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Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... an unacknowledged arm of the Foreign Office. Garlake quotes a letter, first brought to light in Frances Donaldson’s history of the British Council, in which a member of the Foreign Office admitted that the Cold War ‘is in essence a battle for men’s minds’ and that ‘the British Council is one of our chief agencies for fighting it.’ From the ...


Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie Smith: A Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... but who had, I think, never met her). The ‘hey-ho’ was in fact part of the tears. One merit of Frances Spalding’s excellent critical biography is that it helps to restore to Stevie Smith her dignity. Her earlier biographers, Professors Jack Barbera and William McBrien (who also compiled the uncollected writings under the nauseating title Me ...

Sun and Strawberries

Mary Beard: Gwen Raverat, 19 September 2002

Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections 
by Frances Spalding.
Harvill, 438 pp., £30, June 2001, 1 86046 746 6
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... by matchlight in the basement of the Museum of Classical Archaeology, messing about on the Cam. Frances Spalding sees the problem. She is perceptive on Period Piece’s sometimes artful, sometimes awkwardly contrived faux-naivety, and on its self-serving censorship and selectivity. She points out, for example, that the death of Raverat’s nanny from ...


William Feaver: John and Myfanwy Piper, 17 December 2009

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art 
by Frances Spalding.
Oxford, 598 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 19 956761 4
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... he had decided to cool it a little. ‘Visitors sometimes failed to notice this glass,’ Frances Spalding reports, late on in her commendably thorough dual biography. ‘John regarded this as a compliment and said he wished there were more opportunities to make such discreet interventions.’ To ‘Piper’ a building is to subject it to ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell, 15 March 1984

Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... under scrutiny; and the Omega style is busting out all over. Its ‘vigorous vegetable growth’ (Frances Partridge’s description of Duncan Grant’s and Vanessa Bell’s decorations at Charleston) has been displayed and catalogued at the Crafts Council and Anthony d’Offay galleries. Judith Collins’s Omega Workshops gives the history, while ...


Peter Campbell, 4 December 1986

Survey of London: Vol. XLII. Southern Kensington: Kensington to Earls Court 
Athlone, 502 pp., £55, May 1986, 0 485 48242 8Show More
Follies: A National Trust Guide 
by Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp.
Cape, 564 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 224 02105 2
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The Botanists 
by David Elliston Allen.
St Paul’s Bibliographies, 232 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 906795 36 2
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British Art since 1900 
by Frances Spalding.
Thames and Hudson, 252 pp., £10.50, April 1986, 0 500 23457 4
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Paintings from Books: Art and Literature in Britain, 1760-1900 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 527 pp., £55, March 1986, 0 8142 0380 9
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History of the British Pig 
by John Wiseman.
Duckworth, 118 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 9780715619872
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... into eccentricity and monomania, is one of the great gifts of British natural history to Britain. Frances Spalding makes the ups and downs of art in Britain seem gentle ones. This is only partly a side-effect of small illustrations and limited space. The half of her book which covers the years I have lived through is as evocative as a pile of old ...

Feigning a Relish

Nicholas Penny: One Tate or Two, 15 October 1998

The Tate: A History 
by Frances Spalding.
Tate Gallery, 308 pp., £25, April 1998, 1 85437 231 9
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... on a North American look. The dust-jacket shows the austere lonic Portland stone sculpture hall. Spalding observes, justly, that by insisting on the intervention of the American architect John Russell Pope in 1929 the sponsor, Lord Duveen of Millbank, was promoting, against the inclinations of British curators and civil servants, the ‘latest American ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf’, 11 September 2014

... Woolf had seen wearing the outfit. Garland thought it made Woolf look ‘supremely elegant’, Frances Spalding writes in the exhibition catalogue.* There was also a hat, presumably not the one Woolf was wearing when she went to see the latest Stravinsky ballet with Vita Sackville-West just before she visited Garsington, ‘a sort of top-hat made of ...
Dance till the stars come down 
by Frances Spalding.
Hodder, 271 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 340 48555 8
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Keith Vaughan 
by Malcolm Yorke.
Constable, 288 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 09 469780 9
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... who saw it when it first appeared in Penguin New Writing, or on book jackets and in magazines. Frances Spalding’s biography gives us the life with too many adjectives but an abundance of facts and first-hand accounts. She is tentative about the value of the work, which is understandable, and about the man, which seems unkind. The facts are not so ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... return it enough to make some of the affair possible’ (Stansky doesn’t quote this letter; Frances Spalding does in her Life of Vanessa Bell). Vanessa read Pearl Buck, bought Chinese porcelain, ‘was observed poring over a map of China and teased for reading reports on the jute crop in the Times’.In the summer of 1936, when Bell had been in ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2013, 9 January 2014

... France. Then as slowly as any little local train it chugs through Lincolnshire past Sleaford and Spalding to Peterborough when at last it puts on speed and we’re back in London by 6.30. Not a wearisome journey at all. 1 November. Never having worked in the Olivier, coming in for the dress rehearsal for tonight and tomorrow night’s National Theatre Gala ...

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