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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  27 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
Paperback, 392 pages
Published July 4th 2019 by Thames and Hudson Ltd (first published April 17th 2018)
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Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 the
Robert Boyd
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fundam ...more
Moritz Mueller-Freitag
Modernists and Mavericks is a superb group biography of post-war British painters, with emphasis placed on Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud (not so much David Hockney, despite his mention in the subtitle). Gayford, who sat for portraits by Freud and Hockney, draws on extensive interviews with the artists to paint an intimate portrait. He’s a marvelous writer of scholarly, yet jargon-free art books.
Vincent Thurgood
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 - when he fin ...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
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, which is a fine introduction to a collection of artists who - as Gayford himself says - don't necessarily have much in common as artists but were all working in and around each other in post-war London.

The book's subtitle obviously focuses on the big three: Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and David Hockney but covers many other artists: Bridget Riley, Howard Hodgkin, Gillian Ayres, R. B Kitaj, Paula Rego, Robyn Denny, etc. It talks about how they approached art, their influenc
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-history
A fascinating introduction to a generation of painters, all based in London between the 1950s and 1970s. I had only heard of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, and had certainly avoided all paintings by the former. But I had had no idea that these two artists (with their well-documented friendship and later falling-out) had been only a small part of a vibrant art scene that covered a whole range of painting styles and philosophies.

I give the author a lot of credit for describing the work and artis
David Kerslake
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why can't I give this 6 Stars? Just one of the very best books I've read. Such an interesting subject - to me anyway. Not too short and not too long and it has pictures. It also has Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and David Hockney and I've been to major exhibitions of all three.
However, the very best thing about this book is the way in which it is written. Art, the modern variety in particular, scares many people shitless as they feel they don't understand it and will therefore appear thick. This b
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 fo ...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  ·  review of another edition
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 st
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 Bac ...more
Robert Walkley
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe a bit too much information but here it all is and here they all are. The painters who put London on the 20th mid-century map of the art world. Gayford makes the case that London took over from Paris and New York as the main place to be if you wanted to get in on the action and fun. I learned a lot of new names and many interesting stories. Gayford has written several books about art and artists and knows the terrain well. He is an excellent guide.
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  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Sue Dale
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
I thought this book would delve into Bacon Freud & Hockney and be interesting. Instead I was introduced to wonderful new artists and the context for modernist British painters. Being from Australia we are exposed to mostly the big names in overseas art, this read was well worth the travel to the UK while locked down.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Gayford provides the reader with a great overview of artists in London post WWII. Nice anecdotes, pictures/photos to illustrate points, very informative. Slightly overpacked with info/confusing to someone with almost no bg knowledge (so! many! names!) but very good otherwise.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book
Juan Pelizzatti
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Fascinating account of post war English painting, with interesting first hand account of the main characters. Greatly entertaining and informative.
Olga Tsyba
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot, it is touching and exciting. Mix of art and stories from life make it interesting not only to art enthusiasts but for people interested in culture generally.
ron swegman
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining as informative walk through British Modernism. Very readable with enough color plates to contemplate the art discussed.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Still working on this book. Reads much like a text book and doesn’t go into some needed depth.
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
So hey, here's an idea for a book: a history of artists from a certain place, and a certain time. Let's call them London Painters and bung them together, even though there's little to link them stylistically, or even philosophically.

Sounds like a hiding to nowhere, right?

Normally, it would be. But to my delight, Martin Gayford's Modernists & Mavericks manages the task well. It's true, there's little the artists in this tome have in common, except for the fact that their careers were rooted in
Charlotte De koninck
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It offers a rather random look at artists - just about all the important ones of Londen in the sixties and looks at them through the lens of the relationships they had with art and each other.

Would definitly recommend.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Siân Round
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Sep 02, 2019
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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

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