A Novel by
Burnt Umber is a novel on the grand scale about the passionate lives of artists. It unfolds through the intertwining stories of the German painter Franz Marc, the American sculptor Harry Baer, and the strong-willed women they loved.
Much has been written about modern art pioneer Vasily Kandinsky, but his close friend Franz Marc remains a mystery. Through Marcs tortured and vividly imagined life, that of his wife Antonia, abandoned on her wedding night, and his lover Marguerite, a lesbian and early feminist, Burnt Umber offers an intimate portrayal of the European artistic and intellectual renaissance leading up to World War One.
Masterfully woven with Marcs story is that of Harry Baer (based on the art and milestones in the life of Harold Paris), an American GI who finds Marcs sketchbook in an abandoned farmhouse during World War Two and is haunted by it. In Paris, after the war, Harry marries Aurora, an intellectual assaulting the elite French academy. She launches his artistic career in the prestigious left bank galleries. Moving to Berkeley to teach, Harry forges a new career and confronts a new breed of women: Karine, the African-American activist who loves him but wont live in his shadow, and Darah, the daughter of a Congressman, who embodies the confidence of the feminist generation and challenges Harry to give as much of himself to those who love him as to the art he creates.
Burnt Umber is a novel about two unforgettable artists who struggle to express their personal vision of the defining moments of the 20th Century: the trenches of World War One, the liberation of the concentration camps, the turbulence of post-World War Two Paris, the Civil Rights Movement, and Viet Nam-era Berkeley.
"In Proustian fashion...Greene's second novel is a beautifully
written account of the lives of artists caught up in turbulent times."