Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime
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Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime


Just out of college, Patricia Hampl was mesmerized by a Matisse painting she saw in the Art Institute of Chicago: an aloof woman gazing at goldfish in a bowl, a mysterious Moroccan screen behind her. This woman seemed a welcome secular version of the nuns of Hampl’s girlhood, free and untouchable, a poster girl for twentieth-century feminism. In Blue Arabesque, Hampl explores the allure of that woman, immersed in leisure, so at odds with the increasing rush of the modern era. Her tantalizing meditation takes us to the Cote d’Azur and North Africa, from cloister to harem, pondering figures as diverse as Eugène Delacroix, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Katherine Mansfield. Returning always to Matisse and his obsessive portraits of languid women, Hampl discovers they were not decorative indulgences but surprising acts of integrity.
Moving with the life force that Matisse sought in his work, Blue Arabesque is a dazzling tour de force.

Title:Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:224 pages

    Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    Apr 22, 2016

    ”The woman’s head is about the size of a fishbowl and is on its level. Her eyes though dark, are also fish, a sly parallelism Matisse has imposed. Her steady eyes are the same fish shape, fish siz...

  • J
    Mar 18, 2010

    This book was not meant to annoy me. I realize that now. There are some beautiful passages and insight, but it wandered too much for me. I wanted to be swept away by it – and I am. But only now, a w...

  • Carol
    Feb 04, 2012

    Somewhere around the time when I expected to die young like Patricia Hampl's beloved Katherine Mansfield, the High Museum here in Atlanta had a wondrous Matisse exhibit. As an art history student, I'd...

  • Betsy McTiernan
    Jun 28, 2012

    I'm so glad I stumbled on Blue Arabesque, A Search for the Sublime. Hampl's motivation for the book is a Matisse painting--Woman Before an Aquarium--that stopped her dead in her tracks the summer afte...

  • Joan
    Jan 02, 2015

    A gift, I had never heard of this book nor its author. I opened the book last night, just to take a look, to read the inside dust jacket text. Now, the next day, I have just finished it. The jacket sa...

  • Richard Gilbert
    Jul 05, 2014

    Slow at first for me to get into, by halfway through I was thinking "I want to reread this" and by the end "I want to collect a hardback copy," the latter a unique response for me. A meditation on art...

  • Elizabeth Nordquist
    Oct 01, 2013

    This was a memoir of aesthetics, and I was fascinated by it. Parts of it were just stunning. Other parts were more elusive in their connection to the whole. I have recommended it to art lovers in my l...

  • Ken Hada
    Apr 22, 2017

    I am very much impressed with Patricia Hampl's ability to simultaneously inform and inspire, to revel, reveal and resist. Her explication of Matisse and Katherine Mansfield, among others, is thoughtfu...

  • Adrianne Mathiowetz
    Mar 18, 2007

    Full disclosure: my stepmom is good friends with the author of this book. Parenthetical disclosure: seemingly unrelated to this fact, I stumbled upon Hampl's "Resort and Other Poems" book in a used bo...

  • Hotavio
    Jan 25, 2010

    Some of the subjects I found interesting in this book: Matisse, Turkish baths, Ingres, odalisques and Orientalism. The things I found less so: everything else. Patricia Hampl relays mental meanderings...

About Patricia Hampl

Patricia Hampl

Patricia Hampl’s most recent book is The Florist’s Daughter, winner of numerous “best” and “year end” awards, including the New York Times “100 Notable Books of the Year” and the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime, published in 2006 and now in paperback, was also one of the Times Notable Books; a portion was chosen for The Best Sp