Cover Art – The Vivisector by Patrick White

My late Mum had several books by English-born Australian author Patrick White in her collection which I later inherited. All were ex-library copies, well-used, covered in stamps and flyleafs cut out, so once I decided I would never get around to reading them (they look challenging reads), out they went – but I saved the dustjacket of his 1970 novel The Vivisector to show you, particularly as it was the first edition.

It’s a challenging cover, isn’t it – of course not having read the book, I don’t really understand it apart from its Australian landscape. It reminds me of Francis Bacon with those jagged-toothed gaping maws in the sky. It’s by renowned cover artist Tom Adams (whose website you can see here and shows his fascinating range of styles).

The novel is about a painter, and is dedicated to great Australian artist Sidney Nolan, whom I must admit I don’t know. Looking him up, I find he is particularly famous for his series of paintings featuring Ned Kelly… pictured right is The Death of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek. Adams says that his painting is inspired by Nolan.

Apparently White was being considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but this novel put the judges off. They didn’t like the big question in it of whether one could be a human being and artist at the same time. They did give him the prize three years later though. White claims that The Vivisector was not about Sidney Nolan, others say it is more likely autobiographical.

Should I have kept one of White’s novels to read? If so, which would you recommend? (I also recycled The Tree of Man (1955) and The Eye of the Storm (1973))

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Source: Inherited. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Vivisector (Penguin Classics)by Patrick White. O/P but S/H copies available.

8 thoughts on “Cover Art – The Vivisector by Patrick White

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    That *is* a striking cover! He’s quite an artist – many of my Agatha Christies have his very distinctive covers. As for Patrick White, apart from knowing the name, I’ve never read any of his work so can’t be much help. Books can be such a problem – I’ve held on to so many in the past, thinking I’d like to read them one day – but unless I read all day, every day I’d never get through them all…..

  2. intersectinggeodesics says:

    That’s a fairly impressive cover! I’ve not read The Vivisector but wholly recommend White’s Voss – it’s a combination of an unusual love story and the tale of a trek into Australia’s interior. By chance I recently caught a tv broadcast of Mask and Memory, a 2009 documentary about the influence of women on Sidney Nolan’s work, and went from knowing next to nothing about Nolan to being fascinated by his work!

  3. Carol S says:

    One of the best writers in the world, monumental. I actually don’t like that cover, to me it’s not worthy of him. Sidney Nolan’s work is great though. The fun Ned Kelly picture by Adams is more of a caricature. Sidney Nolan did paint Ned Kelly with a plate metal helmet because Ned Kelly homemade himself a protective one.. .

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      Maybe I wasn’t clear – the second picture is a Nolan. I know very little about Ned Kelly – but did know about the helmet from the film with Mick Jagger which I haven’t seen, but remember the publicity!

  4. Carol S says:

    So sorry – I did misunderstand. I don’t remember Sydney Nolan painting like that at all. I’d better check!

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