Publication Year: 2011
A chronicle of sexual fear and repression, the devastation of disease, and inimitable courage and grace, Derek Jarman: A Biography is an honest and brilliant tribute to the uncompromising life and art of Derek Jarman.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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The picture on the front page of the Independent was of an unequiv-ocally bespectacled man photographed against a hazy bank of flowersin Monet’s garden at Giverny. Wearing a cap, scarf and rumpledtweed jacket, he had a book clasped tightly in his left hand, a walk-ing stick in the other, and was confronting the camera with a steady...
1 Family Mythology
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In Dancing Ledge, the first of his published journals, Derek Jarmantitles his brief account of his family background ‘A Short FamilyMythology’. The Viceroy’s Ball, Great-Aunt Doris and her rubberroses, grandmother Moselle – or Mimosa, as he called her – a daffodilbell hanging from a lychgate. The clips are short but telling, scenes...
2 Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them
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...‘Roses. There is a charm about a beautiful Rose garden which appealsirresistibly to every lover of flowers. It is not necessary to win a prizeat a Rose show to enjoy Roses when they are used in free, informal,natural ways. There is a wide gulf between exhibiting and garden-ing.’1 Published in 1926, Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them is...
3 Buried Feelings
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By 1947, although the war had been over for two years, its effectswere still being strongly and unpleasantly felt in England. Despitevictory and the determination of the recently elected Labour gov-ernment to start a new social chapter in the country’s history, theprocess of adapting to peace was slow and painful. It is a mere detail,...
4 School House and Manor House
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The fifties are frequently seen as an age of wide-eyed innocence. TheFestival of Britain, a young Elizabeth, Supermac, net petticoats,Brylcreem, quiffs, salad days. They were also a time of great stress andunease – the end of empire, Cold War, Suez. One of the ways peoplecoped was by pretending that nothing had changed. By turning their...
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Although Jarman’s trips to Pakistan to visit his parents affected andmarked him less intensely – certainly less obviously – than his earliersojourn in Italy, it would be wrong to dismiss their effect entirely.Witnessing at first hand the sometimes surreal spectacle of a oncesplendid colonial power glorying in its past and traditions even as it...
6 A Subtle Terror Rules
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The house assigned to Lance and Betts on their return to Northwoodwas still in the process of being built, which meant that for the firstfew months they had to lodge with Betts’ brother Teddy and hiswife Pegs. If the wait in any way whetted their appetites for their newhome, they were in for a disappointment. The house was as dreary...
7 Every Man Is a Special Kind of Artist
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A spry figure with a distinctive goatee and a shock of unruly hair,years when Jarman arrived at the school. A silversmith, potter, fur-niture-maker, painter and keen student of architecture, Noscoe didnot value one sphere of artistic activity over another, nor did he pre-tend that as the teacher he had all the answers. As humble as he was...
8 Metroland Student
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In one of the interviews that formed the basis for his first volume ofautobiography, Jarman claimed not to remember much about King’s,saying only that it ‘seemed rather grey and colourless’. Yet his threeyears there were crucial to his development. Grey it may have been,but within the rabbit warren of rooms that led off its underground...
9 If You’re Anxious for to Shine
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At the close of the summer of 1962 and the start of his final year atKing’s, Jarman moved with Michael Ginsborg and his schoolfriendPolytechnic, into a purpose-built block of flats in Coram Street, justnorth of Russell Square. Three months shy of his twenty-first birth-day and ‘free of parental guidance for the first time’,1 he was finally...
10 Meeting Mr Wright
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At the end of the 1963 summer holidays, during which he kept him-self in pocket money with a series of odd jobs,1 Jarman returned tofriend from King’s. Their search led them to Kentish Town and ahouse at 2 Healey Street, immediately south of the shabby Victorianboth poverty-stricken and colourful. It boasted a myriad businesses,...
11 The Billboard Promised Land
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In later years, Jarman would put a jaunty gloss on his recollections ofhis first transatlantic trip – a gloss perhaps not entirely in keepingpriest who might offer him a place to stay. The instant they met, thepriest ‘piled’ Jarman into a cab. ‘We’d hardly gone a block before hishand was on my crotch. I decided the best course was to pretend it...
12 Becoming Derek
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In late 1964, Jarman reworked some of the scribbles in his notebookinto: ‘Tentative ideas for a manifesto after 11⁄3 year at an art school’.personality at all cost is a force which has rendered the artistThe painting school says you are not a painter. ‘I’m proud.’The ideas are in fact far from tentative. Not only had they been...
13 Father Figures
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Thanks in part to the Slade, where Jarman was meeting an everincreasing number of fellow artists, in part to his sexual openness, which had magicked an entirely new area of friendship into being, and in part to his discovery that the public and the personal sides of his life could be made to co-exist, ...
14 Swinging Decayed
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Across London from Sloane Square, in then unfashionable Islington(‘Drizzlington’, Jarman once termed it), stood 60 Liverpool Road, aon the understanding that it was to be modernised by the friends towould share the basement with the clutter of Harth’s current hob-bies: foul-smelling tanks of tropical fish interspersed with racks of...
15 This Month in Vogue
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As defined by Patrick Procktor, and with a fine disregard for theissue of student or political unrest, ‘1968 was the year when every-This Month in Vogue.’1 If anyone was in vogue, it was Derek Jarman.In the fortnight separating Robert Medley’s party for Jazz Calendarbirthday, the birthday boy was sufficiently in demand to receive a...
16 The Devils
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...protégé could seem to live in psychic rather than physical time; how,on occasion, Jarman’s life could embody the more mystical preceptsof the Swiss psychoanalyst. There can be few more striking examplesof synchronicity – in this case combined with serendipity – thanJarman’s return trip from Paris in January 1970. It was an example,...
17 Oasis at Bankside
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Summing up 1970 from the vantage point of 1983, Jarman wrote: ‘Bythe time I emerged from Pinewood in December, the easy life of thesixties – designing and painting – had gone for ever. It was nowimpossible to pick up all the threads.’1 Although The Devils had paidtroversy aroused on its release in July 1971 was music to Jarman’s...
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Bettiscombe Press had used a photograph of a gathering at Banksideon the front cover of Nota Bene, his most recent collection of poetry.On the back, in Jarman’s own handwriting, was Jarman’s phrase‘Thru the Billboard promised land’. Pinney now offered to publish awritten in his early twenties. Like Nota Bene, A Finger in the Fishes...
19 Butler’s Wharf and Beyond
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It was not only Gargantua Jarman had in his sights when he travelledSebastian, he paid for Patrik Steede to accompany him so that thelatter could progress his script. While Steede researched – or, asJarman suspected, concentrated on having fun – his paymaster setout every morning from their centrally located hotel to make the...
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Ironically, given Jarman’s antipathy to such gatherings, it was anencounter at a lunch party that breathed life into St Sebastian.student of the London Film School and keen to make his mark as aproducer – asked Jarman if he had ever thought of making a feature.Jarman talked about The Tempest and his ideas for something on the...
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Umberto Tirelli, the Italian costumier. Tirelli unsettled his subject bypronouncing sombrely: ‘You are an alien, Derek . . . You will die vio-lently.’1 Jarman took this prediction very much to heart. Some yearslater, returning from a party in Bath, he was on the motorway witha group of friends when their car broke down. So terrified was Jarman...
22 Stormy Weather
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Jubilee helped delineate the shape – that of being primarily a film-maker – into which Jarman’s life was beginning to form. Whereasbefore 1977 his activities had revolved around any number of arenas,effect was that while Jarman’s daily existence became steadily busierApart from some teaching, some unrealised, unfinished film proj-...
23 Montage Years
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...about The Tempest was that ‘no one can pinpoint the meaning’,1 hissimistic. Jarman’s Prospero is, in the words of Michael O’Pray,‘sinister, intense, secretive and cruel’. Such reparation as Jarman’sarrangements of the action allows is arrived at only through magicand in a ‘fantasy world’, not through any ‘real political or personal...
24 Angelic and Other Conversations
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...painting, writing, a new direction in home-movie making and a newThe painterly aspects of Jarman’s work on The Rake’s Progress andMouth of the Night reflect his return to the easel in the early eighties.With no film in production, painting provided the perfect way of fill-ing time and soothing frustration while maintaining contact with an...
25 The Last of England
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...of Caravaggio, Jarman’s diary note to himself on 1 January was aboutthe need to get other projects ‘underway’. ‘Get about a little more’was another instruction; be less of a ‘prisoner at Phoenix’.The projects he had in mind included the resuscitation of certainexisting plans – the Pasolini outline, for instance, Lossiemouth,...
26 A Fifth Continent
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For someone as sensitive to signs as Jarman, 1987 did not start promis-long been the only piece by any artist other than himself to hang onannounced: ‘You are going to be my last sitter.’ As he ‘pressed thebutton for the last time “Stormy Weather” was playing on the stereo’.2There could have been few clearer ways of signalling the end of an...
27 Sod ’Em
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Having attended one of its first London performances as a student,and having edited The Last of England to its strains, Jarman had‘often thought of the possibility of visualizing Britten’s War Requiemwithout fixing it like a butterfly on a setting board and therebydiminishing it’.1 Thanks to Don Boyd, whose Aria had given the pro-...
28 I Walk in This Garden
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On the second anniversary of his diagnosis, Jarman told an inter-viewer: ‘December 22 . . . becomes a kind of key day in my life now,and I think: “Ah, that’s another year over.” On that day and overChristmas I think, what shall I do next year? I’ve concentrated sohard on Requiem it’s kept all that at bay in a way . . . I’m going to...
29 Blue Prints
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...was starting to feel in the final months of 1989, it never conveys thefull extent of his developing illness, or the despair it engendered. Toappreciate how critical the situation was becoming, one has to readbetween the lines. That The Garden was troubling him as much as itwas speaks volumes; usually he sailed through his films with con-...
30 Do Not Go Gentle
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Tired of being ‘spread all over the breakfast table like toast and mar-malade each morning’,1 Jarman asked his agent to stop all interviews.Only ‘seventy per cent healthy’, he was suffering the effects of apost-canonisation ‘autumn depression’.2 Of course, the interviewsdid not stop, quite the contrary, and it is questionable whether he...
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List of Works
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About the Author
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...he continues to serve as literary agent for his estate. He is the...
Page Count: 624
Publication Year: 2011