Clara Farmer at Chatto & Windus in London, Nan Graham at Scribner in New York and Marcella van der Kruk at Atlas Contact in Holland have each struck separate deals for Thunderclap, the new "creative memoir" by author and art critic Laura Cumming.
The deals were made on proposal through Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary in London.
The Observer’s art critic since 1999, Cumming has been obsessed with Dutch Golden Age art ever since she saw a postcard of a Dutch painting at an Edinburgh GP’s surgery at the age of eight, says the publisher.
Thunderclap will open with the devastation of the Dutch city of Delft on an October morning in 1654. A chance spark in a gunpowder store killed hundreds of people, including the elusive Carel Fabritius, painter of "The Goldfinch" and ex-pupil of Rembrandt, while only streets away Johannes Vermeer’s studio stood untouched. Cumming will explore what happened to Fabritius and his work before and after this disaster.
Farmer said: “Thunderclap promises to be another masterwork from Laura Cumming, a passionate and moving argument for the act of looking, painting and living. In her narration of the Delft Thunderclap, she also shows how chaos can intervene: that you can preserve life in paint, but the gunpowder store can explode… Laura’s descriptions of art are matchless, be it the thin silver line of water running over washed cobblestones in Vermeer’s ‘The Little Street’ to the ‘nail’ painted on the ‘wall’ of Fabritius’ goldfinch painting, which may have been pockmarked by the debris of the Thunderclap explosion itself.”
Cumming commented: "Huge thanks to Clara Farmer, Nan Graham and Marcella van der Kruk, my editors in London, New York and Amsterdam. All my work goes to the relationship between art and life, how one affects the other, what connects them. If this has been episodic or tangential in previous writings, it is the absolute crux of Thunderclap."
Cumming is the author of On Chapel Sands (Chatto & Windus, 2019) and The Vanishing Man (Vintage, 2017).