"I still don't know what made me climb the stairs to Alice Singer's 57th Street gallery. It was June 1997, New York City ... It was late afternoon, I was hot and I was tired and I wandered past dozens of unremarkable drawings and sketches - a Feininger, a Warhol shoe, a Twombly doodle caught my eye - before I was held and shocked by something I had never expected to see. It was a drawing, 12x8 in ink, mixed media and collage: Bridge no. 122. I did not need to read the printed label beside it to know it was by Nat Tate."

"He recalled to Mountstuart that he learnt of his mother's death when a boy leaned out of a window overlooking the schoolyard where he was playing and bawled, `Hey, Tate, your mom's been run over by a truck.' He thought it was a cruel joke, shrugged and carried on with his softball game. It was only when he saw the headmaster grimly crossing the playground towards him that he realised he was an orphan."

"None of the rampant cross-fertilisation currently taking place in the New York art scene of the early Fifties could be applied to him. Indeed, while Tate was notionally a member of the `New York School' and at the end of his life what might be termed an abstract expressionist, his pictures are always sidelined, or differentiated, by their idiosyncracies. However, what caused most astonishment was that all of Tate's drawings were sold before the show officially opened."

"Gore Vidal met him at this time and remembered him as an `essentially dignified drunk with nothing to say'. Unlike most American painters, he was unverbal. `He was a great lover,' Peggy Guggenheim told me years later. `Almost in a class with Sam Beckett who had bad skin. I loved Sam for six months. A record for me. Nat for - oh, six weeks at the outside.'"

"According to Janet Felzer, Nat felt vastly more at ease with Braque than with Picasso. [In a photograph taken with Braque] his gaze is unfocused, he looks out of frame, at something in the middle distance, or perhaps just lost in darkening thoughts."

"Sometime after lunch Nat Tate bought a ticket on the Staten Island ferry. On board the ferry, a few moments before 5 o'clock that afternoon, a young man was observed to remove his tweed coat, hat and scarf, and walk to the stern ... The young man climbed the guard rail, heedless of the other passengers' cries, spread his arms and leaped ... Nat Tate's body was never found."

Comments