The Existential Englishman: Paris Among the Artists

Alexander Larman in The Guardian:

Michael Peppiatt’s memoir is subtitled Paris Among the Artists, but it could be called A Portrait of the Art Critic As an Older Man. Peppiatt, who is best known for his biography and memoirs of his friend Francis Bacon, has spent the greater part of his working life in Paris, and this book is a love letter to the city, although not an uncritical one. He writes in the preface that he will explore “my lifelong attachment to this bewitching, temperamental, exasperating city and the deep love-hate relationship that binds me to it”. Yet he is ultimately a romantic, and the scent that rises from these pages is a heady aroma of Gauloises and red wine. Peppiatt, as a young man, was rather fond of the bottle; this book, at its best, has a similarly intoxicating quality, if one allows for the inevitable moments of self-absorption.

Peppiatt was brought up to be bilingual, because his father believed that he stood a better chance of getting on in the world if he spoke French. His faith was rewarded when his son obtained a job at the culture magazine Réalités in 1964, from where he headed to the English-language version of Le Mondeand then to Art International, which he both published and edited. He accomplished this, as well as writing numerous books about art, with an air of cultured insouciance. Yet, as he notes, “the luxuries, the grandeurs, have no meaning without the drudgery and misères of the daily round”. It must be said that Peppiatt’s luxuries and grandeurs are rather more grand than the rest of us might expect. When he writes about drinking champagne at the Paris Ritz, or being led on grand bacchanals by famous chums, it is hard not to feel that Peppiatt has led an unusually gilded existence.

More here.