Book Review: One-Man Show – The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin by Michael Schreiber.

When I was offered to chance to review Michael Schreiber’s book, One-Man Show – The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, I couldn’t say no! I find art, in any form, fascinating, but what made this all the more intriguing was to see life and art entwined.
I couldn’t wait to find out more about Bernard; his life experiences, influences, opinions… I was also very compelled to read more about somebody who hasn’t been at the forefront of my learning that really should have been!


From the off I felt drawn to both Perlin and Schreiber as I read their exchanges; there’s such a sense of friendship between the two and this creates a warm feeling as they both discuss Bernard’s life. I really love the mixture of text and images, dipping in and out of Bernard’s life with words and pictures is extremely effective.
I’m also drawn in by Bernard’s frank words, honesty and use of bad language. He appealed all the more to me as I read on, but my favourite quote has to be:

‘Then the little boy sat down and drew – and so he was no longer a little boy.’

I feel this holds so much, this one sentence, the key to Bernard Perlin and his life. It’s really interesting to see how someone changes, how life changes them, and to have photographs of these developments, family members and much more, it gives a complete picture of this fantastic man.
Growing up I watched my Mother coo over any paintings or sketches of the female form, from ballet dancers to Pre-Raphaelites, I was shown beautiful pieces of art and because of this, the human body has become my fascination. So Bernard’s work entices me in, invites me into all the unusual and strange wonders beneath the clothes of many, but not always comfortably…

I love the sketch of Vincent Price (now on display at the National Portrait Gallery), and the story to go with it, just a snippet of Bernard’s history and his first commission as an artist.
The propaganda art for World War II is extremely striking compared to the delicate pencil sketches, but nonetheless striking. Perlin wasn’t allowed to join the troops, because being gay in 1939 meant you weren’t fit for service, and many men (including Perlin) were classed ‘mentally unfit’ because of it.
These fascinating facts certainly make Perlin a wholesome person, as well as all his sexual endeavours and artistry.

His still life work is outstanding, and his fascination of the male form is very clear. One of my favourites is Joe Santoro and The Son, both able to reach into my soul and speak to me with every pencil stroke.
I really felt absorbed by Perlin’s story, and his work, something we don’t often do when it comes to artists.

I think combining their story and their work is much more powerful and satisfying, and as for the comedy elements, such as Perlin suggesting the memoir should be called ‘I Pee in the Sink!’ and other quirky snippets of conversation between him and Schreiber, they add the moments of light relief and a realness to the man behind the art.
I love Perlin’s guts.

Throughout the whole book he doesn’t hold back, and I truly respect that. I think this book is less about ‘normalising’ anyone who’s not heterosexual, but celebrating anyone and everyone with a story to tell, regardless of who they are.
I feel a whole sense of love as I hold this book in my hands, the passion for people, stories and laughter, the love for art and the forms people create, it’s brimming over with heart and humour, grit and beauty.

Michael Schreiber has created something unique and intimate, and it is in fact, quite wonderful…

 Disclosure: I received this book for review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.

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