The Underpainter

Winner of the Governor General’s Award, this is Jane Urquhart‘s first novel. Urquhart pinpoints the book’s origins to the east coast. “Everyone says, I’m sure, that their novel began with a visual image,” she laughs. “Well, my novel began with a visual image. I was in Newfoundland, standing on a beach in Brigus Bay, and I looked across to an arm of land that was sticking out into the ocean, and there was the most wonderful house I have ever seen. Very old, very weatherbeaten, up on a cliff looking down on the ocean. I said to Joan Clark, the writer, who was with me, ‘I want that house, it has to be mine.’ I’m very covetous about architecture. And she said, ‘Well, that’s where Rockwell Kent lived when he was in Newfoundland.’”

Urquhart, who studied art history in university, knew something of Kent, a New York-born painter dating to the early part of this century who was associated with Robert Henri’s Ashcan School. She had no idea that he’d settled in Newfoundland, let alone that he’d been unceremoniously expelled during the First World War – for singing German lieder from the porch of his rented house. (taken from an interview with Quill & Quire)

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