Low life

The high and low life of John Craxton

Charm is a weasel word; it can evoke the superficial and insincere, and engender suspicion and mistrust. But charm in its most authentic sense was surely the defining quality of the painter John Craxton, and it flavours this lively and richly coloured account of his life. Ian Collins only met the elderly Craxton — by now sporting the moustaches, shepherd’s stick and general demeanour of a Cretan chieftain — in the last decade of his life (he lived to 88), and was immediately seduced by his joie de vivre and his fund of recondite knowledge, stories and jokes, and drawn into Craxton’s charmed circle. He became the artist’s Boswell, taping