David Boyd Haycock - Writer and Historian

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A Crisis of Brilliance     Paul Nash Book Cover    Mortal Coil Book Cover

Latest book - A Crisis Of Brilliance

Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Richard Nevinson and Dora Carrington were five of the most exciting, influential and innovative British artists of the twentieth century. From diverse backgrounds, they met in the years before the Great War as students in London at the Slade School of Art, where they formed part of what their teacher, Henry Tonks, described as the school’s last ‘crisis of brilliance’.

Using letters, memoirs and biographies, A Crisis of Brilliance recreates in intimate detail the formative years of these supremely gifted and committed painters. More than just a history of art, this book is the story of individual artists and their times – from Sufragettes to the Great War, from Futursists and Vorticists to the Omega Workshop and the Bloomsbury Group. It is an exploration of artistic ambition, struggle and success; and of lives linked by close friendships, fierce rivalries and love. It is the exhilarating true story behind Pat Barker’s best-selling novel, Life Class.

To the Bloomsbury critic Roger Fry they and their gifted companions were ‘les jeunes’: the ‘Young British Artists’ of their day. As their talents evolved in different directions, they became Futurists, Vorticists and ‘Bloomsberries’, and befriended the leading writers and intellectuals of the time, from Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke to D.H. Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield. They and their Bohemian colleagues led the way in fashion with their avant garde clothes and haircuts; they slept with their models and with prostitutes; their tempestuous love affairs descended into obsession, murder and suicide. And as Europe plunged into the madness of the ‘War to end Wars’, they responded to its horror with all the passion and genius they could muster.


'Haycock's narrative of this entangled, war-defined group is so strong that it often has the force of a novel, hard to put down . . . We should call for a joint exhibition of [their] work, to complement the moving portrayal of their lives in this engrossing and enjoyable book.' JENNY UGLOW, BOOK OF THE WEEK in The Guardian Read the full review here

’A lucid study of the lives behind the art . . . What gives Haycock's book its freshness is that, through skilful use of letters and memoirs left by his five subjects, he injects it with the anxiety, ambition, self-doubt and jealousy that possessors of youth and talent are fated to feel.' JOHN CAREY The Sunday Times Read the full review here

‘Haycock manages the drama in this tale with such skill that his story unfolds like a well-plotted novel. … Formidably well-informed, he redraws the artistic map of the period before, during and just after the First World War. Never before have the private vicissitudes in these artists' lives been made so real, or their exuberance so vivid.’ FRANCES SPALDING, The Daily Mail

‘Haycock wears his learning lightly and has an enviably fluent and assured style of writing: you pick this book up and simply start reading. Rarely has art history seemed so agreeable … Quite possibly this shared story has never been so well told.’ The Art Newspaper

'Haycock's book is truly fascinating from every angle ­ almost a work of art in itself. A Crisis of Brilliance will interest both connoisseurs of painting and general readers alike.' Waterstone's Books Quarterly

’A sad tale, wonderfully told… [Haycock] fades the many different narratives in and out with ease.’ Country Life

'There is something endlessly appealing about a group of artists behaving badly while simultaneously creating their best work ... Depression, doubt, love triangles and the horrors of war all conspire against their ambitions, causing their fortunes to diverge wildly ... Haycock's research provides rich context, with personal letters supplying detail to every squabble or concern.' Metro, London

‘Haycock sets the story of Nash, Spencer, Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler and Richard Nevinson against the backdrop of Britain before and during the war, and he delineates it all with real vigour. Recommended.’ The Glasgow Herald

'A vintage decade of early twentieth century British art told in vivid and entertaining detail through the adventures of five highly gifted youg painters ­ I greatly enjoyed it.' SIR MICHAEL HOLROYD

'An extraordinary book on a well-known subject ­ something entirely fresh and different. I read it avidly'. RONALD BLYTHE

Download: Click here to view and/or download the preface and first chapter.

Download: Click here to view and/or download the book cover,

Buy this book: Hardback, £20: free P&P in the UK.

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