Modern Art: none

by Evelyn Toynton

Novels depicting
the angst-ridden artist, many of whom died before their time and
certainly before their paintings became such valuable commodities,
are not unique. The women who lived with, and for, those artists
--- the recognized masters of art being predominately male --- are
rarely found in the spotlight of these biographical narratives, but
instead, remain in the periphery as supporting cast only. Evelyn
Toynton was a freelance writer in the summer of 1980 when she found
herself in the enviable position of interviewing Lee Krasner,
Jackson Pollock's widow and an artist in her own right. Realizing
that there was a unique perspective to Krasner's story that needed
to be told, she decided to write a fictitious novel loosely based
on Krasner and her life with one of the century's most dynamic
painters. The result is MODERN ART, an intriguing sojourn into one
woman's sacrifices for the man she loved and the impact of his
tumultuous life on all who came into contact with him.

Belle Prokoff, the elderly heroine, is approached by a sleazy
English journalist who has been contracted to write the ultimate
exposé on the life and times of Clay Madden. Madden's wild
escapades and tragic end from a drunken car crash were part of the
legend of this extraordinary painter who left an indelible mark on
the art world. Belle has always maintained a resolute silence about
any of the infamous rumors, choosing instead to continue dedicating
her life to preserving his legacy of paintings and his posthumous
reputation as an innovative genius.

Now, as her life is drawing to a close, Belle laments the demise of
her own career --- a choice she once made out of youthful idealism
and unconditional love. Her dearest childhood friend, Sophie, had
tried to open her eyes to the cruel, destructive nature of her
relationship with Madden. Belle's obsession with the man and his
talent prevailed, however, and led to a bitter end to the
relationship between the two women. When Belle hires a young woman,
Lizzie, as her companion, she begins to see the sickening parallel
between Lizzie's obsession with a struggling artist and her own
wasted life. Despite her fight to keep the sordid details of her
life with Madden secret, Belle finds some solace in her final days
by sharing those tough lessons with her young companion. As Belle
reflects on both the past and the present, readers will find
themselves drawn into the emotional depths of each of the
characters as they struggle to find their own identity.

While Toynton's novel is anchored in the world of art, and the
assortment of characters represents its many dimensions, readers
shouldn't expect this to be a book about art per se. Toynton's
tight narration and poignant images are of the women who subjected
themselves to the dominating and abusive men in their lives for
what they viewed as a greater cause --- which happened to be their
artistic achievements. How often the fictional events cross the
line into a biographical narrative of Jackson Pollock and Lee
Krasner is unknown and irrelevant. There are valuable messages here
on the self-destructive relationships that continue to take their
toll on so many women in our society.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns ( on January 22, 2011

Modern Art: none
by Evelyn Toynton

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2000
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Delphinium
  • ISBN-10: 1883285186
  • ISBN-13: 9781883285180