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A GIFT FOR ADMIRATION by James Lord

A GIFT FOR ADMIRATION

Further Memoirs

By James Lord

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-28192-0
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This elegantly composed volume concludes Lord’s rich, rarefied series of portraits of people who lived for Art. When Lord (Picasso and Dora, 1993) was a young writer, Thomas Mann complimented him on having “the gift for admiration which above all enable[s] a talented person to learn.” It’s a gift much on display here in Lord’s record of his friendships with Peggy Guggenheim, Sonia Orwell (George’s widow), Peter Watson (the patron of Cyril Connolly’s fabled magazine Horizon) and Isabel Rawsthorne, the fascinating beauty who modeled for Jacob Epstein, Giacometti, and Francis Bacon. Rawsthorne, for example, often gets only sketchy mentions in the biographies of those artists, but Lord gives her captivating personality and her fierce independence their due, even though he knew her in her dissipated later years. Though the figures recollected in this volume may be a little less august than those profiled in such earlier works as Six Exceptional Women (1994) and Some Remarkable Men (1996), Lord renders their characters with a subtle and convincing psychological insight. There are, for instance, the wealthy collectors Henry McIlhenny and Ethel Bliss Platt, charming, intriguing, and, even after years of friendship, still capable of surprising Lord. McIlhenny, a perfect host and a connoisseur, astonished his friend when he sold off a Seurat masterpiece rather than restrict his opulent lifestyle. Likewise, Lord was nonplussed that the widowed Ethel Platt could contain her feelings upon discovering that her husband’s extensive photography archive of Italian art had fallen into disrepair after he had left it to Princeton, his beloved alma mater. As Lord discovered, she had an unsuspected spiritual strength that allowed her to appreciate life as much as art. A fresco of a bygone era, executed with a Jamesian eye for detail, with a tart dash of gossip. (b&w photos, not seen)