Wandering back through Kentish Town yesterday evening after seeing Lincoln, and seeking to assuage our disappointment that Dopio was closed, so no friendly flat whites to help us on our way, we spied that not only were Owl Books still open, their Winter Sale was still on. Fifteen minutes or so browsing and I came away with Martin Gayford’s Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud. Hardback, brand new and unblemished, recently published – 2010 – for a fiver.
A dinner of Slow-Roasted Pork (12 hours plus!) and raspberry trifle later (no, not on the same plate), we retired to bed early – well, Sarah and I did, Molly was still down in the kitchen baking biscuits – and settled down to read. Sarah’s finishing off Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close (bought in the airport at Tallinn when she was snowed in) and, ignoring the other bedside books I’d already started, I opted for my new purchase instead.
Beautifully produced, by Thames and Hudson, with ample white space and generous leading, the paper is such that the colour illustrations can be printed directly on to it without any lack of quality. And what illustrations! Reproductions of Freud’s own paintings, of course, a good number of them, along with relevant pieces by other artists – some lovely Chardins – and a number of photographs by David Dawson of Freud at work in his studio. And the text is made up of both a detailed description of the sittings themselves and Freud’s responses to what he was doing, along with various conversations about painting and painters between Freud and Gayford, in the studio and elsewhere.
The enterprise, to anyone interesting in art, fascinating; the book itself, a joy. A joy to pick up, joy to look at, joy to touch. And the thought – not orginal – occurred to me as I was sitting there, no ebook is ever going to yield up an experience like this.
[Oh, and Lincoln. I have to confess I was dubious about going, fearing a certain American movie 'seriousness' that marries pomposity with sentimentality. Also, too many scenes in darkened rooms, too much 'acting' from Daniel Day Lewis in the lead. But the chance to see Sally Field, long one of my favourite actresses, in a solid and serious role was too much to resist. And I was pleased that, in the event, I cast my prejudices aside. The film, I didn't think, was pompous at all - DDL was low key and mostly charming; Tommy Lee Jones was a delight; and as for Ms. Field, she seized her opportunity and ran with it, and if it doesn't wuaite take her up onto the podium at the Academy Awards to receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, it'll be a near-run thing.]