Primitivism and Modern Art by Colin Rhodes (1994)

This is another in Thames and Hudson’s extensive ‘World of Art’ series, which means it has a serious and thorough text but that, of the 207 illustrations, only 28 are in colour, and all of them are small. In Primitivism and Modern Art Rhodes aims ‘to give an overview of, and to highlight and clarify the […]

The Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth (2016)

‘Everywhere counter-revolutionaries run about and swagger; beat them down! Beat their heads where you find them! If counter-revolutionaries were to gain the upper hand for even a single hour, there will be no mercy for any proletarian. Before they stifle the revolution, suffocate them in their own blood!’ (Hungarian communist Tibor Szamuely, quoted page 134) […]

A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne (1977)

The Algerian War was the long brutal conflict between the National Liberation Front (the Front de Libération Nationale or F.L.N.) fighting for Algerian independence from the French Empire, and the French Army tasked with repressing it. The war lasted from 1954 to 1962. It brought down six French governments, led to the collapse of the French Fourth […]

The Crimean War by Orlando Figes (2010)

This was the first war in history in which public opinion played so crucial a role. (p.304) This a brilliant book, a really masterful account of the Crimean War, a book I reread whole sections of and didn’t want to end. It covers the military campaigns (along the Danube, in Crimea) and battles (at the […]

Victoria’s Wars by Saul David (2006)

The 2nd Europeans, 31st and 70th Regiments of Native Infantry drove the enemy from their cover with great slaughter. I only saw one European amongst the dead; at least a part of one. He was a sergeant of the 2nd Europeans; his cap, grog bottle, and his head was all we saw. There was a […]

Abstract Expressionism edited by David Anfam (2016)

This is the catalogue or book of the 2016 Royal Academy exhibition of Abstract Expressionism – ‘arguably the most significant movement of the twentieth century’ (Christopher Le Brun) – the first large retrospective in this country since 1959. It’s a massive hardback book, 320 pages long, and containing: four long essays – by exhibition curator […]

The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe (1975)

I bought this as a Bantam paperback back in 1976 when it cost 65p. Now it costs nearly £11. Tom Wolfe and the New Journalism Tom Wolfe was one of the founding fathers of the New Journalism, a style of reporting which became fashionable in the 1960s, in which the ‘reporter’ a) was increasingly central […]

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross (2007) – the American chapters

Alex Ross’s the Rest is Noise is by far the most comprehensive and accessible introduction to the classical music of the long difficult twentieth century that I know of. Born in 1968, Alex Ross studied classical composition, but was also a rock DJ at Harvard. He was just 28 when he was appointed classical music critic for […]

America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s edited by Judith Barter (2017)

This is the book accompanying the exhibition at the Royal Academy of 45 or so oil paintings from the 1930s designed to give you an overview of the many different, competing and clashing visions of American art during that troubled decade, what the foreword, rather surprisingly describes as ‘aesthetically, perhaps the most fertile decade of […]

America after the Fall @ the Royal Academy

This exhibition brings together 45 big oil paintings (no prints or sculptures) to provide an overview of American painting from the 1930s (with a handful spilling into the early 1940s). After the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties – the Jazz Decade – the 1930s were of course marked by the Great Depression, triggered […]