“No symbols where none intended”

Doodles from the “Watt” notebooks by Samuel Beckett
Doodles from the “Watt” notebooks by Samuel Beckett

Although popularly thought of as a rather dour and ascetic writer, there is a wonderfully playful aspect to Samuel Beckett’s creative output: the pictorial array of raggle-taggle characters and baroque broidery that scampers through his notebooks and manuscripts. Continuously—from decorating 1930s exercise books to embellishing the scraps of paper bearing his 1970s Mirlitonnades—doodling provided an amiable outlet when, yet again, he found himself up against the obduracy of words.

Beckett’s interest in the visual arts is well known. During his exhaustive travels around Germany in the 1930s he kept notes detailing his responses to the Old Master and more modern paintings that he had seen. More communally, throughout his life he formed close friendships with a number of artists including Jack B. Yeats, Bram Van Velde, Henri Hayden, and Avigdor Arikha. However, his appreciation of Fine Art seems to have had no discernibly direct effect on his own spontaneous drawings, which repeatedly appear to have earthier, and more mixed, antecedents.”

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