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Spain's Jusep Torres Campalans died in 1956 at Mexico's San Cristobal; he had lived there for over 40 years, a shaman bent like a spindle, a man of mystery to the locals; none knew that in the Paris of Cubism and Expressionism he was as up-and-coming a painter as Picasso, Braque or Juan Gris, and then around 1914 he bade farewell to his canvas and disappeared. Now novelist-playwright Max Aub in undoubtedly the year's most rococo monograph (part puzzle-playing, part ""de-composition"" from several points of view, part detective story), reconstructs the Campalans personality, the socio-cultural ambience of the times, the passions and poverty of his bohemian years (he lived off the meager earnings of a woman twelve years his senior; she loved him he loved the studio), his devout Catholicism and equally devout Anarchism, his obvious self-contradictions and equally obvious self-containment. Author Aub met Campalans in 1955; the transcription of their conversations and Campalans' own Green Notebook, kept by him during his twenties, offer startling, striking insights into the man and the historical nature of art. Campalans strove for a human way of painting, spontaneous, like a streak of lightning; in many ways, then, his pre-WWI musings read like the neo-primitivism and/or abstractionism of today's Dubuffet, Mathieu & Co. Needless to say, in Paris right now Campalans is on the way to becoming a legend, and here on two coasts this glittery introduction should prove a gallery-set conversation piece indeed.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1962
Publisher: Doubleday