At the Guardian, novelist Julian Barnes shares his experiences developing a taste for art during his childhood, and how modernism worked to change his early impressions of what art could be. In addition, he offers insight as to how modernist art has come to influence his work, as well as the works of Flaubert and Proust.
I first began writing about art with a chapter on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa in my novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989). Since then, I have never followed any particular plan. But the period from 1850 to 1920 continues to fascinate me, as a time of great truth-speaking combined with a fundamental reexamination of the forms of art. I think we still have a lot to learn from that time.