Michael Jacobs was haunted by Velazquez's enigmatic masterpiece Las Meninas from first encountering it in the Prado as a teenager. In Everything is Happening Jacobs searches for the ultimate significance of the painting by following the trails of associations from each individual character in the picture, as well as his own memories of and relationship to this extraordinary work.
From Jacobs' first trip to Spain to the complex politics of Golden Age Madrid, to his meeting with the man who saved Las Meninas during the Spanish Civil war, via Jacobs' experiences of the sunless world of the art history academy, Jacobs' dissolves the barriers between the past and the present, the real and the illusory.
Cut short by Jacobs' death in 2014, and completed with an introduction and coda of great sensitivity and insight by his friend and fellow lover of art, the journalist Ed Vulliamy, this visionary, meditative and often very funny book is a passionate, personal manifesto for the liberation of how we look at painting.
A gripping and beguiling blend of art history, memoir and travel writing which delves into the mysteries and meanings of Las Meninas, Velazquez's iconic masterpiece
One of the great non-fiction writers of this and the last century... The story twists and turns back on Jacobs: the boyish humanity and exuberance; his wide-eyed openness to wonder; his altogether un-English rush of enthusiasm - is all on show... An exceptionally gifted writer - Simon Schama, "Financial Times" Jacobs was [...] insatiably curious, always warm but never unctuous, his voracious erudition in art and history employed as a key but never a cudgel... [An] entrancing memoir - Boyd Tonkin, "Independent" His gift of cheerful observation, combined with profound intellectual interpretation, is compelling... Helped along by Vulliamy's affectionate (and extremely learned) commentary, the book gradually resolves itself into the quest the subtitle suggests... A delight - Jan Morris, "Literary Review" Open-ended [and] full of curiosity, which rather fits its subject - James McConnachie, "Sunday Times" Jacobs writes from close up, as he would look at a painting, with openness, curiosity and passion - "Marion Coutts" An interesting discourse on Velazquez's marvellous painting and a fitting tribute to a compelling author.... [The] enormous discipline and dedication and the vivid lucidity that characterized [Jacobs'] writing is very apparent even in this incomplete text... a pleasure to read - Charles Robertson, "History Today" [A] clear-eyed look at Velazquez's masterpiece by one of our most animated and engaging writers on art... part travelogue and part autobiography, sadly interrupted but curated with much flair and affection by Ed Vulliamy, whose poignant coda is a tribute to friendship and shared passions. How uplifting to know that, right to the end, Michael Jacobs was still eagerly chronicling - with the same combination of droll scepticism and enthusiastic wonder - the many lands, both geographical and intellectual, through which he passed - "Ross King" Every book by Michael Jacobs combines adventure, autobiography and scholarship in a unique blend of warmth, humour and vivid prose. The wide-ranging story of the quest for Velazquez's Las Meninas, from Michael's school days to a contemporary crisis-ridden Madrid, is a perfect example. Sadly, this aptly titled last work is a bittersweet reminder that an untimely death has robbed us of the irreplaceable and irrepressible Michael Jacobs - "Paul Preston" Brave and poignant - Michael Prodger, "New Statesman""
MICHAEL JACOBS was born in Italy and studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was the author of Andes (Granta 2010) and The Robber of Memories (Granta 2012). He divided his time between London and a remote Spanish village. He died in January 2014.