PositiveThe Times (UK)Every short chapter, mixing a little bit of biography with an examination of an artwork, offers a tidy lesson in not just getting more from art, but more from life itself ... This is a book aimed unapologetically at the casual gallerygoer, and Gompertz wastes little time on elaborating context or investigating nuance ... This breezy approach is reflected in Gompertz’s writing. He is determined to be matey rather than professorial in his approach. As a result, he rarely sidesteps a cliché and frequently comes up with formulations that judder rather than simply jar ... Disarmingly, however, Gompertz will then write a lucid and revealing passage ... It is in such segments that the book’s theme truly emerges and the idea of artists’ exceptionalism moves beyond lip service and is given heft.
PositiveThe New Statesman (UK)... full in equal parts of vividness and pathos ... It is this disjunction, unsparingly related, between worldly success and \'an inner world of terror\' that gives this memoir its potency.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)[A] fascinating and wide-ranging cultural history, at the center of which is the fate of one of the Renaissance’s greatest paintings.
PositiveThe Sunday Times (UK)... a very Sebaldian new book ... At the end of this enlightening book Hoare holds a lock of Dürer’s hair in his hand, preserved as a relic. It is another item for his own mental Wunderkammer; a small thing, but as wondrous in its way as a whale, a rhinoceros or one of the artist’s miraculous pictures.
Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
PositiveThe Times (UK)The American art critics Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan have compiled a weighty, thorough and compelling biography of the artist that records nine decades of intense moments. Bacon, especially as the wild man of Soho, has been thoroughly mythologised, but this authorised life brings the carousing, the paintings and the public and private lives together to form a convincing and often touching whole. The book’s daunting size is not authorial indulgence — though they write with documentary diligence — but a reflection of how rich Bacon’s life was ... The drinking, cattiness and profligacy all added spice to the public persona. Underneath it, though, as the authors show in their measured and non-judgmental way, lay poignancy and neediness too.
PositiveThe Times (UK)The sheer volume of material garnered and the liveliness of Freud’s speech and orbit mean that the whole project is less like traditional biography than extended reportage mixed with diary entries. This is an account of a life rather than a critical examination of one, and the art history is minimal; the paintings were Freud’s purpose so for Feaver their role is as props that framed his life rather than as objects for critical scrutiny in themselves ... Freud emerges, dab by dab, fully three-dimensional from Feaver’s vibrant recitation of dealers and models ... David Hockney, another sitter, described Freud’s portraits as being essentially \'an account of looking\', and that’s just what Feaver’s book is too.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)... an impressive and scrupulous work of scholarship that eschews a reading of the works in favour of a meticulous account of Goya’s career and personal and professional circles, gleaned from letters, official documents and parish records.
Onno Blom, tr. Beverly Jackson
RaveThe Times (UK)Onno Blom’s biography of the young Rembrandt plays this game of artistic nature versus nurture to fascinating effect. It is a book that sets itself a conundrum: \'How did Rembrandt become Rembrandt?\' ... Blom necessarily has much more to say about the painter’s nurture than his nature ... Blom’s method is persuasive: he follows the painter around Leiden’s streets and over its bridges (145 of them, he says) to recreate the world that shaped him. As a result, the book is a biography of the city too ... Rembrandt would develop into the great Everyman of art. If, as Blom so elegantly shows, Leiden set him up for great things it was in Amsterdam that he was to realise them.
MixedThe New Statesman (UK)Blake Gopnik, who, in his dauntingly detailed Warhol: A Life as Art, makes a series of extraordinary claims. Warhol, he says, has not only \'overtaken Picasso as the most important and influential artist of the 20th century\', but now occupies \'the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt\' Such hyperbole is risible but is born from a sense of Warhol’s sheer heft as a cultural figure ... However, we now view him with the benefit of more than 30 years of hindsight and, as Tate Modern’s new retrospective brings home, it is hard to recapture the original thrill and purpose of Andy Warhol. He has become a historical figure, the compère of glamorous modernity at its brief apogee. His place and time have shrunk to a seedy-glitzy instant in New York history ... So it leaves Warhol a figure of fascination ... As an artist, though, now that his historical moment has passed, he stands a long, long way short of the peak of Gopnik’s Parnassus.
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)...the best 9/11 novel to date ... From this coup de théâtre Waldman skilfully spins out an ever-widening cast ... As the consequences of the memorial decision accelerate towards tragedy the participants have to square the cost of multicultural compromises against the ideal of the US’s self-appointed role as the city upon a hill. It is a struggle Waldman depicts with both intelligence and wit, in accomplished prose. This is a deeply thoughtful and moving account of the myriad ways in which, when the towers came down, the US psyche became a casualty too.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)...[a] sparkling first volume ... Feaver knew Freud for many years before his death...and although the painter was averse to the idea of a biography, he nevertheless gave him his approval. Their conversations ranged widely and Feaver wrote them up immediately afterwards, resulting in an extraordinary tranche of anecdote and aperçu ... It is through innumerable...vivid details that Feaver’s wonderful biography comes close to Freud’s own definition of his art: \'A picture should be a recreation of an event rather than an illustration of an object.\'
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Hendrickson’s proclivities are for the baroque. This is the most mannered book you are likely to read: self-referential, full of what-a-clever-boy-am-I writing, spattered with show-off phrase-making, and achingly self-aware ... He has a weakness for cod psychology, conjuring a gay liaison between Wright a fellow architect, Cecil Corwin, on the strength of a few purple phases in Wright’s letters; he makes an extended and daft link between Carlton’s atrocity and the Tulsa race riot of 1921; and his main addition to Wright scholarship is discovering that the architect’s father left his mother, suing her for unreasonable behaviour and violence, rather than the other way round, as Wright had always insisted ... Hendrickson’s curlicues are, however, really an act of homage. He sees each event in Wright’s life as momentous, even though every existence, however exalted, has its longueurs and banalities. What his overheated treatment does press home is just how remarkable the architect was.
PositiveThe Times (UK)In her previous book Sue Roe chronicled the heyday of Montmartre and now she has done the same for Montparnasse, describing in detail and with plenty of colour how surrealism....was born and developed there ... The figures behind dada and surrealism tended to be strong characters, if not appealing ones, and there was nothing straightforward about their art or motivations. Roe, though, marshals them with great finesse and shows how febrile was the milieu in which they lived. Montparnasse itself often gets lost in the story, but given that surrealism has long been part of the artistic mainstream, it is worth remembering how revolutionary the idea of expressing something more real than reality itself first seemed, and the intensity and messiness that surrounded its invention.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"In their biography of the collector, the art historian Natalya Semenova and Shchukin’s grandson André Delocque show that overcoming difficulties was nothing new to [Shchukin] ... Although the authors’ account sometimes verges on the gushing, they nevertheless transmit the daring of the man and his determination to face down naysayers.\
RaveThe Sunday TimesAs Martin Gayford shows in his superb survey of British painting from 1945 to 1970, London—almost exclusively—became the gathering place for young men and women determined to make art appropriate for the new age ... Gayford has interviewed many of the leading British artists of the postwar generation and, for good measure, has been painted by Freud and written books with David Hockney. These encounters have given him a great deal of verbatim comment from figures who were at the front line; he has mined it with adroitness to illustrate the shifts and movements of the period ... in this wonderfully accomplished book, full of anecdotes and aperçus, there is hardly an anodyne figure. If, time and again, Gayford reinforces Roger Hilton’s observation that \'very few artists know what they are doing,\' his mavericks made unique and gripping art as they tried to find out.
PanThe Financial TimesThese feisty heroines recount not just their own vivid histories but witness the encircling of the rock by the Romans and the inexorable raising of a siege mound that signals their coming destruction. They are also the means through which Hoffman treats her real themes: love, faith, friendship, the power of silence, the unchanging concerns of women. These are proper, ambitious subjects and she approaches them uncompromisingly and with an admirable fixity of purpose. However, she also does so in a style that is meant to summon up both the cadences and the mindset of 2,000 years ago. She adopts a locution (all four of the protagonists sound the same) designed to underscore the profundity of her content but which turns everything portentous.