Rowing Blazers Film: the ‘Making of’

What was it like producing a short film about rowing blazers, with the athletes who still wear them today? We spoke to Douglas Ray and Kate Slotover to find out.

Ellie Piggott and Olivia Carnegie-Brown

What was the intention of the film and how did you go about achieving it?  

Doug: We wanted to make a mini-documentary, something that said a little bit about the world of rowing – you can’t really understand the significance of the blazer without also knowing a bit about the sport. Thanks to Jack’s tremendous contacts in the rowing world, we were able to film some amazing athletes and tell that story from the inside.

Kate: For the film’s graphics I tried to incorporate some elements from the blazers themselves. Each club has its own unique blazer design and those stripes and colours are not just decorative but have really specific meanings.

Were there any surprises during production?

Doug: The big surprise was how down to earth and patient the rowers were, despite a few technical and logistical problems. Having worked with some high profile people in the past I was really pleasantly surprised by how friendly and amenable everyone was. People with gold medals, Olympic champions, world record holders – they couldn’t have been nicer!

Kate: Yes, they were really lovely. One thing that impressed me was that, although rowing seems from the outside like a kind of exclusive world, the rowers we met were all incredibly open, welcoming and encouraging.

What was your impression of the world of rowing?

Doug: They’re all mad to want to do it. I don’t understand it. It must be something you either have or don’t have and I don’t think I have it. 

Kate: But it’s incredibly inspiring. They’re all people who are really motivated by wanting to get the best out of themselves, and it’s hard not to be moved by that. I’ve totally Googled beginner rowing courses since – and one day I might actually try one!

How do you think videos like this can connect people to books?

Doug: I think videos can give you a taste of a book, but there’s something unique about a book. The way you read it, the way you choose where to start, the way you can return to it, the way you share it. A video is a linear thing, but it can convey emotion in a different way, through music, editing, you control the viewer’s experience a lot more.

Kate: There are some wonderful photographs here, and a beautifully printed large-format book is the place to really enjoy them. Plus I don’t think there’s anything Jack doesn’t know about rowers, or rowing. He really lives in that world. So there are all these little fascinating details in the text, notes about the rowers or stories from the histories of the clubs. We would never have had time to feature them all in the film, but they’re all there to discover in the book.

Check out the film below:

Rowing Blazers Rowing Blazers looks at the striped, piped, trimmed and badged blazers that are still worn by oarsmen and oarswomen around the world, and at the rituals, elite athletes, prestigious clubs and legendary races associated with them.

Available for £34.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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Recommended Reading: Malevich at Tate Modern

Our recommended reading series offers readers a curated list of Thames & Hudson titles relevant to selected cultural events. In this post we focus on abstract art to mark the opening of the Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art at Tate Modern.

World of Art: Abstract Art

Anna Moszynska shows here how abstract art originated and evolved, placing it in its broad historical and cultural context.

She traces the paths to abstraction forged by artists such as Balla, Kupka and Delaunay, and examines the pioneering work of Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian, the Russian Constructivists, the De Stijl group and the Bauhaus artists, and contrasts the geometric tendencies of the 1930s and 1940s with the post-War emphasis on personal expression that culminated in Abstract Expressionism in the United States.

Finally, Anna Moszynska considers the work of ‘Post-Painterly’, Op, Kinetic and Minimal artists and examines the revived abstraction practised by Neo-Geo and other artists of the 1980s.


Paths to Abstraction 1867 – 1917

Surveying the art of five decades, from 1867 to 1917, this publication follows the broad and diverse ways that artists and their public, little by little, learnt to see and to judge works of art abstractly.

The contributions of Whistler, Monet, Cézanne, Maurice Denis, Vuillard, Matisse, Derain, Picasso and Braque in advancing the possibilities of abstraction are given due emphasis. Apart from Kandinsky, the first generation of abstract painters included Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, František Kupka, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, Giacomo Balla, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Paul Klee, Arthur Dove and Patrick Henry Bruce. How had these artists arrived at such a convergence? How had abstract art taken root so quickly? Why was it not singled out by critics or historians as an independent art movement?

One answer is that the conventions of abstraction had evolved over such a long time and were so thoroughly embedded in the avant-garde movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, that the advent of abstract art seemed inevitable; abstraction was considered synonymous with ‘modern art’. Far from breaking links to prior avant-garde movements, as this book argues, abstraction arose directly from a tradition of speculation about the nature of art and of aesthetic experience.


Inventing Abstraction: 1910 – 1925

It was only a century ago that audiences in Europe and the United States saw their first examples of modernist abstract art.

This invaluable new book includes examinations of key artists, artworks, events and issues in the early history of abstraction. In combining these investigations with a new and original sense of abstract art as an expansive, various, yet inter-related field, Inventing Abstraction makes an outstanding contribution to its study.

In celebrating this bold aesthetic adventure, Inventing Abstraction focuses on its first fifteen years, as ideas developed and spread through an international network of artists. It also reached into many media – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and film, writing and the book, music and dance. Inventing Abstraction features extensive illustrations of works in all these forms.


Moscow and St.Petersburg in Russia’s Silver Age

The twilight of Imperial Russia witnessed a sudden renaissance of the visual, literary and performing arts: here was a Silver Age as luminous perhaps as the Golden Age of Russian literature many decades before.

Much of this new flowering was indebted to the set of ideas known as Symbolism, which flourished in Russia. The Russian Symbolists lived and created on the edge, which often made them to be named ‘Decadent’ or ‘Degenerate’. Yet, as Sergei Diaghilev declared, theirs was not a moral or artistic decline, but a voyage of inner discovery and a refurbishing of a national culture.

A dazzling array of artists, writers, composers, actors, singers, dancers and designers are presented here in context, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, Gorky, Akhmatova, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Nijinsky, Scriabin, Karsavina, Meyerhold, Chaliapin, Stanislavsky, Diaghilev, Roerich, Repin, Serov, Somov, Vrubel, Bakst, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mayakovsky and many more.

The book includes a rich repertoire of artworks and vintage documentary photographs, many of which have not been published before. With a clear narrative and comprehensive bibliography, this volume will appeal both to the specialist and to the general student of Russian history and culture.


Russian and Soviet Theatre

In the interval between the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 the Russian theatre of the future was already an obsessive preoccupation for writers, directors and designers. Lenin proclaimed that theatre had to be ‘greater than a spectacle’, and directors, designers, playwrights and artists rose to the challenge, creating an aesthetic revolution which is still inspiring today’s dramatists.

Russian and Soviet Theatre documents the extraordinary developments of the years from about 1900 to 1932. It presents an astonishing wealth of previously unpublished material, including over 450 illustrations showing performances directed by Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Mikhail Chekhov, with designs by some of the greatest modernist artists of the age, including Malevich, Larionov and Rodchenko. Visually exhilarating and critically perceptive, this book is a unique record of this formative period in modern theatre.


Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art is on at Tate Modern until 26 October  2014 – click here for more information.


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10 Things You’ll Never Hear a Street Photographer Say

What phrases would (probably) never pass the lips of a genuine street photographer? We asked David Gibson, author of The Street Photographer’s Manual, who compiled the following list. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments.

David Gibson - Brighton, 1998

David Gibson - Brighton, 1998

1. ‘So, what camera do you use?’

2. ‘Thank you for letting me take your photograph.’

3. ‘I shoot ‘candid’ street photography.’

4. ‘Hi fellow Streettogs‘.

5. ‘Have you seen my latest Kickstarter campaign?’

6. ‘Magnum? That’s an ice-cream.’

7. ‘I always use a long lens instead of my feet.’

8. ‘It is absolutely fine to crop your images.’

9. ‘It is better to have more cameras and kit than photography books.’

10. ‘Awesome photograph!’

The Street Photographer's Manual Whether dark, edgy or humorous, street photography shows us that daily life can be a little surreal but also gently poignant. In this book, David Gibson introduces the reader to twenty acclaimed contemporary street photographers, and intersperses the profiles with twenty invaluable projects that deal with the practicalities of street photography.

Available for £14.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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What Is a Map?

What is a map and how does it relate to the real world? To mark the publication of our new book by Hans Ulrich Obrist – Mapping it Out – we look at some of the ways artists and designers have attempted to tackle these challenging questions.

Super-Duper Helter-Skelter Lego-World, Raqs Media Collective

Super-Duper Helter-Skelter Lego-World, Raqs Media Collective

Conventional maps and charts claim to offer an accurate and objective picture of the world – but is that ever possible? The artworks featured in chapter one challenge this assumption and attempt to show how maps can be altered to reflect different priorities, hierarchies, experiences, points of view and destinations. Super-Duper Helter-Skelter Lego-World by Raqs Media Collective shows a world made of building blocks, where each block stands for a superlative claim about the planet and its resources.

Gilbert & George

Fournier Street, 2008, Gilbert & George

Maps and charts can also be used to plot and track all aspects of human existence, from a single person’s emotions to the historical path of entire civilizations. The works found in the chapter Charting Human Life chart the terrain of contemporary life and point toward a land of the future. This work by Gilbert & George is named after Fournier Street in East London, where the artists live and work.

The Artificial Ape, Timothy Taylor & Tom Frankland

The Artificial Ape, Timothy Taylor & Tom Frankland

Scientists make maps and charts to help them better understand the results of their research and explain their findings to non-specialist audiences. This work from the chapter Scientia Naturalis shows the evolution of man, illustrating how some sub-species went extinct.

Forecast, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla

Forecast, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla

How does one map something that is ethereal and intangible like time, space, Heaven or human consciousness? The artworks featured in the chapter Unmappable push the concept of mapping to its limit in order to map the seemingly unmappable. In the work above entitled ‘Forecast’, camera apparatus captures the precise moment of formal stasis in the trajectory of a fishing net that has been cast into the water, where lift and gravity act equally upon the net, resulting in a form of temporary map that covers physical, poetic and conceptual domains.

So what is a map? As we see from the endeavours of artists and designers featured in Mapping It Out, the question is wide open to interpretation.

Mapping It OutOver 130 of the world’s most creative minds make sense of our exterior and interior worlds through intriguing and imaginative maps of their own devising. Imaginative, visionary and richly absorbing, this book will appeal to anyone interested in how we visualize our worlds, physical or abstract, real or imagined.

Available for £24.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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Beryl Bainbridge Exhibition Opens

Beryl Bainbridge needs no introduction as one of the finest novelists of our times. But few people know that painting 
and drawing were also lifelong passions. As the publisher of Psiche Hughes’ biography Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend, we were excited to attend the new exhibition of her paintings, drawings and etchings at Somerset House. Read on for some of our highlights.


As we entered the exhibition we spotted the painting which appears on the cover of Hughes’ book: ‘Napoleon dancing at 42 Albert Street Camden Town to the strains of the gramophone’ (1967). Napoleon Bonaparte is featured in a number of Bainbridge’s works, serving to repeatedly blur the boundary between reality and fantasy and to merge history with the present day. Hughes has wondered whether Bainbridge saw Napoleon ‘as a symbol of power and masculinity or one of failure in enterprise?’ It’s often not clear in Bainbridge’s work: in some he is depicted as sad and despondent and in others he is happy, even dancing as we see here.

Family & Portraits

Bainbridge painted numerous portraits of people close to her, especially her children Jojo, Aaron and Rudi when they were young. Here is a portrait of her son Aaron from the early 1960s. In her book, Hughes states: ‘Aaron cherishes this portrait as intrinsic to his relationship with his mother’.

Portraying Historical Events

In another room, we encountered work produced in the 1990s, which shows how Bainbridge’s artistic focus moved away from her own life to real events in history. This image shows how Bainbridge seemed to be drawn towards representing the downfall of powerful masculine figures and projects – it depicts a scene from the ill-fated British Antarctic Expedition 1911-1912, in which Captain Oates famously said ‘I may be some time’, before crawling out of the safety of the tent into a blizzard and to his death.

Home & Objects

At the far end of the exhibition space is a collection of works which show, as her daughter Jojo Davies explains, ‘figures surrounded and anchored by objects – often plants or lamps, stuffed animals in glass cases, doilies or tablecloths.’ The central painting here shows her children in an enormous womb-like bathtub with an old-fashioned geyser – the same geyser that appears in Bainbridge’s early novel A Weekend With Claud.

Beryl Bainbridge: Art & Life runs until 19 October 2014 in the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House, London, and admission is free. We highly recommend a visit!

Keep Britain TidyBeryl Bainbridge’s power to inspire is vividly conveyed in this first-hand portrait of a woman who combined towering creative talent with a tremendous sense of fun and an incorrigible free spirit.

Available for £19.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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‘Lively and accessible’ history book wins prestigious prize

We’re delighted to announce that Cyprian Broodbank has been awarded the 2014 Wolfson History Prize for his hugely acclaimed book The Making of the Middle Sea.

The Making of the Middle Sea by Cyprian Broodbank

The Wolfson History Prize, awarded every year to British authors since 1972, promotes and encourages standards of excellence in the writing of readable and scholarly history suitable for a general audience. Previous winners of this prestigious award have included Mary Beard, David Reynolds, Richard Overy, Antony Beevor, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Ian Kershaw and Andrew Roberts.

Julia Smith and Cyprian Broodbank

Cyprian Broodbank receives the prize from judge Professor Julia Smith. Photo credit: Justin Grainge

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said, ‘These books are worthy winners in the long tradition of the Wolfson History Prize – a Prize which celebrates outstanding history written in a lively and accessible way.’

The Making of the Middle Sea

For millions of years the Mediterranean has produced some of the most astonishing history and culture on the planet, and its legacy extends around the globe to this day. The Making of the Middle Sea is the first full, interpretive synthesis for a generation on the rise of the Mediterranean world from its very beginnings up to the threshold of Classical times. Its unparalleled breadth of knowledge and analysis has been hailed by leading historians as a masterpiece of archaeological and historical writing:

‘A major intellectual feat … This is one of those rare books – I can think of no other – in which the treatment of prehistoric times moves seamlessly into the historic period of the ancient world. It is to be applauded as a major work which sets new standards in scholarship, coherence and readability’
Colin Renfrew, Times Literary Supplement

‘A tremendous achievement, enhanced, as one would expect from Thames & Hudson, by many hundreds of excellently chosen illustrations … it is a work of exceptional range, insight and interest’
David Abulafia, Standpoint

‘The book I’d like for Christmas’
Melvyn Bragg, Books of the Year, The Observer

The author

Cyprian Broodbank is currently Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and from October will become John Disney Professor of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute at the University of Cambridge.

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Recommended Reading – Comics Unmasked

Our recommended reading series offers readers a curated list of Thames & Hudson titles relevant to selected cultural events. In this post we focus on Comics Unmasked, a new show of iconic work at the British Library.

Comics Sketchbooks

Comics Sketchbooks

We rarely see the creative thinking – the doodling, the experimentation – that leads to fully formed visual ideas and stories. Comics Sketchbooks is a visually exciting look inside the private notebooks of over 80 of the world’s most inventive, innovative and mind-blowing creative talents at work today. Comics literally ‘unmasked’!

Sergio Larrain




Available for £24.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.


Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present


This is the first global history of comics from 1968 through to the present day, arranged chronologically and richly illustrated with prime examples of the artists, styles and movements being discussed. The authors contextualize the crucial modern period within the art form’s broader history and offer a description of the more fluid, international and digital scene that is the medium’s likely future. They supply examples from around the world – including the US and UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – and from a range of renowned and lesser-known artists.

Sergio Larrain




Available for £19.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.




This is a high-impact visual presentation of the most interesting fanzines ever produced. Ephemeral and irreplaceable, many have been lost to all but a few passionate collectors. Fanzines have been one of the liveliest forms of self-expression for over 70 years. Now a new generation of graphic designers, illustrators, artists and writers combines self-expression with a rediscovery of the handmade, crafted object.

Sergio Larrain




Available for £19.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.




Comics Unmasked is open until 19 August 2014 – click here for more details.


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Hester Vaizey – Keep Britain Tidy

In her new book, Dr Hester Vaizey reveals how, using slogans combined with eye-catching graphics, the British government in the postwar era sought to influence everything from the jobs people did to what they ate and drank, how they saved their money and behaved on the road. In this Q&A, the author explains why the time is right for such a book to be published.

What was the inspiration behind your new book Keep Britain Tidy?

Whilst working in The National Archives, I unearthed a whole range of visually arresting government posters from the postwar era. Unlike the well-known wartime propaganda posters, the posters that I found have received little widespread attention. It was interesting to see the different methods used by past governments to try and get their message across to the general public.

The Left and Right in British politics are as divided as ever about the appropriate size and role of the state. In the context of this ongoing argument, this book offers insights into the expanding role of the state in the second half of the twentieth century.

What was your motivation for writing this book?

I remain undecided in my own views about the relative benefits of a big or a small state. The period between 1945 and 1975 was an important phase in the expansion of the government’s use of propaganda for peacetime purposes. Whether this trend has led to the population being ‘nannied’ and therefore robbed of personal responsibility or whether this trend has been overwhelmingly beneficial remains an interesting point to consider.

Finally, how did you become a writer?

I have always enjoyed using words: big words, small words and quirky words. As a historian, it is a challenge to gather a range of material on any particular topic and then present it in an original or compelling way. I first faced this challenge when writing my PhD at Cambridge University. This formed the basis of my first book Surviving Hitler’s War, which is about German family life during the Second World War. Having written one book, I was determined to write another, better one. My second book is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and will come out in November 2014 to mark twenty-five years since its fall.

Keep Britain TidyKeep Britain Tidy features over forty posters, produced in the period c.1945–75, which have been selected from an extensive collection in The National Archives and published here in a handy detachable format. Hester Vaizey is Director of Studies in History at Clare College, Cambridge, and also acts as Publishing Co-ordinator at The National Archives.

Available for £14.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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Van Dyck and Self-Portraiture

The National Portrait Gallery’s acquisition of Van Dyck’s last self-portrait (1640-1) after a big campaign is a perfect moment to consider the Flemish artist’s huge contribution to the genre and to the cult of the artist. Read on for a discussion by James Hall, author of the bestselling Spring book The Self-Portrait.

the Save Van Dyke website

Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) was a child prodigy who dressed elegantly and behaved like a gentleman, and even as a teenager in the Antwerp studio of Rubens painted a spirited self-portrait in which, as here, he glances sharply back over his shoulder. He eventually made around ten self-portraits. The most famous appeared as a frontispiece to his Iconography (1632-41), a collection of print portraits of leading contemporary artists and patrons: his ‘bust’ turns imperiously while balanced precariously on an antique-style columnar pedestal. Patrons wanted self-portraits by their favourite artists, none more so than King Charles 1 of England, for whom Van Dyck was court painter.

In the NPG’s self-portrait, Van Dyck wears a fashionable paned or slashed doublet with white collar. London was an international centre for fashion, and textiles were its main export. A fine suit of clothes could cost more than a Van Dyck portrait priced between £30 and £50. The fashion was a Renaissance revival, as slashed clothes had first been popular in the 1520s. The white shirt billows voluptuously through the slits: dry paint has been dragged swiftly across, in long bravura brushstrokes. Their roughness and snowy whiteness contrasts with the delicacy and warmth of the painting of the face. The young rake in Johannes Vermeer’s The Procuress (1656; often considered a self-portrait) wears almost identical clothes and adopts a similar pose; so too the painter in Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting (1666–8).

Puritans attacked fashions at court (including the mania for Italian art) and they loathed the long, unruly hairstyles. It was the greatest age for male hair before the swinging Sixties. Lovelocks – in which one side hung longer than the other, either tied with a love token or left ‘shaggy’ – were the ‘devil’s holdfast’, according to the Puritan polemicist William Prynne, and were worn by ‘vaine, effeminate, ruffianly, lascivious, proud, singular and fanatique persons’. For artists like Van Dyck, shaggy hair probably had other meanings too. In Cesare Ripa’s allegorical handbook for painters, Iconologia (1st ed. 1593), the hair of the female allegory of painting is ‘thick, scattered and twisted… with arched eyebrows, the manifestation of fantastical thoughts’. Van Dyck has all of this – and a flamboyant handlebar moustache.

This self-portrait is even more ‘fantastical’ due to its original carved oak and gilt frame in a style known as auricular. It is topped by a sunflower motif, symbol of the loyal subject who follows his king as a sunflower tracks the sun (in Van Dyck’s most famous self-portrait, he points to a sunflower). But Van Dyck clearly saw himself as the sun-king of portrait painters, and so too did legions of later British artists who depicted themselves in Van Dyckian mode.

Sergio LarrainIn this broad cultural survey, art historian and critic James Hall brilliantly maps the history of self-portraiture, from the earliest myths of Narcissus to the prolific self-image-making of contemporary artists.

Available for £19.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

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Recommended Reading – David Hockney

Our recommended reading series offers readers a curated list of Thames & Hudson titles relevant to selected cultural events. This week, we focus on a new David Hockney exhibition that has just opened in London.

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

A Bigger Message

This book, by art critic Martin Gayford, presents a decade’s worth of conversations between himself and David Hockney, exploring via anecdote, reflection, passion and humour the very nature of creativity. Available for £18.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

David Hockney

David Hockney

The relationship between art and life has been of overriding importance in the work of David Hockney, who has enjoyed perhaps greater popularity than any other British artist this century. Here Marco Livingstone traces those connections from the beginnings of the artist’s career in the early 1960s through to the more recent works that have contributed to Hockney’s international reputation. These include his photocollages and highly acclaimed stage designs for the opera, not to mention his embrace of technology – namely the fax drawings and colour laser prints – which show the continuing preoccupation with invention and artifice that has made the artist’s work at once popular and enduring. Available for £8.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

David Hockney by David Hockney

David Hockney on David Hockney

In this witty, candid and revealing account of himself, David Hockney tells of his childhood in Bradford, his years at the Royal College of Art and his sojourns in California and Paris. From the London of the 1950’s and the beginnings of Pop Art, to the pool-sides of Los Angeles, Hockney’s story is full of anecdotes about himself, other artists and friends, and his thoughts about art. Informative and entertaining, illustrated with a wealth of reproductions from his works, this is the story of an artist who is ceaselessly striving to improve his art, and to learn to interpret the world around him through his artistry and imagination. Read more on the Thames & Hudson website.

Hockney’s Pictures (now in paperback)

Hockney's Pictures

Hockney’s Pictures shows the evolution and diversity of the artist’s paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints, and photography. The pieces are selected and organized by David Hockney himself, and track his lifelong experiments in ways of looking and depicting. Available for £19.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

Secret Knowledge

Secret Knowledge

David Hockney’s enthralling story of how some of the great works of Western art were created with the help of mirrors and lenses and how the optical look came to dominate painting attracted major media attention around the world and generated intense debate in the fields of science and art history. Now in this expanded edition, Hockney takes his thesis even further, revealing for the first time new and exciting discoveries. Read more on the Thames & Hudson website.

David Hockney’s Dog Days

David Hockney's Dog Days

David Hockney introduces his two dachshunds, Stanley and Boodgie, in this delightful collection. The result of sharp observation and affection, these paintings and drawings are lyrical studies in form and design while the text by the artist gives a glimpse of how to work with models who don’t necessarily want to sit still. Available for £7.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.

David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring runs until the 12 July 2014 at Annely Juda Fine Art, London – click here for more details

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