What lies beneath Samuel Beckett's half-buried woman in Happy Days?

It is one of Beckett's most famous – and most startling – images. But what inspired the half-buried woman in Happy Days? His friend and biographer James Knowlson tracks down the first Winnies

Samuel Beckett was a passionate lover of art and a friend of many painters and sculptors. He loved Dutch and Flemish painting in particular – and art almost certainly inspired some of his most memorable theatrical images. Even his earliest plays, such as Waiting for Godot or Endgame, recall the old masters: the character Lucky in Godot may well remind you of a Brueghel grotesque; Estragon and Vladimir's physical antics echo scenes in Adriaen Brouwer's paintings ("Dear, dear Brouwer", Beckett called him); Hamm in Endgame appears to share genes with some portraits by Rembrandt, staring out at the viewer – Jacob Trip in his armchair, perhaps.

As for Beckett's late miniature works – recently revived by the Royal Court with a tour
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