Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) was a painter, poet, illustrator, dramatist, and most famously the creator of the Gormenghast trilogy. Very much his own man, and charmingly so, neither as an artist nor as a painter did he belong to any school or movement; his work was distinctive and peculiar to him. He was not a loner though, his friends included Graham Greene, Augustus John, Dylan Thomas and Walter de la Mare. His marriage to one of his students, Maeve Gilmore was a happy one, too. Parkinson's disease tragically curtailed his life. Malcolm Yorke's biography was written with the full co-operation of the Peake family who granted him access to letters, photographs and drawings never previously published. 'Yorke, aware of the many interpretations that have been imposed on Peake's trilogy, does not burden the reader with more. He catches, instead, through apt summary, the wide range of opinion on Peake's achievement, as poet, novelist, painter and illustrator.' Frances Spalding, Times Literary Supplement 'But his book goads the reader to search out Peake, and what more could that unique man or his family ask?' John McEwen, Spectator 'Most valuably, the book is generously illustrated with examples of the works discussed. There will never be a clearer explication of Peake's progress as a visual artist.' Michael Swanwick, Washington Post
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Malcolm Yorke has written biographies of Eric Gill, Keith Vaughan, Matthew Smith and Edward Bawden. His The Spirit of the Place: Nine Neo-Romantic Artists won the Yorkshire Post Art Book of the Year Award. He also paints, sculpts and writes children's books.From Publishers Weekly:
The life of author-illustrator Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) offers almost as many strange twists as his well-known novels, as Yorke demonstrates in this detailed biography. A childhood spent in a British missionary compound in China, stints in art schools, his marriage to a fellow artist and his career as an illustrator all make for entertaining, touching and often amusing reading. Yorke livens the story with odd anecdotes, such as when Peake finds an elephant housed below his apartment he "fed it sugar lumps and buns." Not surprisingly, Yorke focuses on inspirations for Peake's Titus Groan novels. But his research and the many illustrations included make it clear that Peake was also an accomplished and respected illustrator. Yorke also reveals Peake as a charming, sensitive man. He is on shakier ground, however, when he critiques Peake's creations. As an artist himself and biographer of British artists Keith Vaughan and Matthew Smith, Yorke knows his subject. Unfortunately, he indulges in excessive and questionable analyses, even though he admits that Peake himself would "have none of this fancy stuff." He criticizes his subject's lack of art theory, when Peake states "after all, there are no rules" in art. Yorke cannot accept the works simply as they are. Speaking of Peake's book Letters From a Lost Uncle, Yorke writes: "In an encounter with a huge white polar bear Uncle is unable to use his phallic [wooden] leg because it embraces him" a clumsy construction, besides being a stretch of analysis. Hopefully, this won't deter Peake's well-deserved new admirers from reading this otherwise informative book. 28 b&w photos, 94 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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