In Rochester, New York, a seventy-five-year-old artist, Austin Fraser, is creating a new series of paintings recalling the details of his life and of the lives of those individuals who have affected him—his peculiar mother, a young Canadian soldier and china painter, a First World War nurse, the well-known American painter Rockwell Kent, and Sara, a waitress from the wilderness mining settlement of Silver Islet, Ontario, who became Austin's model and mistress. Spanning more than seven decades, from the turn of the century to the mid-seventies, The Underpainter—in range, in the sheer power of its prose, and in its brilliant depiction of landscape and the geography of imagination—is Jane Urquhart's most accomplished novel to date, with one of the most powerful climaxes in contemporary fiction.