New Book – Venice: City of Pictures!
Venice is one of the most cherished cities in the world, with a beauty and character unlike anywhere else. For centuries it was the heart of a global maritime power, and at its heyday its wealth and culture attracted artists from across Europe and the Mediterranean. Today, art lovers from all over the world are drawn to Venice by the countless paintings, drawings and films that have been created in its honour by many generations of artists, each enthralled in their turn by this magical city.
In this book, I explore the history of the city known as ‘La Serenissima’, the ‘Most Serene’. Venice was a major centre of art in the Renaissance: the city where the medium of oil on canvas became the norm. The achievements of the great artists of the Renaissance – the Bellini brothers, Vittore Carpaccio, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese – are a key part of this story.
But it does not end with them – no other great city has been depicted by so many great painters in so many diverse styles and moods. Venetian views were a specialty of native artists such as Canaletto and Francesco Guardi, but the city has also been well-represented by outsiders: J.M.W. Turner, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Howard Hodgkin and many more. My book also covers those who came to the city to look at and write about art, and the reactions of Henry James, George Eliot, Richard Wagner and others to their encounters with the incomparable experience of Venice.
Nor is the story over. Since the advent of the Venice Biennale in the 1890s, the city has become a shop window for the contemporary art of the whole world. It is through images – both of the city and the art created there – that Venice’s identity was first been forged, and to this day its fame rests on art, both old and new.
Available from 5th October 2023
Co-authored with Lucian Freud’s former assistant David Dawson, this is the first published collection of Freud’s correspondence, many brought to light for the first time. Reproduced in facsimile alongside reproductions of Freud’s artwork, the letters are linked by a narrative that weaves them into the story of his life and relationships through his formative first three decades. Collectively, they provide a powerful insight into his early life and art.
The young Lucian Freud was described by his friend Stephen Spender as ‘totally alive, like something not entirely human, a leprechaun, a changeling child, or, if there is a male opposite, a witch.’ All that is displayed in the letters assembled here. Ranging from schoolboy messages to his parents, through letters and carefully-chosen, often embellished postcards to friends, lovers and confidants, to correspondence with patrons and associates. Alongside rarely seen photographs and Freud’s extraordinary works, each chapter charts Freud’s evolution as an artist, alongside intimate glimpses of his life.
The book traces Freud’s early friendships with Stephen Spender and John Craxton, his wild days at art school in East Anglia, and a stint as a merchant seaman during the Second World War, before he became established as a professional artist.
Among the highlights are Freud’s accounts of his first trip to Paris in 1946 and encounters with Picasso, Alexander Calder and Giacometti (who, he thought, looked like Harpo Marx). Equally revealing are letters to and from his first love, Lorna Wishart and second wife, Caroline Blackwood. Among his other friends
and confidantes were Sonia Orwell and Ann Fleming, and the book includes remarkable, hitherto-unknown letters to both. The volume ends in early 1954 with his inclusion at the age of 31, as
one of the artists representing Britain at the Venice Biennale – the high point of his early career.
Spring Cannot be Cancelled
For David the enforced seclusion of lockdown has presented an opportunity for even greater focus upon his work, and so we reflect on this extraordinary period of confinement and its consequences; the new creative directions that he has found in country life; the themes that have fascinated him for decades: light, colour, space, perception, water, trees; and much more.
Shaping the World
Co-authored with the leading sculptor Antony Gormley, informed and energised by a lifetime of making, this book explores the central role of sculpture in the development of human culture from prehistory to the present day.
Antony Gormley and I first began talking about sculpture at the end of the earth. Literally so, it was at Santiago de Compostela, near Cape Finisterre, where he had an exhibition in 2002. It was a suitable place for our conversations to start: a granite-built city with a superbly carved Romanesque cathedral. We’ve reconvened at intervals over eighteen years, and intensively for the last two, and those conversations form the basis for this book.
Sculpture is the universal art. It has been practised by every culture throughout the world and stretches back into the distant past. The first surviving shaped stones may even predate the advent of language. The drive to form stone, clay, wood and metal into shapes evidently runs deep in our psyche and biology. This links the question ‘What is sculpture?’ to the question ‘What is humanity?’
In this wide-ranging book, we consider how sculpture has been central to the evolution of our potential for thinking and feeling. Sculpture cannot be seen in isolation as an aesthetic pursuit; it is related to humankind’s compelling urge to make its mark on the landscape, to build, make pictures, practise religion and develop philosophical thought. Above all, we discuss their view of sculpture as a form of physical thinking capable of altering the way people feel and of inviting them to look at sculpture they encounter and more broadly the world around them in a completely different way.
Antony Gormley: ‘The origins of making physical objects goes back before the advent of Homo sapiens, earlier even than the appearance of our Neanderthal cousins. Sculpture emerges from material culture. At the beginning there was an urge to make objects and you could argue that making them was the catalyst for the emergence of the modern mind.’
The Pursuit of Art
In the course of a career thinking and writing about art, I have travelled all over the world both to see works of art and to meet artists. My journeys, often to fairly inaccessible places, involve frustrations and complications as well as serendipitous encounters, conversations and outcomes.
In The Pursuit of Art, I recount journeys to see (amongst others) Brancusi’s Endless Column in Romania, prehistoric cave art in France, the museum island of Naoshima in Japan, the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and Anselm Kiefer’s extraordinary ‘underworld’ at Barjac, France. Interwoven with these tales are other journeys, to meet artists – Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, Marina Abramović ́in Venice and Robert Rauschenberg in New York, for example – or to travel with them, such as being with Gilbert & George in Beijing, seeing Roni Horn and her work in
Iceland. These encounters not only provide insights into the way artists approach and think about their art, but also reveal the importance of their personal environments. And in the process, I discuss how these meetings impact on his own evolving ideas and tastes.
Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters
In Modernists and Mavericks, I examine the way in which the postwar painters of London thrived against the postwar backdrop of Soho bohemia in the 1940s and 1950s and ‘Swinging London’ in the 1960s, and explored the possibilities of paint.
The development of painting in London from the Second World War to the 1970s is the story of interlinking friendships, shared experiences, rivalries, and artistic concerns among a number of acclaimed artists, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Victor Pasmore, Bridget Riley, Gillian Ayres, Patrick Heron, Richard Hamilton, Prunella Clough, Frank Bowling and Howard Hodgkin. Drawing on extensive first-hand interviews over 30 years with important witnesses and participants, many previously unpublished, I tease out the thread connecting these individual lives.
A History of Pictures: from Cave to Computer Screen
Watch a film of Martin Gayford discussing the book with David Hockney here.
Rendez-vous with Art
Co-authored with Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 31 years to 2008, this book discusses how we experience art, how we look at it, and how we think about it. It is structured around the conversation the authors had while visiting some of the best-known museums in the world, including the Louvre, the Prado and the Palazzo Pitti. The result is highly unusual and very personal: a book about the experience of visiting a museum or art gallery.
Michelangelo: His Epic Life
At 31 Michelangelo Buonarroti was considered the finest artist in Italy, perhaps the world; long before he died at almost 90 he was widely believed to be the greatest sculptor or painter who had ever lived (and, by his enemies, to be an arrogant, uncouth, swindling miser). For decade after decade, he worked near the dynamic centre of events: the vortex at which European history was changing from Renaissance to Counter Reformation. In Michelangelo I describe what it felt like to be Michelangelo, and how he transformed forever our notion of what an artist could be.
A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney
David Hockney is described as the world’s most popular living painter. Here, in a record of nearly a decade of conversations, he emerges as something else: an incisive and original thinker on art. From California to Yorkshire and through anecodote, discussion and reflection, both artist and critic reveal how, in Hockney’s words, drawing makes one ‘see clearer, and clearer, and clearer still’.
Man with a Blue Scarf
Lucian Freud, perhaps the worlds leading portrait painter, spent seven months painting my portrait. In this book I describes the process chronologically, from the day I arrived for the first sitting through to my eventual meeting with the couple who bought the finished painting.
The Yellow House
Two artistic giants. One small house. From October to December 1888 a pair of largely unknown artists lived under one roof in the French provincial town of Arles. Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh ate, drank, talked, argued, slept and painted in one of the most intense and astonishing creative outpourings in history.
Constable in Love
Love not landscape was the making of Constable . . . John Constable and Maria Bicknell might have been in love but their marriage was a most unlikely prospect. Constable was a penniless painter who would not sacrifice his art for anything, while Maria’s family frowned on such a penurious union.