My Town: An Artist’s Life in London
David Gentleman, Particular Books, RRP£25
In lockdown this was the book that most lifted my spirits. A wonderfully optimistic autobiography, told through Gentleman’s laconic, compelling, condensed illustrations, powerfully linear yet sensuously flowing, it evokes life lived and painted against changing London — from 1950s Clapham terraces and pre-Shard skylines to snow-clad Primrose Hill and ethnic diversity on Camden High Street 2018.
Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution
Edited by Maximiliaan Martens, Till-Holger Borchert, Jan Dumolyn, Thames & Hudson, RRP£60
This fat, scholarly, beautifully produced catalogue, with outstanding image reproduction, will for many be a substitute for seeing Ghent’s groundbreaking Van Eyck show, sadly closed midway through its run in March. Emerging from a medieval world view, Van Eyck’s fresh, exhilarated naturalism determined the course of western art.
Cézanne: The Rock and Quarry Paintings
Edited by John Elderfield, Yale, RRP£35/$45
The Royal Academy’s summer Cézanne exhibition has been cancelled, but its catalogue survives and is a triumph: visually stunning, and offering exceptional insight into the picturing mind, though its focus on the artist’s concern with geology and preoccupation with mass and volume — the structural foundation of the great landscape paintings.
Lartigue: The Boy and the Belle Époque
Louise Baring, Thames & Hudson, RRP£28
If any photographer created a life-long vision and style from his privileged childhood it was Lartigue. In the bath with his hydro-glider model, on the beach at Biarritz, at the races in Auteuil: this Proustian volume distils an era through a charmed, yearning but sharp and original eye.
Unquiet Landscape: Places and Ideas in 20th century British Painting
Christopher Neve, Thames & Hudson, RRP£10.99
Fierce, witty, wise, elegiac, supremely indifferent to fashion and confident in the long view, this is among the best books written about landscape. Developed from a lifetime’s conversations with the painters who are its subject, it reappears here with a new introduction showing Neve as spirited and fluent as ever.
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