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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

A unique combination of memoir and artistic biography, interspersed with original artworks, from the acclaimed artist and author of SELF-PORTRAIT.

We are both painters. We can connect to each other through images, in our own unvoiced language. But I will try and reach you with words. Through talking to you I may come alive and begin to speak.

Celia Paul has felt a lifelong connection to the artist Gwen John. There are extraordinary parallels in their lives and work. Both have always made art on their own terms. Both were involved with older male artists. Both worked hard to keep themselves and the sacred flame of their creativity from being extinguished by others.

Letters to Gwen John is Paul’s imagined correspondence with Gwen John, whose life and work have loomed so large in hers. These intimate, passionate, haunting letters allow Paul to reach across eras, to weigh up the sacrifices she has made, and to explore the rich possibilities of a life apart. With illuminating insights into the life and work of Gwen John, Letters to Gwen John is a unique form of memoir and conversation, and an unforgettable insight into a life devoted to making art.

© Celia Paul 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Critics Review

  • Beautiful, tender, and riveting. I have taken this book into my heart.

    Claire-Louise Bennett, author of CHECKOUT 19
  • A miraculous, door-opening book

    Julia Blackburn, author of TIME SONG
  • Since the publication of her memoir, Self-Portrait, Celia Paul has become almost as famous for her writing as her art… [In Letters to Gwen John] the analogies between the two painters – solitary, spiritual, quietly magnificent – become even clearer.

  • Devastatingly honest… At once diary and confessional, biography and autobiography and something between the two… This book lets the reader into a world of sadness, loneliness and isolation. At its heart, however, is that unexpected kernel of confidence and self-belief that the author shared with Gwen John.

  • [An] intimate, immediate form of memoir [combined] with elements of biography and art criticism. The end result is a beguiling, singular work of art – a portrait of two lives, entwined through time and space… Paul’s prose…glints and gleams on the page.

    Daily Telegraph

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