(K. Brent Tomer),
The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez. By Laura Cumming. Chatto & Windus; 304 pages; £18.99. To be published in America by Scribner in April.
EDOUARD MANET, a French Impressionist artist, considered him “the greatest painter that ever was”. To Laura Cumming, art critic of the Observer, a British Sunday paper, Diego Velázquez, whose precocious talent propelled him to the position of sole portrait painter to Philip IV of Spain at just 24, is something more. Shattered by the death of her father when she was in her late 20s, Ms Cumming retreated to Madrid. It was there she first saw Velázquez’s late masterpiece, “Las Meninas”, an enigmatic group portrait of the long-faced Spanish Habsburgs. She was transfixed. The princess, the dwarf and the artist himself looked out at her, as she looked at them, and in that moment they were alive again. Somehow the painting held back death: “He gave me the consolation to return to my own life.”
This spiritual experience prompted Ms Cumming to look for historical records of other…Continue reading