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Bevis Hillier rss

Fans, 1924, by Georges Barbier

A book on Art Deco that's a work of art in itself — but where's the Savoy, Claridge's and the Oxo Tower? 

30 November 2013
Art Deco Norbert Wolf

Prestel, pp.288, £60, ISBN: 9783791347646

Over the past 45 years, there have been two distinct and divergent approaches to Art Deco. One of them — which was mine when I wrote the first little book… Read more

‘An earnest swot with bat ears’: Roy Strong’s early self-portrait, aged 13, is reminiscent of David Hockney’s at a similar age

Self-portrait as a Young Man, by Roy Strong — review

30 March 2013
Self-portrait as a Young Man Roy Strong

Bodleian Library, pp.286, £25, ISBN: 9781851242825

Eventually, all of Sir Roy Strong’s voluminous personal archive is going — like Alan Bennett’s — to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Riffling through it, he realised there was something… Read more

‘Still Life with Fish’ by Picasso, 1922

The ‘ism’ that ruined the West

24 November 2012
Constellation of Genius: 1922, Modernism Year One Kevin Jackson

Hutchinson, pp.544, £20, ISBN: 9780091930974

In 1974, as editor of the Connoisseur magazine, I ran an ‘1874’ issue to mark the centenary of Winston Churchill’s birth, to which John Betjeman, Asa Briggs and Lady Spencer-Churchill… Read more

Clay- Michael Cardew

Clay pride

17 November 2012
The Last Sane Man - Michael Cardew, Colonalism and the Counterculture Tanya Harrod

Yale, pp.457, £30, ISBN: 9780300100167

What a superb potter Michael Cardew was. What a fascinating, complex man. And what a lovely book this is. Next to Bernard Leach, who as the seventh Kenzan (that is,… Read more

Quentin Massys’ famous painting  served as a model for Tenniel’s Duchess in Alice in Wonderland

… the bad, and the ugly

20 October 2012
Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything Stephen Bayley

Goodman Fiell, pp.272, £25, ISBN: 9781847960368

At Oxford in 1960, I had history tutorials from Alan Bennett. Just before he shot to stardom in the revue Beyond the Fringe, he was writing a thesis on the… Read more

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Architectural bonsai

24 March 2012
Family Dolls’ Houses of the 18th and 19th Centuries Liza Antrim

Cider House Books, pp.256, 60

In the summer of 1961 I was in my second year at Magdalen College, Oxford with rooms in the 18th-century New Buildings. One of my neighbours there was a quiet… Read more

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Wearing well

17 December 2011
Fab Gear: The Beatles and Fashion Paolo Hewitt

Prestel, pp.240, 29.99

Born in the same year as John Lennon (1940), I was a sucker for the Beatles from the start. They were the accompaniment of my youth, love’s obbligato. I liked… Read more

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Art Books: A sumptuous tour

19 November 2011

In 1930 Evelyn Waugh, already at 27 a famous novelist, spent two days in Barcelona. He came upon one of the art nouveau houses designed by Antonio Gaudí, who had… Read more

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Stranger than fiction

15 October 2011
One on One Craig Brown

Fourth Estate, pp.358, 16.99

Asked to review this book, which I was told was about encounters between unlikely pairs of people, I assumed it would be on the lines of Walter Savage Landor’s Imaginary… Read more

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1951 and all that

18 June 2011
Beacon for Change: How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age Barry Turner

Aurum, pp.282, 16.99

The author of this book and I both visited the 1951 Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank as schoolboys. The author of this book and I both visited the… Read more

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The Midas touch

23 April 2011
Bill Gold: Poster Works introduction by Christopher Frayling, edited by Tony Nourmand, foreword by Clint Eastwood

Reel Art Press, pp.447, 400

Now that we can read on Kindle and some people fear that paper-and-ink books will become extinct, one’s first impulse might be to say hurrah for this mighty production. Now… Read more

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Exotica, erotica, esoterica . . .

18 December 2010

The humorist Paul Jennings suggested that book reviewers could be divided into five vowel-coded groups: batchers, betjers (‘Betjer I could have written this better than him/her’), bitchers, botchers and butchers.… Read more

Oh Brother, where art thou?

25 September 2010
The Buildings of England: Hampshire (Winchester and the North) Michael Bullen, John Crook, Rodney Hubbock and Nikolaus Pevsner

Yale, pp.807, 35

Benjamin Franklin had this ambition for his body: that after his death it should be reissued ‘in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the author’. Benjamin… Read more

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Ready for take-off

19 May 2010
The Oxford Book of Parodies John Gross (editor)

OUP, pp.339, 16.99

In 1969 John Gross wrote a justly praised book, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters. The phrase seemed slightly archaic then, and is more so now. I… Read more

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Strawberry Hill forever

28 April 2010
Horace Walpole’s Description of the Villa at Strawberry Hill Nicolas Barker

The Roxburghe Club, pp.241, 395

When I became a cub reporter on the Times in 1963 (the front page was still covered with small-ads), an old sweat in the newsroom gave me two pieces of… Read more

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Fine artist, but a dirty old man

31 March 2010
Linley Sambourne: Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist Leonee Ormond

Paul Holberton, pp.312, 30

I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended… Read more

A choice of art books

2 December 2009

Had I not been sent this year’s art books to review, the one I would most have liked to receive as a present would be Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill edited… Read more

In the best possible taste

28 October 2009
70s Style and Design Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop

Thames & Hudson, pp.224, 24.95

In 1968, aged 28, I wrote the first English book on art deco of the 1920s and 30s. Some people who had lived through that entre deux guerres period —… Read more

Fiery genius

16 September 2009
John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art Frances Spalding

Oxford University Press, pp.598, 25

In July 1967, a young artist named John Nankivell, living in Wantage, plucked up the courage to knock on John Betjeman’s front door, in the same town, to show the… Read more

Fine feathers

15 July 2009
Faber and Faber: Eighty Years of Book Cover Design Joseph Connolly

Faber and Faber, pp.281, 25

This is a glorious book with one crippling flaw. Let’s put the ecstasy before the agony. Faber and Faber, founded in 1929, commissioned some of the best book jackets of… Read more

Shrine of a connoisseur

7 April 2009
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London Tim Knox

Merrell, pp.160, 24.95

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, by Tim Knox, photographs by Derry Moore Sir John Soane’s Museum is very nearly a folly — a mad grotto in the midst of Georgian… Read more

Highs and lows on the laughometer

26 November 2008
Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping the World’s Most Curious Presents Robin Laurance

Quercus, pp.256, 9.99

The Bank of England Bedside Book, Volume I: Adventures, Escapades and Memories Paul Tempest

Stacey International, 16.95

In Other Words John Mortimer

Viking, 14.99

Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping the World’s Most Curious Presents, by Robin Laurance What might seem an obviously Christmassy book is Robin Laurance’s Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping… Read more

A laughing cavalier

1 October 2008
Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster James Knox

Frances Lincoln, pp.224, 15

Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster, introduced and selected by James Knox It is a cliché of book-reviewing to write, of a humorous book, ‘I began reading it… Read more

A Scottish master of caricature

18 March 2008
John Kay: A Series of Original Portraits and Etchings Alan Bell

Birlinn, Edinburgh, pp.976, 200

If, in Victorian Britain, you did not fall in with the oppressive religiosity that prevailed, you were in danger of becoming a pariah, like Charles Bradlaugh in politics and T.… Read more

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Christmas funny books

28 November 2007

Reading reviews of new books of poetry, I am staggered at how seldom the critics quote from poems they are assessing. Describing what a poet is like, without quoting him,… Read more