RENATO THE PAINTER by Eugene Mirabelli

Book Quote:

“I don’t know how you can confuse drawings by Gustav Klimt with drawings by Egon Schiele. Schiele’s line jerks and cuts like a knife being dragged through flesh–his own, I suspect–whereas Klimt has fluid, caressing stroke. Schiele made a lot of interesting sketches of young girls, but wasn’t careful and eventually got himself a couple of weeks in jail. All I know is, if you let them hang around your studio and do whatever they’re forbidden to do at home, like reading a book or eating french fries or whatever, after a while they’ll relax and sprawl this way and that and now you’ve got yourself a spicy little twelve-year-old model, plus a chance at prison time.”

Book Review:

Review by Bill Brody  (JAN 19, 2014)

Renato the Painter by Eugene Mirabelli is a fictional memoir about a contemporary painter living in the Boston area. The novel starts when Renato is just days old, a foundling, and continues to the present time, when he is in his 70’s. Renato is a man with a fierce pride in his art, unrepentant sexual appetites and strong personal loyalties. He is very dissatisfied with his status in the art world, feeling that the art world has left him behind. He hasn’t had a gallery show in some time and is getting depressed about his prospects. His family life is complicated. He lives in his studio on one side of the Charles River and his wife, Alba, lives in a condo on the other side. Their relationship is passionate, but sometimes combative. Both Renato and Alba appear comfortable living separate lives. Renato has children by Alba, his wife, and by Zoe, a sometimes lover. He sees both women who know and like each other. Renato has numerous friends, mostly other artists who he meets for drinks or coffee and to bemoan the state of the current art world. His best friend died some time ago and he misses him. He’s worried about his prostate and getting old and being forgotten.

Renato is living the life of the macho painter of the 1950’s. His life is filled with exuberant sex and no less exuberant memories. He has as much time as he wants in his studio. His wife, Alba, lives on the other side of the river, available for occasional sex, for good food, thoughtful advice and being a good mother. He regularly sees Zoe, one of his former lovers, with whom he has a child. Alba, Zoe and all their children know each other and are comfortable with the complicated family. Renato, for all his complaints about lack of recognition, appears to have no real financial worries. He gets to paint, to worry to his heart’s content, and to enjoy the love, lust and affection of others. His social life with other male artists is his chance to enjoy complaining about the sorry state of current art affairs.

Renato is in his 70’s, and the time is supposed to be now, but he graduated at 17 from High School in 1948, so he would be 82 or 83 today. His voice reminds me of artists I have met who would be in their 80’s today. The voice of his youth fits with the 1930’s. The novel captures that period well, and pretty accurately captures the voice of artists I knew in 2000, when they were then in their 70’s. His voice recalls the romantic machismo of the Beats, the abstract expressionists and their artistic progeny. There is an authentic ring to how he speaks about art and life, but it is somewhat anachronistic.

I found the book very enjoyable, although the last part rambles a bit. Renato is someone I would have liked to meet. I hear his voice loud and clear, but I can’t quite see the paintings. I understand Renato’s fears of ageing and dying unknown; his glorification of sexuality; and his artistic idealism. Peaceful coexistence within the complicated family is a bit implausible, but consistent with the myth of the bohemian artist.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 5 readers
PUBLISHER: McPherson (May 14, 2012)
REVIEWER: Bill Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Eugene Mirabelli
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More on painters / artists:


January 19, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: End-of-Life, IPPY, Literary, Theme driven, y Award Winning Author

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