Summer reading 2016: Art

Jackie Wullschlager picks her books of the year so far

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Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, edited by Martin Harrison, Heni Publishing, RRP£1,000/ The Estate of Francis Bacon, RRP$1,500

Art book of the year, perhaps the decade, this showcases for the first time Bacon’s entire oeuvre. A five-volume, magnificently produced beacon of accessible scholarship, it will transform our understanding of how the great painter of “exhilarated despair” pushed postwar painting-as-sensation against the limits of representation.


Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonné, edited by Matthijs Ilsink, Yale University Press, RRP£100/RRP$150

The tiny Noordbrabants Museum traded erudition for loans to stage the biggest ever Bosch retrospective for the 500th anniversary of his death. This catalogue raisonné marvellously expands on that revelatory exhibition, with exquisite reproductions of the bizarre, proto-surreal, tragicomic late-medieval images that triumphantly assert the freedom of the mind.


The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez, by Laura Cumming, Chatto, RRP£18.99

I read this at one go: a gripping triple narrative spinning from the Spanish Habsburg courts to 19th-century Edinburgh and New York, where a bookseller becomes tragically ensnared by ownership of a portrait, to Cumming’s own relationship with painting, evoked with the lightest touch but real seriousness of purpose.


David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life, edited by Tim Barringer and Edith Devaney, Royal Academy, RRP£30/RRP$45

Cool, funny, opinionated, this engaging volume accompanies Hockney’s current show at the Royal Academy but goes far beyond an exhibition catalogue to consider through interviews, essays and scores of images his six-decade involvement with portraiture, and the historical, cultural and emotional contexts in which he has always worked.

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