BIOGRAPHIES, MEMOIRS, DIARIES

PUBLISHER
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

BOOK FORMAT
Paperback, 6.5 x 9.75 in. / 156 pgs / 83 bw.

PUBLISHING STATUS
Pub Date
Active

DISTRIBUTION
D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: FALL 2013 p. 13   

PRODUCT DETAILS
ISBN 9780870708978 TRADE
List Price: $15.95 CDN $21.00

AVAILABILITY
In stock

A Lost Generation chronicle of a glamorous couple and a great American modernist painter.

  

THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

By Calvin Tomkins.

First published in 1971 and now available for a younger generation with a new introduction by the author, Living Well Is the Best Revenge is Calvin Tomkins' now-classic account of the lives of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two American expatriates who formed an extraordinary circle of friends in France during the 1920s. First in Paris and then in the seaside town of Antibes, they played host to a cast of some of the most memorable artists and writers of the era, including Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Ernest Hemingway and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. It was in Paris that Gerald Murphy first encountered Cubist painting, which prompted him to embark on an all-too-brief career as a painter--roughly from 1922 to 1929--during which he produced 15 works, seven of which survive, and every one of which is a unique American modernist masterpiece. This dazzling phase of work was brought to a close in 1929, when one of the Murphys' sons, Patrick, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the family returned to New York. When their second son, Boath, succumbed to meningitis in 1935, and Patrick's death followed shortly thereafter in 1937, Murphy hung up his brush. Despite the brevity of Murphy's oeuvre, the intensity of its conception and its recently acknowledged status as a crucial precedent to Pop art have elevated Murphy's reputation considerably. In 1974, The Museum of Modern Art mounted the first Gerald Murphy retrospective. Illustrated with nearly 70 photographs from the Murphys' family album and with a special section on Murphy's paintings, Living Well presents a fascinating Lost Generation chronicle as charming and enticing as the couple themselves.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS

Modern Painters

Wendy Vogel

This is an amazing book. It's a story about this wonderful couple who were very influential in Europe in the art world, whom Calvin Tomkins met by accident and whom he befriended. Their names are Sara and Gerald Murphy. They were kind of esoteric, but it's an incredible story, when you think about what you need to live a successful life.

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

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STAFF REVIEW

Gerald and Sara Murphy were a glamorous American expats who lived in France in the 1920s. They embodied the excitement of the decade: they were rich, attractive, generous, stylish and elegant in every way. They were a center of an extraordinary circle of artists and writer friends-Erik Satie, Cole Porter, Picasso, Legér, Jon Dos Passos, Diaghilev, Hemingway and, most importantly, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The Murphys served as Fitzgerald's inspiration for his novel Tender Is the Night's main characters Dick and Nicole Diver. The inspiration underwent a further metamorphosis, as Fitzgerald explained in a letter to Murphy: "The book was inspired by Sara and you, and the way I feel about you both and the way you live, and the last part of it is Zelda and me because you and Sara are the same people as Zelda and me." This astonishing statement served to confirm a long-held conviction of Sara Murphy's that Fitzgerald knew very little about people, and nothing at all about the Murphys.
So, unlike Tender is the Night, Living Well Is the Best Revenge really is all about the Murphys. The book is based on Tomkins' 1962 New Yorker profile and it became a bestseller when first published by Viking in 1971. It was reprinted by Modern Library in 1998 and has been unavailable for the past two years. Gerald Murphy once told Fitzgerald, "I believe you have to do things to life to make it tolerable. I've always liked the old Spanish proverb: living well is the best revenge." So one can read this biography as a handbook on how to live life well.
Author Calvin Tomkins still writes for the New Yorker and has written several books on artists' lives. MoMA's new edition will feature his new introduction, a new cover, a new layout and will include 69 intimate photographs all collected from the Murphys' family album, along with full-color reproductions of several of Gerald Murphy's paintings (in previous editions the artwork was featured in black and white).
--Jane Brown

 

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