A new literary prize celebrating boldly original fiction

The New Statesman supports the launch of the Goldsmiths Prize.

A £10,000 literary prize rewarding boldly original fiction has been launched by Goldsmiths, University of London in association with the New Statesman.

The Goldsmiths Prize has been established to celebrate creative daring and to recognise published fiction that opens up new possibilities for the novel form. The annual prize will be awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best.

Jonathan Derbyshire, Culture Editor of the New Statesman, says: “The New Statesman is delighted to be supporting a prize that rewards invention and innovation in fiction – qualities that the magazine has long promoted in its literary pages. We are especially pleased to be entering into partnership with an institution as forward-looking as Goldsmiths.”

The prize will be officially announced today at a reading by Booker Prize-winning novelist James Kelman, part of a series of author talks organised by the new Writers’ Centre at Goldsmiths. After the reading, Kelman will discuss the art of the novel with Derbyshire.

Blake Morrison, poet, author and Professor of Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, commented: “We hope [the prize] will encourage more risk-taking among novelists, editors and agents alike. There’s an idea that innovative and genre-busting books are bound to be inaccessible. We don’t believe that’s the case.”

Tim Parnell, Head of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, added: “Serious discussion of the art of fiction is too often confined to the pages of learned journals and we hope the prize and the events surrounding it will stimulate a much wider debate about the novel.”

Publishers are invited to submit their entries from Friday 25 January 2013 to Friday 22 March 2013. The Prize is open to novels published in 2013 and there is no limit to the number of titles that may be entered by a publisher or bona fide imprint, provided the works entered meet all other entry requirements. 

The entries will be judged by an expert panel consisting of British novelists Nicola Barker and Gabriel Josipovici, Jonathan Derbyshire and Dr Tim Parnell.

For more details, terms and conditions, or to download The Goldsmiths Prize submission form, visit http://www.gold.ac.uk/goldsmiths-prize/

Reading material: the Goldsmiths Prize rewards innovation in fiction (Photo: Getty Images)
©HOLBURNE MUSEUM. THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE.
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A sketchy legacy? How Pieter's sons kept Brand Bruegel going

For all his business acumen, Pieter the Younger was no original and his skill was weedy compared to the robustness of his father’s.

One of the many complications that make the Bruegels the most confusing clan in art is the letter H. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the founder of the dynasty and its greatest artist, was the painter of such celebrated works as The Hunters in the Snow (1565) and The Tower of Babel (1563). Contrary to the elegance and elevating tenets of the Italian Renaissance, he made the peasant life of the Low Countries his subject, in all its scatological, rambunctious and therefore human detail. In 1559 he dropped the H in his surname and started signing in Roman capital letters – Brueghel becoming the rather more stately Bruegel.

Bruegel had two sons, Pieter and Jan, aged four and one at the time of his death in 1569. Both became painters, too, and as their careers took off Pieter the Younger reinstated the H his father had discarded (though in later life, to add to the disorder, he reversed the order of the U and E) and it remained the moniker of the innumerable painting Brueghels who followed. Rather more confusing than this alphabet jiggery-pokery, though, is the sheer number of painters in the dynasty – some 15 blood relations over the course of 150 years, before a plethora of apprentices, collaborators and intermarriages is factored in.

It is partly to unknot this family tree that the Holburne Museum is running “Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty”, a small but choice exhibition of about thirty pictures that show the distinctiveness of the leading family members. What makes the ­early-generation Bruegels worth looking at in detail is that each was significant in a different way.

The geographer Abraham Ortelius wrote of Pieter the Elder: “That he was the most perfect painter of his age, no one – unless jealous, envious or ignorant of his art – could ever deny.” For all the earthiness of his peasant subjects and their rural pastimes, he was collected by the richest of Antwerp’s merchants, by the Spanish governor general of the Netherlands, Archduke Ernst, and by the Holy Roman emperor himself, Rudolf II in Prague. His patrons recognised that he was no mere Hieronymus Bosch derivative but a highly innovative artist (candlelit interiors, snow scenes, landscapes) whose depictions of human folly mixed the comedic with the serious, but nevertheless contained the belief that wisdom and virtue were the means for redemption.

When Bruegel died, his two sons were trained in painting by their maternal grandmother, Mayken Verhulst, an accomplished miniaturist in her own right, and came of age at a time of Bruegel mania, when there just weren’t enough of their father’s pictures left to go round. There are only three Bruegel the Elders in the whole of Britain, and the National Gallery has lent its Adoration of the Kings (1564) to the show, the first time in a century it has left Trafalgar Square.

Pieter the Younger set out to milk the market and painted large quantities of copies of his father’s most popular works by using the original preparatory cartoons – scale drawings with holes pricked around the figures, which, when dusted with charcoal, would transfer the outlines to a panel beneath. The resulting pictures were very saleable Bruegels by Brueghel: he painted 45 versions of his father’s Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap, 25 of The Peasant Lawyer, and 31 of the 100 existing versions of the riotous Wedding Dance in the Open Air. There’s a lot of Pieter the Younger about.

For all his business acumen, Pieter the Younger was no original and his skill was weedy compared to the robustness of his father’s. It was the second son, Jan “Velvet” Brueghel, who was an artistic pioneer. Nature was his topic and although he, too, repurposed his father’s peasant scenes in his work, as in A Flemish Fair (1600), he shrank the goings-on to make them merely an incident within a diaphanous landscape, rather than the main subject.

Jan painted works of great refinement in oil on copper rather than wood, and also developed the genre of pictures of vases of flowers of kaleidoscopic colour that then became such a popular strand of 17th-century Dutch art. He also frequently worked with collaborators, usually figure painters such as Rubens (who was godfather to at least one of his children), realising that a joint Brueghel-Rubens painting was worth more than one by himself alone.

To add to the mix, one of Jan’s daughters, Anna, married the Golden Age genre painter David Teniers, while another, Paschasia, married into the van Kessel family – their offspring becoming popular for their miniature paintings of insects and plants.

What emerges from this tangled genealogy is that though talent ran in the family, it did so unevenly: Pieter the Younger was a pretty competent painter, Jan a good one, but Pieter the Elder had a genius his descen­dants never got close to matching.

Runs until 4 June. More details: holburne.org

Michael Prodger is an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman. He is an art historian, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, and a former literary editor.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times