Author: Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director,
The Courtauld Institute of Art
It is with very great sadness that we learn of the death of Anita Brookner, Courtauld alumna and former member of The Courtauld’s academic faculty, who died on Thursday 10 March at the age of 87. Anita Brookner was renowned both as an art historian and as a prize winning novelist: she won the Booker Prize in 1984 for Hotel du Lac, which remains the best known of her twenty-five novels.
Anita Brookner was born in London in 1928, the only child of Polish-Jewish parents who opened their London home to refugees escaping persecution by the Nazis during World War Two. She attended the James Allen’s Girls School, took her BA at Kings College London and her PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art, before joining the teaching faculty at The Courtauld. In 1967, the first woman to be named as Slade professor of art at Cambridge University; in 1977 she was made a Reader. Anita’s research focused particularly on 18th and early 19th century France and her books, Genius of the Future: Essays in French art criticism (1971), Greuze 1725-1805: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-century Phenomenon (1972) and Jacques-Louis David (1980).
Many have already paid tribute to Anita Brookner as a writer of fiction – for her meticulous observation, and her spare, lucid prose and for her ability to capture the “rhythms of loneliness”. However, she only started to publish her fiction in 1981, in her 50s. For The Courtauld, and the many students and colleagues who were inspired by her, Anita was a brilliant art historian whose keen observation and acute language remain a model for emulation and whose personal kindness will never be forgotten. Although reclusive, particularly in her last years, she retained a real affection for and interest in The Courtauld, art historical friends, colleagues and former students. We shall miss her.