touching hands across a century. -- Hillary Kelly * Vulture *
Paul's prose is spare and luminous, revealing her painter's eye in attention to colour, texture, and depth... The included paintings, both John's and Paul's, are breathtaking. Fellow artists will relish this lucid look at what is required to "live and paint truthfully." * Publishers Weekly *
Letters to Gwen John

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