Patrick White’s The Vivisector: The Artist in Relation to His Art


The vivisector of the title is first and foremost the painter whose life story it relates, Hurtle Duffield. But it is also the creative artist in general, who, White intimates, sees with the clarity of a vivisector, a clarity that separates him from the rest of mankind. In this novel White looks upon the artist's keenness of vision as a two-edged sword, capable of cutting open victim and wielder alike. In the figure of Hurtle, keenness of insight becomes associated with proneness to cruelty. These values are confused, but this confusion is nonetheless the source of many of Hurtle's problems, particularly his doubts about the desirability and value of his artistic gift.

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Published 1 October 1971 in Volume 5 No. 2. Subjects: Artists, Characterisation, Patrick White.

Cite as: Beston, John. ‘Patrick White’s The Vivisector: The Artist in Relation to His Art.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 1971, doi: 10.20314/als.e91194c813.