Lives Remembered: Tom Lubbock
Thursday 13 January 2011
Further to your obituary of Tom Lubbock (10 January), Tom's championship of the painter he regarded as Britain's most important Modernist, Wyndham Lewis, will not be forgotten, writes Paul Edwards, Trustee, the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust. Encountering the paintings first in reproduction in a public library in his youth, he was overwhelmed: "I had no idea images could be so glutting: the unimaginably gorgeous colours, the unfathomable imagery, the sharp and eliding textures, that electric line drawing." (Independent, 13 February 2005). Tom understood Lewis's work from the inside, sensing its relation to caricature, fascinated also by its almost Jacobean preoccupation with the metaphysical aspects of mortality: Red Figures Carrying Babies and Visiting Graves and One of the Stations of the Dead were two of his favourite paintings; the latter he listed in The Independent as one of the 10 greatest paintings in the UK, devoting a "Great Works" essay to it, as well. Only Tom could have noticed both its allusion to Thomas Browne's melancholy meditation Urn Burial and its more prosaic evocation of the London Underground.
Tom was made a trustee of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust in recognition of his illuminating work on Lewis. He was the only newspaper critic from the UK to visit the huge Lewis exhibition held at the Juan March Foundation in Madrid early in 2010, reviewing it in The Independent (8 March 2010). He singled out Red Figures Visiting Graves again: "It's like William Blake, of course, and not much else before or since." He knew it was Lewis's last work, produced when his sight had been almost extinguished by a brain tumour, just as Tom's own linguistic powers were themselves threatened with extinction. Tom's own courageously detached analysis of that process may well have been inspired by Lewis's 1951 account of the effects of his own tumour, The Sea-Mists of the Winter. It is certainly worthy to stand alongside it.
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