First published in 1971 and newly reissued by MoMA, Living Well Is the Best Revenge by New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins is the now-classic account of the lives of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two fascinating American expatriates who lived an extraordinary life in France in the 1920s. Though they weren’t extravagantly rich or famous, the spirited and charming Murphys naturally drew people to them with their warmth and enthusiasm, and hosted parties of such great originality and festivity that over the years they assumed a legendary status. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a friend and guest at many of these gatherings, loosely based the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver in his novel Tender is the Night on the Murphys.
First in Paris and then in the coastal town of Antibes in the south of France, Gerald and Sara and their three young children opened their home to friends from near and far, among them some of the most memorable cultural luminaries of the era, including Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Ernest Hemingway, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Illustrated with over 70 photographs from the Murphy family album, Living Well Is the Best Revenge is full of intimate treasures: Picasso on the beach with his first wife Olga, Hemingway showing off the fish he caught, Léger and his wife Jeanne with the pet monkey the Murphys gave them when they left Europe, and more.
The book also features a special section on Gerald Murphy’s paintings, which are reproduced in full-color for the very first time. Though he practiced for only eight years and left relatively few canvases behind, his uniquely American modernist paintings hold their own in the collections of leading museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art. In fact, the painting featured on the cover of the book, Wasp and Pear, is included in the exhibition American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe, on view through January 26, 2014.