My first book was ‘Scottish Watercolours 1740-1940’ which was first published in 1986 and reprinted as a paperback in 1990. It was the first book to specifically cover watercolour painting in Scotland and in some respects was a pioneering work. My mother was Scottish and regular visits to Edinburgh aroused my interest in Scottish art in the 1970’s helped by the Fine Art Society’s annual exhibitions of Scottish painting to coincide with the Edinburgh Festival.
This lead to a further book on Scottish painting which I wrote with Paul Harris – ‘The Dictionary of Scottish Painters 1600 to the Present’ This has been a very successful book and we have twice updated it bringing new research and more recent painters. It is now in its third edition.
I have always admired the work of Diana Armfield RA and her husband Bernard Dunstan RA and was pleased to be invited to write a book about Diana in the David and Charles series of monographs on contemporary painters. This was published in 1995.
I have always loved Venice and am particularly interested in British and American artists who painted in Venice in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Turner ‘discovered’ Venice for many British artists when he first visited in 1819, and Ruskin’s ‘Stones of Venice’ put the city on the map for many tourists. Whistler, having been bankrupted by his libel suit against Ruskin, visited Venice in 1879 and produced some of his finest works while staying there for just over a year.
Sargent loved Venice and the Palazzo Barbaro was for him a refuge against the commercial world of portrait painting. Some of his finest watercolours were done in Venice. Sickert also came to love Venice. My book ‘British and American Artists in Venice’ covers all those artists who worked there and gives an insight into their lives and friendships. ‘Venice : The Artists’ Vision’ was first published in 1990 and reprinted as a paperback in 1999.
David Wolfers was a legend as an art dealer with a brilliant eye for quality and ability to spot talent. His gallery, The New Grafton in Barnes, became a mecca for collectors and he showed many outstanding artists including Mary Fedden, Fred Cuming, Bernard Dunstan, Peter Greenham, and John Piper. I was pleased to write a book ‘A Private View : David Wolfers and the New Grafton Gallery’ in 2002.
I first met Norman Douglas Hutchinson in Highgate when running Highgate Gallery. He was a larger-than-life character from an Anglo-Indian background whose life was quite extraordinary. He was an unusual painter, a successful portraitist much liked by HRH The Queen Mother, as well as a painter of nudes and flowers. I greatly enjoyed writing his biography ‘A Hand to Obey the Demon’s Eye. The Life and Work of the Painter Norman Douglas Hutchinson’ published in 2002.