David Sylvester

Memoirs Of A Pet Lamb
  • Memoirs Of A Pet Lamb

  • David Sylvester, who died in June 2001, was one of the greatest art critics of our time. He achieved fame with his work on Cezanne but became known especially for his close, perceptive studies of artists who became personal friends: Giacometti, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon. A brilliant interviewer who could make the most reticent artists disclose their secrets, he rarely revealed his own - but in the weeks before his death he wrote this brief, unforgettable account of his childhood in the 1920s. Beginning with his bewildered shuttling between an English nursery school and the turbulent Yiddish-speaking 'parental country', he reaches back for his child's-eye view. We meet Grandma Rosen with her passion for Rudolph Valentino, and Grandpa returning from his fishmonger's shop and reading out next day's runners at Kempton in his thick foreign accent. We learn of the large Sylvester clan, and of his parents' contradictory ambitions for their son: British army officer or 'a career like Noel Coward's'. We hear of friends and nannies, picnics and outings, schools and siblings; of music, politics, rows and disasters; of love and tenderness and death. Dry, comic yet poignantly unforgettable, Memoirs of a Pet Lamb brings us a life and a whole world in miniature.

David Sylvester's final publications included Interviews with American Artists and a revised edition of his great essay collection, About Modern Art. An exhibition in his honour was held at the Tate Modern in early 2002.