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This article is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

Adrian Stokes; critic, painter, poet Richard Wollheim


One fine clear morning in the spring of 1936, a guest staying in one of the hôtel in the seaside town of St Ives, waking early and going over to the window to close the curtains against the dawn, might have observed beneath him a youngish man of striking appearance, rather like a great blond hawk, let himself out of the hôtel by a side door, step on to the lawn that faced the sea, survey the view, and, carefully taking up position, unpack a particularly large groundsheet and spread it out over the damp grass; then the young man set up an easel on the groundsheet, a canvas on the easel, and settling himself in front of the canvas he began, with some hesitations and much darting of his large hooded eyes, to paint a picture. The canvas is virgin, the paints are unused, the brushes are fresh, the easel is brand-new, and the large ground-sheet must have been bought specially for the occasion. The man on the lawn is, at this very moment, at the age of thirty-three, at work on if not his first painting, then his first as a painter.

Who is he? What kind of picture will he paint? And what has led him at this juncture in his life to take up painting and to resolve on becoming a painter? No more natural questions to ask: and it is only when we have answers to all three that ...

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