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Modernists and Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The development of painting in London from the Second World War to the 1970s has never before been told before as a single narrative. R. B. Kitaj’s proposal, made in 1976, that there was a “substantial School of London” was essentially correct but it caused confusion because it implied that there was a movement or stylistic group at work, when in reality no one style could ...more
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published June 12th 2018 by Thames Hudson (first published April 17th 2018)
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Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-bought
Martin Gayford, the author of "Modernists and Mavericks," is a terrific writer on the arts, and this book is the obvious and organic meeting of author and its subject - The London artists of the post-war years. For one, Gayford knows David Hockney and Lucian Freud, and he also interviewed all the living artists that are in this book. It's not a book of gossip, but a survey approach to artists who worked in London from the end of World War II to the early 1970s.

I became familiar with some of
Robert Boyd
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite enjoyable but Gayford tries to cram too much into one book. It doubtless made sense to Gayford to discuss painting in London after WWII as a single phenomenon, but there are too many conflicting visual ideas. Sure one can lump Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach together, but trying to connect them to Gillian Ayers or Patrick Caulfield or Bridget Riley, etc., seems like an unbridgeable stretch. The further along in the 1960s that Gayford goes, the more this feeling of the ...more
Vincent Thurgood
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is an engaging survey of artists working in London between 1945 and 1970 that uses unpublished interviews as source material. It devotes a lot of space to Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, not uncritically, as well as many perhaps less familiar names but is best where it talks about general movements of ideas in art at the time and how each one tended to trigger a counter reaction. Because of the number of artists covered in a relatively small space (340 pages) some people get a fleeting ...more
Jeff Howells
There’s no denying that this is an interesting book, covering at it does the proliferation of artists who lived & worked in post war London. A lot of artists are covered - most notably Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. However I will say that the book is a bit misleading. Taking pride of place on the front of the paperback edition is a picture of David Hockney - however he is an absence rather than a presence. Freud & Bacon, being older, are covered earlier and more in depth. Hockney - ...more
Mary Rose
I loved a lot of this book. I loved the subject matter, the writing, and the analysis. There are great points made in here that I think only someone with Gayford's background could make, like the differences between American pop-art and British pop-art. I don't think it's for someone to whom this would be a first introduction to the period, and here's why:

My primary criticism is the organization of the book. I've noticed on quite a few other reviews that people have found this book had too much
Todd Hogan
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining and illustrative examination of the London art scene following WWII until 1970 shows how creative, daring, and independent a group of artists has to be. What is the role of an artist? To reproduce what is in the real world, or to give it meaning, or to illustrate the feelings that the artist wants to share? Each artist has his/her own ideas and follows individual instincts. At the same time, there is a sharing of enthusiasm and common experience that makes the artist able to push ...more
Adam Gill
Whilst history isn’t a coherent easy to follow narrative, it’s often easier to digest when presented that way.

Unfortunately the common thread is often so weak between chapters and sub chapters it’s hard to keep track of the complex web of relationships, schools and timelines. Especially when some of the marginal players are introduced with little background or context.

The book is at its best when the artists speak and it contains some fantastic quotes and insights on the art they were creating
Peter B
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
A well articulated and very readable account of the key developments in the London art scene since WWII. Emphasis is placed on the diversity, how the artists were never a school (or even just two), and on the strength of character and innovation that borrowed from influences and gave back tenfold.

I'd have given five stars but I felt something should have been said about the importance of the political climate and the arts being pushed within the economy to establish YBAs above their long-term
Taff Jones
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find all of MG’s writing really accessible, lively, entertaining and informative. This was completely engrossing and I developed what felt like an almost ‘I was there’ sense of the London art scene after the war. I was also fortunate to read it while the New Moderns exhibition was on at Tate Britain which formed a fantastic accompaniment and took the story still further, with some exciting works by current young painters like Cecily Brown. However I still still can’t figure out why Francis ...more
Bill Wells
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A really enjoyable book that gives you quite a sense of what London was like after the war for artists.
Gayford has included lots of quotes from the various painters about what they were trying to do as artists in the context of the larger London art world, and what they had to deal with personally in a rather drab, conservative intellectual climate.
Stevo Brock
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was a Best of the Best for the month of May, 2019, as selected by Stevo's Book Reviews on the Internet. You can find me at, on my Stevo's Novel Ideas Amazon Influencer page ( or search for me on Google for many more reviews and recommendations.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Still working on this book. Reads much like a text book and doesn’t go into some needed depth.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A hugely enjoyable book. I've read it twice in quick succession and will probably reread it again soon to squeeze all the nuggets out of it.
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Martin Gayford is an art critic and art historian. He studied philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. Over three decades, he has written prolifically about art and music in a series of major biographies, as well as contributing regularly to newspapers, magazines and exhibition catalogues. In parallel with his career ...more