Liam Harrison has written a piece on the role that art plays in the work of Samuel Beckett, with a particular focus on his friendship with the Irish painter Jack B. Yeats:
“In 1936 Yeats offered to sell Beckett one of his paintings, A Morning. The young Beckett was skint and the asking price was an intimidating £30. At the time Beckett was rebelling against the career path laid out for him as an academic. He had quit his teaching post at Trinity College Dublin to pursue the financially precarious life of an artist.”
David Lloyd talks about Beckett’s friendships with twentieth-century painters and his enduring interest in the visual arts
What draws you to the work of Samuel Beckett?
I’ve been reading Beckett’s work since I was a teenager and writing on him since my undergraduate days at Cambridge in the 70s. I dare say part of my initial attraction to Beckett lay in the kinds of philosophical conundra his work posed, in its hilarious comedy and in its ascetic reductionism. In a letter to Georges Duthuit, in which he comments on his desire for “a theatre reduced to its own means”, he goes on: “That is Protestantism if you like, we are what we are.” It may be that there was also something about the South Dublin Protestant background that I shared with Beckett that felt like grounds for affinity: certainly there was something familiar as much in the ethos as in the local landscapes secreted in the works. But above all, it was the uncompromising aesthetic ethic, the commitment to a work determined to “reduce itself to its own means”, that corresponded to the refusal of extraneous resources like the resonances of identity or signifiers of cultural belonging. That offered a quite different set of possibilities, intellectually and aesthetically, than Irish culture at the time generally made available. (more…)