The Underpainter is a novel of interwoven lives in which the world of art collides with the realm of human emotion. It is the story of Austin Fraser, an American painter now in his later years, who is haunted by memories of those whose lives most deeply touched his own, including a young Canadian soldier and china painter and the beautiful model who becomes Austin’s mistress. Spanning decades, the setting moves from upstate New York to the northern shores of two Great Lakes; from France in World War One to New York City in the ’20s and ’30s. Brilliantly depicting landscape and the geography of the imagination, The Underpainter is Jane Urquhart’s most accomplished novel to date.
Jane Urquhart is the author of five internationally acclaimed novels: The Whirlpool, which received Le prix du meilleur livre étranger (Best Foreign Book Award) in France; Changing Heaven; Away, which won the Trillium Award and was a finalist for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Underpainter, which won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the Rogers Communications Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; and The Stone Carvers, a finalist for the 2001 Giller Prize and for the Governor General's Award for Fiction. She is also the author of a collection of short fiction, Storm Glass, and three books of poetry, I Am Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace, False Shuffles, and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan (I Am Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan were published together in 2000 in a one-volume collector’s edition entitled Some Other Garden). Urquhart has received the Marian Engel Award, and has been named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. She was also the 2003 recipient of Alberta's Bob Edwards Award.
Urquhart has received numerous honorary doctorates from Canadian universities and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa and at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and, during the winter and spring of 1997, she held the Presidential Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at the University of Toronto. She has also given readings and lectures in Canada, Britain, Europe, the U.S.A., and Australia.
Jane Urquhart was born in Little Long Lac, Ontario, and grew up in Toronto. She now lives outside of Toronto.
“Her language is pure, dazzling in its precision, like the etching of ice on glass.”
–Globe and Mail
“A painterly masterwork…poignant in each of its several landscapes and subtle in tracing the mingled nuances of love and pain.”
“The detached eye of the narrator never falters, though passion hums beneath the surface like some vast primeval beast beneath the ice.”
–The Independent (U.K.)
“Writing with the eye of a painter, Urquhart transforms the energy of the world into enduring literature.”
“Urquhart is one of Canada’s most accomplished and interesting writers.”
“Original and dazzling, radiant and quietly perceptive, Urquhart’s new novel delights the senses even as it astonishes the mind.…”
–London Free Press
“A lyrical novel with a deep, unsentimental connection to ordinary life…[Urquhart’s] language is vivid enough to take your breath away.”
“Urquhart explores the ability to love and the failure to love; the visual pictures and images of humanity beneath the surfaces on which art is created. The Underpainter is a savory read.”
“Urquhart’s evocation of time and place shimmers with clarity.…”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Urquhart has written a novel whose narrative power matches her delicate artistry with words…lodges in the mind and heart forever.”
“Richly textured prose, and an intricate, many layered structure.”
–Sunday Times (U.K.)
“A rich, multifaceted story, skillfully told.”
–San Francisco Chronicle