Archive for category Publisher: Pavilion
Published in conjunction with the Tate, who very much have skin in this game, this thorough but eminently accessible volume presents an overview of the artists who have worked in St Ives.
The approach is broadly chronological, but is not so rigid that schools, groupings and movements cannot be accommodated. There is, inevitably, a lot of information and this is not something for those who would prefer a coffee table book concentrating on the works themselves, although it is comprehensively illustrated. At the same time, it is not so academic as to be of interest only to the dedicated historian of the period. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but something Chris Stephens has pulled off really rather admirably.
Although the main period of the St Ives school covered only some twenty-five years, the story continues into the 1960s and concludes with the opening of Tate St Ives in 1993. The names you’d expect to find are all here: Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron, but so too are less well-known names as well as sources of influence from Europe and elsewhere.
This is a story worth telling and, although much has been written about the art of St Ives, none of it has quite encompassed the arc of history that is contained here.
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As an introduction to Jack Vettriano, this book is excellent because it is packed full of images and great value for money at £14.99. However, it can feel quite cramped and, as a fan of Vettriano’s work, I would rather see it as a large format coffee table book. [This is a reduced format reprint of a book which did indeed appear in a larger size, ed].
Vettriano’s work compares the romanticism of life as one would wish others to see it with the more sordid reality of what goes on behind closed doors. His outdoor studies are usually light – in terms of both visuals and atmosphere – and there is often something touching in the interaction between his men and women. In stark contrast, when scenes are depicted indoors, there is frequently something seedy, sexual, threatening even, in the images and interactions. In The Man In The Navy Suit, for example, the main focus of the painting (which is set indoors), is painted using a dark palette. This gives a threatening quality to the relationship between the couple in the scene. By contrast, what we see outside the window is light, bright and relaxed.
When Jack reverses the pattern of indoor and outdoor locations, he uses light and shadow to maintain atmosphere. Outdoors, he will introduce a shadow over a figure’s face or tuck them away around corners to hint at a darker element to the relationship. While The Lying Game is set outdoors, the shadow’s cast across the man’s face darken the scene and reflect the darkness of the relationship between the couple. Bad, Bad Boys is also set outside, but the two figures are shown under a dark archway, reflecting what we are to suppose is the shady nature of their dealings.
Like many people, I came to Jack Vettriano via The Singing Butler, a painting which still gives me pleasure. In it, he captures a sense of almost lyrical romanticism and there is a genuine flow in the figures of the dancers that provides a sense of movement that pervades the whole work. This painting perfectly summarises Vettriano’s ability to capture the frozen moment. It is an ideal example of the lighter side of his work and contains all those elements which give his work such a general appeal, even among those who would, perhaps, not normally describe themselves as “art lovers”. For all of them, this book will be a treat.
Year published 2005
List price: £14.99
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