November 10, 2014


Published in 1971, Living Well Is the Best Revenge is Calvin Tomkins' account of the lives of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two American expatriates who formed a group of friends in France during the 1920s. Living in Antibes, France, they befriended artists and writers, including Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Fernand L├ęger, Ernest Hemingway and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. It was in Paris that Gerald Murphy first came across Cubist painting. This began a short career as a painter from 1922 to 1929. He produced 15 works; seven survive. Because of the death of his two young sons, he stopped painting. The title of the book (Living Well is the Best Revenge) comes from a thought that Murphy was happiest when he painted, and was never happy again because he gave it up (due to the loss of his sons).
As an artist myself, the question remains, "Either a comfortable life and lousy work, or a lousy life and beautiful work." (Ferdinand Leger). Can one have both?

Gerald Murphy (American, 1888–1964). 
Razor, 1924. Oil on canvas
32 1/16 x 36 1/2 in. (81.4 x 92.7 cm). 
Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts
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