anthony-blunt_-his-lives-mir759_f.jpgI have been looking forward to reading Anthony Blunt by Miranda Carter for some time, and I haven’t been disappointed; this is an extremely well-written and assured biography of a complex man which tries to separate the facts from the various theories that have been kicking around ever since he was exposed in 1979. It makes clear the amazing influence he had on art history after the war, particularly in building up the Courtauld Institute into a place of learning to rival the schools of art history on the continent. It doesn’t shy away from the details of his personal life and talks about his spying in a measured and non-judgemental way which allows the facts to speak for themselves. What is particularly interesting is the impact he had on works of art produced by others; Carter refers in particular to the fact that Blunt was the inspiration for the main (female) character in The Finishing Touch by Brigid Brophy (which I haven’t read), John Banville’s The Untouchable (which I have and consider magnificent), and A Question of Attribution by Alan Bennett. She also speculates that Anita Brookner, who was one of Blunt’s students and later taught at the Courtauld, may have based some of her female characters on the many single, “slightly naive and plain” women who seem to have fallen hopelessly in love with Blunt over the years. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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