Alasdair Gray blogs about his childhood memories of the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, which has recently been renovated:
When taking my private unofficial stroll through the upper galleries one morning I found three were hung with all Edvard Munch's greatest paintings and prints. It was a maturing experience. Before then I had been mainly excited by views of the fantastic, erotic heavens and hells in books of pictures by Blake, Aubrey Beardsley and Bosch. I wanted to make my life exciting by painting catastrophic biblical events in modern Glasgow settings - the deluge, for instance, flooding Kelvingrove Park up to the level of Park Circus. Munch painted hell in the rooms and streets of Oslo, a city not unlike Glasgow, and he was a realist! His white suburban villa with scarlet Virginia creeper, shown at night by street lighting, was creepy and sinister but not fantastic. Munch, like adolescent me, was obsessed with loneliness, sex and death - his people look lonely, all his women are victims or vampires. He showed me great art can be made out of common people and things viewed through personal emotion.
(I love the part about catastrophic Biblical events in modern Glasgow settings! I first read Alasdair Gray when I was fifteen or so, his Lanark was one of many recommendations--of mixed quality, I must admit; this was certainly one of the best ones--I culled from Anthony Burgess's demented 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939. I like Norman Mailer, and of course literary judgments are subjective, but Ancient Evenings can pretty certainly be said not to be one of the best novels published in English between 1939 and 1984 or whatever.)
The only other book of Gray's I've read is Poor Things; his fiction leaves you with indelible memories of it, I must reread those two and check out his others, but in the end there is something too trippy/grotesque about his imagination for me to throw myself into his books the way I want to.
Actually, it's funny, that list he gives--Blake, Bosch--is very telling, he clearly knew himself early as an artist. I was just thinking the other day--what prompted that?--that I must have some serious Blake re-reading when I can fit it in. I don't think it suits my personality, I am more Enlightenment/matter-of-fact, but I would like to write a grand epic English fantasy novel of a Blakean kind--oh, wait, Philip Pullman did that already....
(Thanks to Bookslut for the Gray link.)