Anita Brookner

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Anita Brookner

Born(1928-07-16)16 July 1928
Herne Hill, London, England
Died10 March 2016(2016-03-10) (aged 87)
London, England
Alma materKing's College London
Notable workHotel du Lac

Anita Brookner CBE (16 July 1928 – 10 March 2016)[1] was an English novelist and art historian. She was Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cambridge from 1967 to 1968 and was the first woman to hold this visiting professorship. She was awarded the 1984 Booker–McConnell Prize for her novel Hotel du Lac.

Life and education[edit]

Brookner (Bruckner) was born in Herne Hill, a suburb of London.[2][3] She was the only child of Newson Bruckner, a Jewish immigrant from Piotrków Trybunalski in Poland, and Maude Schiska, a singer whose grandfather had emigrated from Warsaw, Poland, and founded a tobacco factory at which her husband worked after arriving in Britain aged 18. Her mother gave up her singing career when she married and, according to her daughter, was unhappy for the rest of her life.[4][5] Maude changed the family's surname to Brookner because of anti-German sentiment in Britain.[6] Anita Brookner had a lonely childhood, although her grandmother and uncle lived with the family, and her parents, secular Jews, opened their house to Jewish refugees fleeing the Germans during the 1930s and World War II. "I have said that I am one of the loneliest women in London" she said in her Paris Review interview.[7][8]

She was educated at the James Allen's Girls' School,[9] a fee-paying school. In 1949 she received a BA in history from King's College London, and in 1953 a doctorate in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.[10] Under the supervision of Anthony Blunt, then director of the Courtauld, what was originally a Masters thesis on the French genre painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze was upgraded to a doctorate.[5] However, she received a French government scholarship in 1950 to the École du Louvre and spent most of the decade living in Paris.[9]



In 1967, she became the first woman to hold the Slade Professorship of Fine Art at Cambridge University.[10] She was a visiting lecturer at Reading University from 1959 to 1964 when she became a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She was promoted to Reader at the Courtauld in 1977, where she worked until her retirement in 1988.[5] She began her career as a specialist on 18th century French art but later extended her expertise to the romantics.[5] She contributed articles to ArtReview in the late 1950s and early 1960s,[11]

Among her students at the Courtauld was art historian Olivier Berggruen, whose graduate work she advised.[12] She was a Fellow of King's College London and of New Hall, Cambridge (Murray Edwards College from 2008).

Photographs taken by Anita Brookner are held in the Conway Library of art and architecture at the Courtauld Institute.[13]


Brookner published her first novel, A Start in Life (1981), at the age of 53. Thereafter she published roughly one a year. Brookner was regarded as a stylist. Her novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love. Many of her characters are the children of European immigrants to Britain; a number appear to be of Jewish descent.[14][15] Hotel du Lac (1984), her fourth novel, was awarded the Booker Prize.[16][17]

Private life and honours[edit]

Brookner never married, but took care of her parents as they aged. Brookner commented in one interview that she had received several proposals of marriage, but rejected all of them, concluding that men were "people with their own agenda, who think you might be fitted in if they lop off certain parts. You can see them coming a mile off."[18]

She gave the 1974 Aspects of Art Lecture.[19][20] In 1990, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[10]

She died in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,[21] London, on 10 March 2016, at the age of 87.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anita Brookner, Booker Prize-winning author, dies age 87, Times announces". BBC News. 14 March 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  2. ^ Free BMD: Births Jul-Sep 1928 Bruckner, Anita Schishka (mother) Camberwell 1d 991
  3. ^ "Anita Brookner, 1928– Notebooks, ca. 1986–1994". Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009.
  4. ^ "Anita Brookner". The Times. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d McNay, Michael (15 March 2016). "Anita Brookner obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  6. ^ Gutteridge, Peter (15 March 2016). "Doctor Anita Brookner: Art historian who began writing novels at the age of 53 and won the Booker Prize for Hotel du Lac". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Anita Brookner, The Art of Fiction No. 98". Paris Review. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. ^ Alam, Rumaan (1 March 2018). "In Praise of Anita Brookner". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Anita Brookner, novelist - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Cowell, Alan (15 March 2016). "Anita Brookner, Whose Bleak Fiction Won the Booker Prize, Dies at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  11. ^ "What is Romanticism", ArtReview, 12 September 1959}
  12. ^ Olivier Berggruen. "Olivier Berggruen on Anita Brookner (1928–2016) - / passages". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Who made the Conway Library?". Digital Media. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 3 July 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  14. ^ Dr Anita Brookner at British Council: Literature
  15. ^ Malcolm, Cheryl Alexander. "Understanding Anita Brookner". University of South Carolina. Archived from the original on 31 December 2001.
  16. ^ "The Booker Prize 1984". The Booker Prizes. Retrieved 29 June 2023.
  17. ^ Ezard, John; Webb, WL (19 October 1984). "From the archive, 19 October 1984: Booker Prize awarded to a 6-1 outsider". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  18. ^ Morrison, Blake (18 June 1994). "A game of solitaire". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  19. ^ "Aspects of Art Lectures". The British Academy.
  20. ^ Brookner, Anita (1975). "Jacques-Louis David: A Personal Interpretation" (PDF). Proceedings of the British Academy. 60: 155–171. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  21. ^ "DOR Q1/2016 in KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA (239-1C)". GRO Online Indexes. General Register Office for England and Wales. Entry Number 513506834. Retrieved 22 February 2022.

Further reading[edit]

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