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Nat Tate: An American Artist: 1928-1960

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  174 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
When William Boyd published his biography of New York modern artist Nat Tate, a huge reception of critics and artists arrived for the launch party, hosted by David Bowie, to toast the late artist's life. Little did they know that the painter Nat Tate, a depressive genius who burned almost all his output before his suicide, never existed. The book was a hoax, and the art wo ...more
Hardcover, 72 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published June 3rd 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Participating in a prank? Fun. Watching a prank unfold? Entertaining. Reading a work of prank memorabilia thirteen years after the prank unfolded? Meh.

Nat Tate is a fake biography or a real biography of a fake person, depending on how you want to look at it. William Boyd created Nat Tate, “a New York modern artist,” and gave him a slender, basic- facts biography to fool some art critics in the 1990s. It worked. Critics believed the “Tate burned most of his artistic output before his suicide” lin
Short little book about my new favorite American artist. His bridge series is outstanding...all of his work has a hint of whimsy about it, while at the same time being extremely serious. If only he hadn't died so young (sigh).

Thanks to William Boyd for finding him...
Susan Kavanagh
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
To my great delight, Bloomsbury decided to reissue the short biography of Nat Tate originally published in England in 1998. For fans of William Boyd, it has been difficult to find an affordable copy of this 66 page history of an unknown American artist who supposedly was active during the 1950s. Readers of William Boyd’s novels will know that he is very clever writer and nowhere is his cleverness better displayed than in this literary hoax. Boyd’s biography of Tate includes reproductions of his ...more
Russell Bittner
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I must confess I didn’t even know this book was a hoax when I pulled it down from the shelf at the local library. (I’d just finished two of Boyd’s works — Any Human Heart and Fascination — and I was looking for something else, short enough to read and digest in an afternoon.)

Nat Tate is essentially exposition. It’s a simple monograph about a relatively simple guy: an American artist who happened to kill himself at the unhurried age of 32. Problem is, he never existed—no, not even long enou
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Giselle by: goodreads
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book through goodreads first-reads.

The idea behind "Nat Tate" is an excellent one-- the life of an obscure (and fictional) American artist set against the backdrop of the triumph that was American (and specifically, New York) painting after World War II. The problem, however, is that this particular treatment of a Zelig-like character, as published, reveals only a kind of abstraction, and little that suggests a living, breathing individual. Tate's obscurity notwithstanding, the testi
Holly Cline
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this through first reads and was intrigued by the whole situation surrounding the book. I confess that I was not expecting it to be such a short read (It took me less than a round trip subway ride to tribeca & back to read the whole thing in one day), but the brevity works for it. No more is necessary to get the idea across, and in retrospect, the more detail and elaboration that would have been added, the more suspicious people might have been.

I find it pretty cool that this story was
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through the goodreads first reads program.

I find this book difficult to explain. Going into the book I knew about its background as a literary hoax. I knew that every page of my reading would be fictional.

However, in reading the book I became attatched to the quirky, introverted character of Nat Tate. He was a man with a sort of tendency to be reclusive and though he had friends, none seemed to know him well. A journalist who observed him- Montstuart- appears to kn
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This quick read was a lot of fun. It is a completely made up story about the short tragic life of a gifted abstract expressionist painter who lived in the thriving New York art world of the 50's. Boyd published the short book, complete with photos and illustrations, as a biography. The publication was celebrated with a lavish party given in New York by David Bowie, who was in on the joke. More than a few of the party goers claimed to remember Nat Tate (from NATional Gallery and TATE Museum) and ...more
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Nat Tate was an interesting read, and a very quick one at only 65 pages! Although I'm not a very artsy person, I always enjoy reading about people, and this book was no exception. I was amazed at how completely William Boyd was able to weave a story around his fictional character, with a thoroughness that seemed to be too honest to be made up. I had to laugh that an author would play such a prank on people, and even more so that people could be so easily fooled. But I think the thing that impres ...more
Glenda Alexander
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
William Boyd must have had a delightful time writing Nat Tate; it’s a very creative book.

I believe if William Boyd wrote the book to prove a point he most certainly was able to do so, if only to he and Susan (whom the book is dedicated to).

Nat Tate, an American Artist is exactly what it was meant to be, a fictional character. It’s about an artist brief life which was summed up in less than 68 pages which has an equal amount of writing and photos.

I really enjoyed the way he introduces the Nat Tat
Gal Shadeck
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: william-boyd
Up until now this has been my only blank in William Boyd's bibliography - I hadn't read it back in the paper days because it was so hellishly difficult to find, and I haven't read it since, simply because I never got around to it (and frankly have forgotten that I carried this debt).
Now I've finally read it (took me about half an hour). It's a nice enough story, but it's very short and kinda pointless. Looks like a sketch for Any Human Heart (and indeed its protagonist Logan Mountstuart is one o
Jun 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting attempt at some sort of artistic in-joke, or perhaps an unusually overindulgent project by author William Boyd and original publisher David Bowie, at crafting a rare and highly sought after (though entirely fictional) visual artist. Tate's name is supposedly--or hypothetically--a reference to England's NATional TATE gallery; although what, if any, connection there is would be beyond me. The book is an interesting curiosity--it is entirely too subject to its' pretense of being a no ...more
Robert Boyd
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, literature
This is a book about a fictional artist who was a minor character in William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart. Boyd constructs a biography of Tate, an eccentric but largely forgotten artist within the outer orbits of the abstract expressionists. (In some ways, he is like a rich Forrest Bess.) It's a clever piece of mimicry but fairly slight, capable of sustaining a short essay, which is what this heavily illustrated 68-page book is. Ultimately, it's a bit unsatisfying. Boyd is a better novelist than ...more
Nick Sweeney
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Boyd's late 1990s art hoax tale of a non-existent American painter is so short, and so full of photos, it can be read in half an hour, so really it's more like a glossy leaflet. Very competently done, and his sketches of characters from the New York art world of the 40s and 50s are very convincing. It's a good piece of writing, and is funny, informative on the type of person Nat Tate may have been, but also rather pointless! People like David Bowie and Gore Vidal were in on the hoax, which was a ...more
Angela Gaskell
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Angela by: First Reads Giveaways
Shelves: crafts, first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lois Miller
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting and quick fictional read into the NYC artworld of the 1940s - a tale of self-loathing, creative genius and the pressure to perform. The sentence that stood out to me is in the final paragraph of the book, "The example of a truly great artist at the summit of his powers will - and perhaps should - have a daunting effect on a lesser talent, particularly one still finding its way." Coming from Boyd, the reader is forced to ask if the author is referring to himself as a great artist who ...more
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-books
I won this a couple of weeks ago here at Goodreads. It was an interesting topic and made me read thru it at one sitting to know the reasons behind which draw Nat to end his life. My only concern is the transition of one topic to another. I didn't see the smooth flow - like the introduction to Janet Felzer, it was like it appeared in the middle - Maybe its just me.. :D... The illustrations or pictures were sometimes not in the same page as were it was mentioned - that made me flip back to check w ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
What an interesting concept - to write a man's life as fiction is one thing, but to write a man's life as fact when it is not is quite another story. Boyd makes Nat Tate seem not only possible but probable with so many facts, names, details, and "sources." If I had not read the back cover before reading the book, I would have thought Nat had actually existed. I enjoyed Boyd's use of water and drowning to give a theme to Nat's life.

I received an ARC of this book through the goodreads giveaways.
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
A short book, I initially saw this when I was browsing the goodreads giveaways and thought to myself, this sounds interesting. So, I was excited when I saw that I would get a copy of it. I have to admit, when I saw the name David Bowie mentioned in the description my interest increased. I found the book a bit peculiar. It was a very quick read that reminded me of something like a report one would write for a class. I think the more entertaining aspect of Nat Tate is that he was a hoax. I think m ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: makes-me-think
Oh William Boyd, you are tricky. I picked this book up at the library yesterday and whizzed through it. A slim book, it is beautiful, thoughtful, and sad. It's also a nice weight and size in the hand. I read Any Human Heart a few years ago, thinking it was entirely a work of fiction. Then, yesterday, I got entirely jumbled, reading quotations from Logan's journals in this book. Wasn't it fiction? Logan was real? To the interwebs and the truth! It's all invented and clever, a fine weaving of stor ...more
Harriet Leeck
I lurve William Boyd, and though this book hadn t been as funny as some earlier ones ...
(I know I ve said that b4)it was quite a good piss take, what with the cultural references to different artists of the times described therein....
you sort of needed to google a bit ( or rummage around in yr mental filing cabinet) to identify which of the artists actually existed !
Better than cross words , but then I never was a fan of them-
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
William Boyd's hoax biography of a non-existent American artist of the New York school of the 1950s is very cleverly done, with walk on parts from a variety of abstract expressionists, the poet Frank O'Hara and Logan Mountstuart, the hero of Boyd's wonderful novel Any Human Heart. How many people Boyd fooled when the book was first published in 1998 is open to debate, but it can be enjoyed now for its wicked knowingness and delight in artifice.
Feb 22, 2011 rated it liked it
It was nice to read some more about Logan Mountstuart - since Any Human Heart was a book I loved so much I felt a palpable sense of loss when I finished it - but as good as it is, as other reviewers have noted this is a very slim volume and I probably would have thought twice about spending £10 on it if I'd paid attention and noticed it was only 66 pages.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I can't remember how I stumbled upon this but it was a fun quick read. It reads like an magazine essay on a long forgotten artist yet one who was immersed in the art world. The research done was thorough which is what truly made this book wonderful. The fact that it's actually fiction would not have been as interesting if it weren't for the writing style paired with the historical accuracy.
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it
For a story that was a complete hoax, this little book was well thought out and very clever. The author has a very vivid imagination and can tell a very convincing tale. There were parts of the book that I skimmed over because I did not find them very interesting. All in all a decent fairy tale.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

I guess I just don't get it. The books is dry, dull, boring. I just couldn't convince myself to care at all about anyone in the book. If the copy I have had not been only 66 pages long, I'd feel like reading it was a waste of my time.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was a great book in my opinion. I loved it. It is a very convincing biography. I would think that he is a real person if I didn't know better. The book itself is an easy read, but a really good one. Very well written. Boyd has done it again. Loved it.
Bill Larsen
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Pure genius. A wonderfully enjoyable one-hour read.

It's simply the biography of a significant young artist.

A must read - especially if you appreciate the NY art world.


(Spoiler.... After reading, I suggest you go on-line and read more about this biography. Amazing.)
Stephen Barker
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-ya-fiction
Four stars to Boyd, Bowie & co for the effort in taking the more superficial elements of the modern art establishment for a ride.
The William Boyd / David Bowie art hoax book.
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Note: William^^Boyd

Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in
More about William Boyd...

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