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Only painting was realMark Gertlerby Sarah MacDougall413pp John MurrayThis book tells a tragic story in which youthful success counts as one of the chief instruments of destruction Mark Gertler achieved renown as a painter in the years before the first world war He was a star turn at the Slade School of Art in London where his contemporaries included Stanley Spencer Paul Nash CRW Nevinson and David Bomberg He was petted and feted attracted discriminating patrons and became the toast of Upper BohemiaTwenty-five years later just before the start of the second world war he pushed a mattress against the door of his London studio and gassed himself He was 47 years old With his intellect and interest Virginia Woolf asked in her diary why did the personal life become too painfulFrom a reading of this book several explanations emerge - a failed marriage burdensome debts the continuing struggle against tuberculosis and clinical depression and a faltering reputation as a painter It also becomes clear that Gertler was his own worst enemy and his suicide was the culmination of a pattern of self-destructive actsTo a wider public now Gertler is known for his passionate attachment to the painter Dora Carrington For 10 years from when he met her as a fellow student at the Slade School of Art he loved the wrong woman a relationship recorded in letters that are terrible to read that smouldered on even after Carrington had set up home with Lytton StracheyHe is also known for his part in the lives of writers such as DH Lawrence Katherine Mansfield and Aldous Huxley he is the model for the painter Gomauld in the latters Crome Yellow as Lady Ottoline Morrells artist-in-residence at Garsington Manor and for a single much-reproduced work of 1916 The Merry-Go-Round currently hanging in Tate BritainWith its acidic comment on the herd mentality of the first-world-war period this prescient image of robotic uniformity retains its power but it is
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