Art books to self-isolate with, from Patti Smith to Lucian Freud – the week in art

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Powered by article titled “Art books to self-isolate with, from Patti Smith to Lucian Freud – the week in art” was written by Jonathan Jones, for on Friday 20th March 2020 16.00 UTC

Art memoir of the week

Just Kids by Patti Smith
Stuck at home and want to read a vivid book that’s more living art than dead art history? An eyewitness memoir might do the trick. They don’t come better than Patti Smith’s beautifully written, utterly intimate and frank account of her love for Robert Mapplethorpe. This not just one of the best books you can read on contemporary art but a classic of American literature.
Just Kids is published by Bloomsbury.

More art books to self-isolate with

Pablo Picasso in 1946.
A titan of art up-close … Pablo Picasso in 1946. Photograph: Bridgeman Images

Life With Picasso by Françoise Gilot (with Carlton Lake)
The woman who survived Picasso shares her up-close account of an artistic titan who was a domestic beast.
Life With Picasso is published by Little, Brown.

The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson
This tremendously entertaining, often hilarious book takes you to the heart of bohemian Soho and, like a Nabokov novel, tells you as much about the author as his subject. A sleazy masterpiece.
The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon is published by Penguin.

Man With a Blue Scarf by Martin Gayford
There can’t have been a better way to know Lucian Freud than sitting for a portrait by him. Gayford combines a day-by-day account of this experience with acute critical insight to create a serious book that goes down like an oyster from Wheeler’s.
Man With a Blue Scarf is published by Thames and Hudson.

My Last Breath by Luis Buñuel
The great film director’s memoirs may not be entirely reliable but his sharp, cruel pen-portraits of his collaborator Salvador Dalí and other surrealists are a wicked delight. His recipe for the perfect martini may also be of assistance in these tense times.
My Last Breath is published by Penguin.

Image of the week

Buskers play to no audience outside the National Gallery in London, Britain on 16 March 2020

Buskers perform to an audience of none outside the National Gallery in London. The gallery is just one of many worldwide to have shut its doors for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus outbreak. Read our list of major cancellations of museums, festivals and more.

What we learned

The curse of Artemisia Gentileschi struck again as her National Gallery exhibition is postponed by coronavirus

A street art project spreaded love and unity in a pandemic

Leading arts figures demanded clarity over compensation as coronavirus closes the UK’s theatres and museums

How Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio can guide us through the coronavirus crisis

Deserted streets and shuttered pubs stripped of cheers, speeches and marching bands marked a St Patrick’s day like no other

The quarantine art club that’s keeping Instagrammers amused during self-isolation

Australia’s performing arts industry ‘could be brought to the brink’ by coronavirus

Carlos Pérez Siquier captured a changing Spain in poetic black and white to joyous colour

Kay Rufai confronted the damaging stereotypes of black boys and men …

… with his portraits of smiling teenagers from south London

We revisited our coverage of the death of Aubrey Beardsley from 1898, an artist who knew the value of line

A new photo book put the eclectic social tribes of New Orleans in front of the lens

The Guardian’s Murdo McLeod captured the snowy slopes of Scotland

Artist and illustrator Ed Fisher died aged 79

A lock of Elvis’s hair, the skull of Pablo Escobar’s hippo, a stuffed ‘swoose’ are among Victor Wynd’s macabre oddities

A photo archive of life in apartheid-era South Africa is going to be auctioned

Annalena McAfee revealed the best books on female artists

Historic, high-value paintings were stolen from an Oxford college gallery

African photographers explored why ‘a queer person can be anybody’

Massimo Vitali snapped a mid-flight watermelon in a bustling Brazilian market

Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV leader Genesis Breyer P-Orridge died aged 70

Sandra Herber photographed the unique designs of Lake Winnipeg’s fishing huts

Steven Appleby’s new graphic novel, Dragman, follows the adventures of a cross-dressing superhero

NYC voguing burst into London with DJs and disco extravagance

A new exhibition reminisced about the highs and lows of celebrity-packed hotspot Studio 54

From bridges to cities, China is modernising at breakneck speed

Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel designs delivered epic moments of visual fantasy

DIY curators have been let loose on a huge online collection of British art

Designers are turning northern Australia’s cane toads into fashion accessories

Masterpiece of the week

Sunflowers, 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh

Sunflowers, 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh
Coronavirus has closed most museums and galleries in the UK, but some works of art are so vibrant they blaze even as reproductions. The rugged surface of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, as if scarred by the passion with which he loaded each brush stroke, gives this painting a substantial and organic presence that can be felt almost as strongly on the National Gallery’s website as in its real presence. (The Sunflowers were put under quarantine in Tokyo in late February, as part of 60 masterpieces on tour.) It would be fatuous right now to show some escapist summer scene as a pick-me-up. Van Gogh’s joy in these yellow flowers, however, has a hard-won, desperate quality. He painted them soon after fleeing Paris, where drink and despair were killing him, for the south of France. He found a little house he liked in Arles, and painted a series of sunflower decorations all saturated, this one perhaps most of all, with his sheer wonder at a southern light and heat he’d never experienced before. This a reverent prayer to life itself.
National Gallery website.

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