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John Piper Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art Frances Spalding Oxford University Press USA 1 edition


10th May 2013 History Books 0 Comments

Spalding’s approach, sifting through and collating a vast quantity of material, has produced a valuable and deeply researched account of the Piper’s life together… Ruth Guilding, Times Literary Supplement Frances Spalding recounts the histories of John and Myfanwy Piper, a couple at the centre of post-war art. Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph A remarkable achievement and … an invaluable source book for Piper Enthusiasts for years to come. Andrew Lambirth, The Art Newspaper Commendably thorough. William Feaver, London Review of Books A valuable and deeply researched account of the piper’s life together. Ruth Guilding, Times Literary Supplement Impeccably researched. Serena Davies, Daily Telegraph There are riches on offer beginning with Frances Spalding’s substantial double biography. Sunday Times, 29.11.09 She has triumphantly knitted together all the multifarious Piper aspects. Roderic Dunnett, The Independent Brims over with insights and revelations. Times Higher Education, Timothy Mowl This timely book engenders optimism. Timothy Mowl, Times Higher Education Engrossing and scholarly study. Timothy Mowl, Times Higher Education Handsomely produced…Spalding’s unrivalled knowledge of the Pipers’ world captures the issues clearly, sharply. Michael White, The Tablet Excellent and expert biography…touches of judicious speculation and clear-sighted glosses. Spalding…presents us with fascinating and gripping biographical material, but also offers us vivid images of a now vanished England. Val Hennessy, Daily Mail Frances Spalding’s copious and erudite biography of John and his art critic wife, Myfanwy, describes his art with considerable authority. Serena Davies, Sunday Telegraph A well-executed and meticulously researched work. Oxford University Press is to be congratulated on publishing this work on the scale the Pipers deserved. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator A fair verdict would be:…”this could not have been done better”. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator Spalding comprehensively (but never tediously) covers his work in all its staggering versatility. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator Magnificent… Just occasionally, one comes across a book of which one can say, “This could not have been done better.” Spalding’s book is in that rare class. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator

Frances Spalding is Professor of Art History at Newcastle University.

Art historian Frances Spalding here provides an exuberant and richly illustrated dual biography of John Piper–one of the best loved and capacious English artists–and his wife the librettist Myfanwy Piper, collaborator with Benjamin Britten. Together they stood at the heart of the English cultural landscape of the mid-20th century. Drawing on substantial original research, including many interviews with those who had either known or worked with the Pipers, Spalding’s biography sheds new light on the story of British art in the 1930s. In the middle of this decade, the Pipers were at the forefront of avant-garde activities in England, with Myfanwy editing the most advanced art magazine of the day and John working alongside Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and others. The book contains 80 color and 80 black-and-white plates, and also presents a wealth of information on the major commissions of John Piper’s lengthy career as well as his work in print-making, stained glass, illustration, theatre design, and fireworks. And it illuminates Myfanwy Piper’s collaborations with the composers Benjamin Britten and Alun Hoddinott, and her role as Betjeman’s muse.

Spalding’s approach, sifting through and collating a vast quantity of material, has produced a valuable and deeply researched account of the Piper’s life together… Ruth Guilding, Times Literary Supplement Frances Spalding recounts the histories of John and Myfanwy Piper, a couple at the centre of post-war art. Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph A remarkable achievement and … an invaluable source book for Piper Enthusiasts for years to come. Andrew Lambirth, The Art Newspaper Commendably thorough. William Feaver, London Review of Books A valuable and deeply researched account of the piper’s life together. Ruth Guilding, Times Literary Supplement Impeccably researched. Serena Davies, Daily Telegraph There are riches on offer beginning with Frances Spalding’s substantial double biography. Sunday Times, 29.11.09 She has triumphantly knitted together all the multifarious Piper aspects. Roderic Dunnett, The Independent Brims over with insights and revelations. Times Higher Education, Timothy Mowl This timely book engenders optimism. Timothy Mowl, Times Higher Education Engrossing and scholarly study. Timothy Mowl, Times Higher Education Handsomely produced…Spalding’s unrivalled knowledge of the Pipers’ world captures the issues clearly, sharply. Michael White, The Tablet Excellent and expert biography…touches of judicious speculation and clear-sighted glosses. Spalding…presents us with fascinating and gripping biographical material, but also offers us vivid images of a now vanished England. Val Hennessy, Daily Mail Frances Spalding’s copious and erudite biography of John and his art critic wife, Myfanwy, describes his art with considerable authority. Serena Davies, Sunday Telegraph A well-executed and meticulously researched work. Oxford University Press is to be congratulated on publishing this work on the scale the Pipers deserved. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator A fair verdict would be:…”this could not have been done better”. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator Spalding comprehensively covers his work in all its staggering versatility. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator Magnificent… Just occasionally, one comes across a book of which one can say, “This could not have been done better.” Spalding’s book is in that rare class. Bevis Hillier, The Spectator

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art

A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers

Intoxicating . . . Burst[s] with the tremendous generosity of its author . . . From the first page A Book of Secrets casts the spell of a time long gone, of loves endured and lost, expectations dashed on the rocks of reality, of inner desires forever stilled, casting their shadows into history. It is written with the kind of elegance, ease and simplicity possible only from a master craftsman who has flown far beyond any learning curve and is relishing his free fall. [Holroyd] carries us as if on a magic carpet from one character to the next, and one time period to the next, with consummate grace. Holroyd is a kind of Fred Astaire on the page, his many steps becoming one grand, profound design . . . [H]is heart and humor bounce in vibrant rays off every hot-blooded, lovelorn, crazy, jealous and joyous womanand what enlightened being would have any woman be otherwise?in his book . . . A Book of Secrets is a book of magic, a sleight of hand by a master conjurer singing his swan song, sweetly, softly, with piercing wit and overwhelming compassion, his poetry in prose evoking a time past, with all its outrageous obsessions, its illegal passions, its melancholy perfume. Toni Bentley, The New York Times Book Review

Michael Holroyd is that rare biographer who is read for himself as much as for the sake of his subject . . . It is hard to see how Mr. Holroyd could do better than this book. Carl Rollyson, The Wall Street Journal

A Book of Secrets frequently casts a rosy comic glow . . . Mr. Holroyd is an impeccable writer and researcher, a man whose books are packed with intricate detail yet retain a buoyancy. They are aerodynamic; they run as silently as gliders . . . This book is a richly marbled meditation not only on the lives of several remarkable women but also on the art of biography itself . . . [Holroyds] new book contains many fine moments during which, holding on with white knuckles, you might hear yourself cry, Brilliant! Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Master raconteur and biographer of Bernard Shaw and Lytton Strachey, the always elegant Holroyd is at the top of his game . . . Holroyd writes like an angel and memorably draws the rivulets of these fluid lives together. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Book of Secrets is truly a book of revelations, of sudden, emotional jolts . . . The work of a master-biographer at the height of his powers . . . A beautifully structured narrative, punctuated by surprises and dazzling shifts in focus. Daisy Hay, The Daily Telegraph

Its a testament to Holroyds dexterity that this big, densely populated canvas never feels cluttered or confusing . . . As is always the case with Holroyd, the reader comes away equally inspired, equally curious, and lavishly entertained by a story-teller of the first rank. Lee Randall, The Scotsman

Richly evocative and beautifully written . . . Holroyds skills as a researcher and detective are fully deployed, in miniature; and only a master could pull off such a book. Anne Chisholm, The Spectator

A Time Magazine Top 10 Nonfiction book of 2011
A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011

On a hill above the Italian village of Ravello sits the Villa Cimbrone, a place of fantasy and make-believe. The characters that move through Michael Holroyds new book are destined never to meet, yet the Villa Cimbrone unites them all.

A Book of Secrets is a treasure trove of hidden lives, uncelebrated achievements, and family mysteries. With grace and tender imagination, Holroyd brings a company of unknown women into the light. From Alice Keppel, the mistress of both the second Lord Grimthorpe and the Prince of Wales; to Eve Fairfax, a muse of Auguste Rodin; to the novelist Violet Trefusis, the lover of Vita Sackville-Westthese women are always on the periphery of the respectable world.

Also on the margins is the elusive biographer, who on occasion turns an appraising eye upon himself as part of his investigations in the maze of biography. In A Book of Secrets, Holroyd gives voice to fragile human connections and the mystery of place.


A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers










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