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Wallpaper, rebellion & ‘A Bigger Splash’: Books on British artists to add to your reading list

Posted on 18 Sep 2020

From 20th-century landscape painting to the latest installations, take a trip through British art history with these books on iconic British artists including David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Grayson Perry, Aubrey Beardsley, William Morris and more.

David Hockney "No. 556", 19th October 2020 iPad painting © David Hockney

Spring Cannot be Cancelled

David Hockney and Martin Gayford’s book Spring Cannot be Cancelled is a testament to the transformative power of nature. Based on a wealth of new conversations between the two friends, the book is an uplifting manifesto in which they reflect on art’s capacity to divert and inspire.

John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace

A moving narrative encompassing love and tragedy, John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace is a long-overdue biography and rediscovery of painter John Nash, Paul Nash’s brother and a major 20th-century British artist in his own right.

This extract from the book details the enduring and unconventional love shared by John Nash and Christine Kühlenthal. The fifty-eight-year relationship, which permitted ‘outside loves’, withstood time, distance and the horrors of war.

Ravilious & Co

Ravilious & Co is the first biography of the circle of British inter-war artists and designers centred on Eric Ravilious, including Edward Bawden, Barnett Freedman, Enid Marx, Tirzah Garwood, Percy Horton, Peggy Angus and Helen Binyon. Generously illustrated and featuring a wealth of newly discovered material, Ravilious & Co is an enthralling narrative of creative achievement, joy and tragedy.

Bridget Riley: The Complete Prints

Bridget Riley: The Complete Prints is a completely up-to-date catalogue raisonné of Riley’s graphic work, exploring her development as a printmaker and her relationship to the screenprint medium.

In this extract from the book, Professor Robert Kudielka charts Bridget Riley’s dynamic ventures in printmaking.

Grayson Perry 

Grayson Perry is the definitive monograph on the Turner Prize-winning artist, giving unique access to his creative processes and exploring the breadth of Grayson Perry’s art, including his ceramics, tapestries and installations.

Watch Grayson’s introduction to the book in this video.

Antony Gormley on Sculpture

Known for his Angel of the North sculpture, Antony Gormley occupies an unusual position as a highly popular sculptor, widely regarded as one of the most intellectually challenging artists working internationally. In Antony Gormley on Sculpture, the artist positions his own career and artistic philosophy in relation to the history of sculpture.

Aubrey Beardsley: Decadence & Desire

Art Nouveau artist Aubrey Beardsley was only 25 when he died from tuberculosis, but in his short life he established a reputation as one of the most accomplished – and controversial – illustrators of his day. Aubrey Beardsley: Decadence & Desire explores the artist’s iconic drawings and prints.

William Morris’s Flowers

Instantly recognisable and intricately beautiful, William Morris’s designs continue to capture imaginations. William Morris’s Flowers is a celebration of the artist’s flower-based designs including carpet, fabric and wallpaper patterns.

Derek Jarman: Protest!

Derek Jarman: Protest! is the definitive overview of the life and work of a very English rebel, a radical artist whose voice was honed protesting against the strictures of life in post-war Britain. It covers all aspects of Jarman’s oeuvre, from his features to his Super-8 films, his painting, design for theatre, poetry, gardening, memoir and political activism.

This feature offers an intimate look at Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, a fisherman’s house at Dungeness on the Kent coast that was a refuge for the artist.

Spirit of Place 

A lyrical, compelling work on art and literature, Spirit of Place offers a panoramic view of the British landscape as seen through the eyes of writers and artists from Bede and the Gawain-poet to Gainsborough, Austen, W. G. Sebald and Barbara Hepworth.

In this illuminating extract from the book, author Susan Owens reflects on a landscape that is at once intimately familiar and infinitely mysterious.

Voyaging Out

Voyaging Out journeys through British art history through the stories of its women artists, illuminating a rich network of often-overlooked artists alongside such renowned presences as Barbara Hepworth, Laura Knight and Winifred Nicholson.

Unquiet Landscape

How is it that artists, by thinking in paint, have come to regard the landscape as representing states of mind? Christopher Neve’s Unquiet Landscape is a a journey into the imagination through the English landscape and 20th-century British painting.

In this extract from the book, Neve examine’s Paul Nash’s gift for capturing haunting feelings on canvas.

To read next


'A certain amount of the wild': Bridget Riley’s prints

This essay by Professor Robert Kudielka, extracted from ‘Bridget Riley: The Complete Prints’, explores the artist’s dynamic ventures in printmaking throughout her career.

Painting, polyamory and enduring love: John Nash and Christine Kühlenthal

This moving extract from ‘John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace’ details the enduring and unconventional love shared by painter John Nash and Christine Kühlenthal. The fifty-eight-year relationship, which permitted ‘outside loves’, withstood time, distance and the horrors of war.