A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust is one of the most profoundly visual works in Western literature. Not only are there frequent references to specific works of art, notably during the narrator’s visits to Venice and in his evaluations of the style of the imaginary painter Elstir, but certain characters are also evoked by comparison to particular paintings. Bloch’s appearance as a boy is likened to the portrait of Mohammed II by Gentile Bellini; Odette de Crécy strikes Swann by her resemblance to a figure in a Botticelli fresco. Even the lesser figure of a certain Mme. Blattin becomes the subject of Proustian mischief by being described as “exactly the portrait of Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo.” Eric Karpeles has identified and located the many paintings to which Proust makes reference; in other cases, where only a painter’s name is mentioned to indicate a certain style or appearance, Karpeles has chosen a representative work to illustrate the impression that Proust sought to evoke.
With some 200 paintings beautifully reproduced in full color and texts drawn from the Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright translation, as well as concise commentaries on the novel’s evolving story, this book is an essential addition to the libraries of Proustians everywhere. The book also includes an authoritative introduction examining the various ways in which Proust used paintings and the arts to extend his descriptive vocabulary, and a comprehensive index of artists and paintings mentioned in the novel.
An indispensable companion for readers of Proust…. Precisely what’s been needed for about 90 years.
— Rochester Post-Bulletin
A visually stunning and surprisingly accessible book that brings out subtle facets of Proust’s masterpiece, as well as the artworks he cites…Karpeles comes close to encapsulating Proust’s vision…Paintings in Proust could serve effectively as either a concise preface or a meaningful afterword to the monumental novel. What’s more, it can be appreciated entirely on its own.
— Art in America
Eric Karpeles is a painter who was educated at Haverford College, Oxford University, and The New School. He lives in California.