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Edmund de Waal: personal history through objects

in History/Literature/Reviews by

The hare with amber eyes: a hidden inheritance, (2010) is the history of a family and its art collection, written by one of its members, the artist Edmund De Waal. When I finished reading it, I was so enthusiastic that I started watching all of Edmund De Waal’s videos on the net.

The book had all the elements I like; it is a personal account, a memoir of a family, a travelogue and a manual on art.

Edmund de Waal and dog Isla in his South London studio Jude Edginton
Edmund de Waal and dog Isla in his South London studio. Jude Edginton

Edmund de Waal, who threw his first pot at 5, is now an installation artist who connects minimalism, music and architecture through ceramics.

Though it’s obvious that he has a wide knowledge of art and books, his personable writing style makes one feel as though they are talking to a friend.

The project started as a journey to find the history behind the collection of small Japanese art objects called “netsuke” which he inherited from his uncle. As he uncovers the stories, he tells about his family in general.

The Ephrussies were a family of Jewish bankers who came from Odessa and settled in Paris and Vienna, but lost their fortune and had to suffer all sorts of humiliations during the Second World War. This story was of particular interest to me because many years ago, during a trip to the French Riviera, I had visited the wonderful Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild with its gorgeous gardens and its view of the ocean.

After having finished The hare with amber eyes, he thought it was about time one of his grandmother’s novels was published. Elisabeth De Waal must have been an interesting personality; and her posthumous The exiles return is to be found now in bookstores all over the world. It is an autobiographical novel about five people forced to leave Vienna during the Second World War and return to the city after the end of the war to face another reality.

Edmund de Waal’s most recent project is based on obsession.

It includes his new book called The white road. It starts with his passion for porcelain: its material nature, its history and context and how that relates to him and his personal family history, especially its role in Nazi Germany.

His extensive knowledge of all things cultural make for a interesting and in depth read as well as a pleasant one. It is this balance that I feel gives his creations a perfect Zen quality.


Added to by maeshelle west-davies

 

3 Comments

  1. Thank you for letting us know! I saw a Weiwei and de Waal exibit in Graz, Austria in November this year and found de Waal`s tiny and monumental art intriguing. Now I also know to look for his books!

  2. And thank you to Maeshelle for a videoclip on de Waal discovering that the Nazis had Dachau concentration camp prisoners produce pristine Nazi porcelain for them…

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