The Painting and the City

In the twelve years since its limited-edition publication in the UK, Robert Freeman Wexler’s novel has become a sought-after cult classic. Now a wider audience can experience its  potent blend of contemporary urban realism and surreal fantasy. This paperback edition from The Visible Spectrum will be out in July 2021

At a mundane Manhattan party in the first summer of the twenty-first century, sculptor Jacob Lerner is transfixed by an old painting. Who was the woman portrayed, the innocent woman and her dark stalker?

Striving to produce art that meets his high standards, without surrender to the demands of the marketplace, Lerner is also driven to learn about the haunting portrait and its creator, Philip Schuyler. His discovery of Schuyler’s journal reveals the sinister forces that coerced the artist as he fulfilled his commission in 1840s New York, and sharpens Lerner’s own conflict with those forces that still control the modern city.

Propelled in his quest by animate marionette of rosy glass, Lerner finds himself slipping back and forth in time between the present-day city and Schuyler’s Manhattan, before the island’s pastures and streams were buried under concrete. His obsession comes to dominate his own art: he produces a pair of works, one that recovers the promise of the preindustrial island; the other a visualization of the modern metropolis, corrupted by greed and entrenched interests, and its possible destruction.

With his vision of a city in ruins, open to regeneration through nature and art, Lerner arrives at a cataclysmic conclusion.

Jacket from the 2009 PS edition.

Also available in French from Zanzibar Editions, and on audio from iambik audiobooks.