3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Valuable and Important Work But Not An Easy Read,
This review is from: Glynn Philpot: His Life and Art (Hardcover)
In many respects this is an important book, and that is generally reflected in its price, being the only comprehensive work available on this important British artist. Previous to this publication of 1999 we have to go back to the catalogue of the 1984 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery for a substantial publication on Philpot. Having said that, this is a dense book in two respects, it is a physically heavy book although only a modest volume of 179 pages and it is a dense book in terms of the text and this makes it quite a difficult read.
The very detailed narrative that the author, Delaney, provides of the life and work of Philpot clearly reflects the immense amount of research that has been undertaken. Delaney charts the progress of the artist from a childhood of order and conformity in Clapham, to art school and the first influences of other artists, particularly Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, to his interest in religious subjects and at the age of 22 his conversion to the Catholic Church in 1906. As Philpot achieved success at an early age and began to be able to exercise his independence so we see the first intimations of homoerotic art and as early as 1913 Philpot was off to the United States to stay with a male friend he had met a short time earlier at the opera. The author describes the twin track career of the artist, painting highly accomplished and fee earning portraits whilst at the same time producing many canvases of a varied nature and less formal style for his own pleasure. Wealth attracted a circle of friends, a number of whom became dependent financially and emotionally upon the artist whilst all the time Philpot's sister Daisy loyally managed his affairs and doled out money to his circle of menfriends. It was in the early 1930s that Philpot adopted a radically different Modernist style, breaking away entirely from his earlier classical and aesthetic approach. His new style incorporated a thin wash technique as opposed to the highly finished paintings of his earlier period.
Philpot was a prodigious traveller visiting many parts of Europe and Morocco and Tunisia with his friends. He was also a prolific painter, some 170 works are listed in the appendix to the book, of which some 28 are illustrated in colour and 32 in black and white. It is this frenetic travelling and highly productive output that present the problem with the book. Delaney has clearly decided to chart all the travelling and mention very many of the paintings even when not illustrated so that occasionally sections of the book become little more than a travel itinerary interspersed with brief lists of paintings. Whilst this may make this a valuable book of record it can make for quite tedious reading at times. The text requires more leavening with anecdote or description to make it an easier read. A valuable and important work but not an easy read.