I am an active writer and commentator on art, and art history.
My particular passion lies in British and Irish artists of the mid-20th century. Having started as a collector, my fascination led on to research and writing.
A City lawyer by profession and a historian by training, I seek to bring to bear these disciplines in my analysis. I have written extensively in The British Art Journal, reviewing exhibitions and books, with some longer articles involving original research. This website reproduces many of the reviews, as well as summaries of the longer articles.
My first book, British and Irish Art 1945-1951 From War to Festival, was published in 2010, and a biography of Peter Watson, written with Jeremy Dronfield, was published by John Blake on April 2nd, 2015.
Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson
Peter Watson (1908-1956) supported a whole range of British artists financially and in other ways. He funded the creation of the cultural journal, Horizon, and helped to create the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He also built up an extremely wide ranging collection of art, by many of the great 20th century masters, and also the leading British artists of the time.
Without Peter Watson’s patronage, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud might have failed before they ever began. His tastes shaped and changed the course of twentieth century art, and he was a founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Whilst Watson gets frequent mentions in surveys of the cultural scene, there has been no book about him. Co-authored with Jeremy Dronfield, my purpose in writing a full biography is to seek to place his varied life and achievements into their proper context.
It also details his relationships with many of the leading artists of his day, as well as exploring his sophisticated personality.
The premier doyen of the gay scene, Watson cut a dash through the 30s Berlin cabaret, pre-war Paris, English high society and the golden boulevards of Hollywood before his mysterious and tragic death. Read More…
British and Irish Art 1945-1951: From War to Festival
Published in 2010, this book radically re-examines a crucial period of modern British and Irish art, from a historical viewpoint.
By studying the intricate mechanisms whereby artists turned oil on canvas into money – or not – the book explains how artists’ reputations were made or broken. Individual artists discussed include Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Graham Sutherland, Gerard Dillon, Robert Colquhoun, Paul Nash and many more.
To purchase or inquire, CLICK for Paul Holberton (publishers)
Other projects have included a commission for the Royal Academy, and ongoing gathering of material about AJL McDonnell, with a view to writing a study of him.
This was the first opportunity to see a large quantity of the work of Robert Colquhoun and Robert Macbryde.
The show was brilliantly assembled by Patrick Elliott, Senior Curator at the SNGMA. I assisted with the catalogue, contributing to two of the four chapters. Learn More
AJL McDonnell was the London representative for the Felton Bequest for some years after the War, from 1947 to his death in 1964. The Felton Bequest was established in the early years of the 20th Century by Alfred Felton “to support culture and the community”, with half the funding supporting charities in the State of Victoria in Australia. The initial capital was the enormous sum of £378,000, which meant that its purchasing power in the 20th C art world has been prodigious. McDonnell worked closely with Sir Kenneth (later Lord) Clark to buy sensational works of art in the London market. These works, which included Old Masters and modern works, then passed to the National Gallery of Victoria.
McDonnell’s art market activities are complementary to my studies of that market in my first book. I shall very much welcome contact from those with an interest in him.
The Art Contributions to Horizon
In February 2013 I was invited to participate in a very interesting conference, at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, entitled The Art Press in the Twentieth Century, focussing on the period 1930-1969.
At the heart of Horizon Magazine’s artistic output were the decisions taken by Peter Watson, whose tremendous impact on the British art world of the mid-20th century is only now beginning to be recognised.
A transcript of my lecture, The art contributions to Horizon (1940–50), is available on request.