Peppiatt, Michael 1941-
Peppiatt, Michael 1941-
Born October 9, 1941, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England; son of Edward George (a company director) and Elsa Eugenie (a homemaker) Peppiatt; married Dr. Jill Patricia Lloyd (an art historian), 1989; children: Clio Patricia, February 16, 1991, Alexander Michael, April 23, 1994. Education: Göttingen University; Cambridge University, Trinity Hall, M.A. (with honors), 1964. Hobbies and other interests: Squash and court tennis.
Home—Paris, France; London, England. Agent—Kim Witherspoon, Witherspoon & Chernoff, 130 W. 57th St., Ste. 14C, New York, NY 10019.
Realites, Paris, France, literary and arts editor, 1966-68; Le Monde, Paris, literary and arts editor, 1969-71; Art International, Paris (formerly Lugano, Switzerland), correspondent, 1968-73, senior editor, 1983-87, owner and editor, 1987—. Arts correspondent for Financial Times, London, 1972-76, and Art News, 1973-80. Founder, Archive Press, 1987. Organizer of art exhibitions; art film consultant and commentator.
International Art Critics Association, Jeu de Paume Club (Paris, France), Oxford and Cambridge Club (London, England).
(With Alice Bellony-Rewald) Imagination's Chamber: Artists and Their Studios, New York Graphic Society (New York, NY), 1982.
A School of London: Six Figurative Painters, British Council (London, England), 1987.
(Contributor) Tim Wilcox, editor, The Pursuit of the Real: British Figurative Painting from Sickert to Bacon, Lund Humphries in association with Manchester City Art Galleries (London, England), 1990.
Francis Bacon: A Vision Fulfilled (exhibition catalogue), Electa, 1993.
Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Dennis Farr and Sally Yard) Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1999.
(Preface) Jean Dubuffet and James Fitzsimmons, Correspondance 1956-1964, Echoppe (Paris, France), 2006.
Contributor of essays to numerous exhibition catalogues. Contributor to periodicals, including Architectural Digest, Connaissance des Arts, New York Times Book Review, and Times (London, England). Peppiatt's works have been translated into several other languages, including French and German.
In Imagination's Chamber: Artists and Their Studios, Michael Peppiatt and coauthor Alice Bellony-Rewald explore the world of the artist's studio throughout history. It is the authors' contention that "art history can be told through the studio," and their work attempts to support this thesis. However, as Tom Phillips of the Times Literary Supplement asserted, "this entertaining book" cannot be considered a "serious and scholarly attempt" to cover "the whole of the history of art." In addition to noting numerous "obvious gaps," Phillips believed the work suffers from sketchiness—the authors "have leapt from the caveman to eighteenth-century France by page 27." New York Times Book Review critic Janet Hobhouse commented on the absence of a sound historical and sociological framework in Imagination's Chamber and argues that Peppiatt and coauthor Bellony-Rewald "take little account" of the actual factors determining an artist's choice of studio. The book, maintained Hobhouse, "deals inflatedly with the trivia of artistic life and its fortuitous and haphazard settings."
Conversely, Times Literary Supplement contributor Phillips observed that some periods—Renaissance Italy, for instance—are richly documented. He further acknowledged the authors' depiction of nineteenth-century Paris as a "fascinating and well-illustrated tale of change and continuity, enlivened by rich anecdote, of the famous, and even of the obscure."
Phillips remarked that, thanks to Peppiatt's and Bellony-Rewald's sense of detail, the reader experiences "many glimpses of painters and sculptors in their working quarters." Specifically, the critic applauded the authors for introducing the reader to a wide variety of studios. "We see clinical studios (‘Like a laboratory,’ said [artist Pablo] Picasso after a visit to [artist Paul] Klee's studio)," Phillips wrote, "heroic studios, studios encrusted, domestic, opulent, and even (like [Hans] Bellmer's) fetishistic."
Listener reviewer Stephen Gardiner described one of the book's fascinations as "the discovery of how little comfort and appearance in general mattered to great artists." Imagination's Chamber shows, according to Gardiner, that indifference to comfort can range from the simplicity of Jacob Epstein's studio to the "excessively crude" simplicity of La Ruche, "a warren of studios founded in 1902 on the outskirts of Paris where [Chaim] Soutine, [Amedeo] Modigliani, [Fernan] Leger, [Berthold] Lubetkin and others worked." Concurring with Peppiatt's and Bellony-Rewald's premise that a studio "can tell us a great deal about an artist," Gardiner characterized Imagination's Chamber as "an extraordinarily interesting book, where the illustrations are as illuminating as the commentary."
Peppiatt once told CA: "Writing Imagination's Chamber helped me to get closer to the actual processes by which painting and sculpture are made. The art criticism I had written before was based mainly on an aesthetic (and occasionally biographical or historical) appreciation. This applies to many critics, most of whom have not held a paintbrush since their schooldays and know little of the technical problems that artists encounter constantly. Understanding how a work of art takes form, not only in the artist's mind but in its physical substance, now seems to me essential to serious criticism, and the only way to find out how a work evolves is by spending time in the studio. My coauthor, Alice Bellony-Rewald, had a privileged knowledge of studios since she had visited Picasso at ‘La Californie’ near Cannes and had her portrait drawn by Giacometti, Balthus, and Kokoschka.
"Together we assembled a large number of paintings, engravings, and photographs of artists' studios, many of which had never been published before. This entailed visiting artists, contacting the specialist photographers, and doing research in libraries in Paris, London, and New York. At the same time, we culled information about every aspect of studios and the way artists live and work in them from as many sources as we could find. Since no authoritative book existed on the subject, we had to do a great deal of reading in quite different areas in order to piece together a ‘history’ of the studio. Little enough is known about pre-Renaissance studios, but the closer one gets to our own period the more abundant the information becomes. As far as contemporary studios were concerned, my coauthor and I were often able to draw on first-hand experience.
"Studios can be ‘read’ in terms of their light, space, and, above all, their contents—from tools and materials to the books, objects, and illustrations the artist keeps and consults there. Thus the studio provides an invaluable guide to the work produced within its walls—a point quite lost on the New York Times Book Review critic quoted above, who approached the subject as a problem in real estate! Since Imagination's Chamber appeared, I have been asked by Connaissance des Arts and Art International to write a series of long essays on twentieth-century artists from Pollock to Bacon and Kitaj. And nowadays, before writing about living artists, I try to spend as much time as possible in their studios because they are as eloquent—and at least as telling—about the work as the artists themselves."
A thirty-year friendship with artist Francis Bacon aided Peppiatt in the preparation of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma. The book is a full-scale biography of Bacon, from his childhood in Ireland to his years as "one of the signal forces in twentieth-century art," to quote Lisa Liebmann in Artforum. In a New York Times Book Review piece on the work, John Russell observed: "Bacon lived a layered life. Secrecy, make-believe and a flamboyant mischief were fundamental to it…. There is a huge disparity between the recorded and the unrecorded." Noting that the artist deliberately styled himself to "make life difficult for a biographer," Russell nevertheless commended Peppiatt's volume as "pleasurable reading on the whole…. Peppiatt has done some original work."
While some reviewers of Anatomy of an Enigma expressed reservations about the work, most credited the author with a comprehensive account that analyzes Bacon from the perspective of his singular life. Calling it "a balanced, intelligent book that illuminates Bacon's paintings with an objectivity and perceptiveness for which the work cries out," Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Nicholas Fox Weber maintained that Anatomy of an Enigma "contributes significantly to the literature … of Bacon's life and artistic growth." In the New Leader, Daniel Kunitz claimed that Peppiatt's biography "makes for a wonderfully gossip-filled tale … [but] it obscures Bacon's achievement by turning his overheated impulses into a sideshow." Kunitz nevertheless conceded that the work "does give a full account of the artist's life. It is especially thorough on the artist's long relationship with his two galleries and with the Tate; on the growth of Bacon's reputation in France, where the author lives; and on the critical reception of the paintings."
Lisa Liebmann praised Anatomy of an Enigma, declaring that the biography "has a lot going for it: an urbane, insightful author and a famously flamboyant, risque subject…. Bacon can be heard loud and clear in this keenly pitched book. No mean feat for a dead queen." In Library Journal, Heidi Martin suggested that Anatomy of an Enigma "fleshes out, with lucidity and scholarship, biographical and contextual details heretofore unexplored … [and] brings both a critical and a personal perspective to [Bacon]." Richard Shone, writing in the Spectator, noted of Peppiatt: "Future books on Bacon will owe him a solid debt…. Peppiatt unravels layers of meaning in the paintings in a consistently illuminating way…. He sifts facts from legend in the early years to achieve the most convincing portrait yet published of this dissolute, amoral, asthmatic, immensely intelligent sprig of a well-to-do, unattractive English family."
Peppiatt's Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris was written to accompany a traveling European show of the artist's work that marked the centenary of his birth. The exhibit itself was not as well-rounded as some earlier Giacometti shows, but still gave a thorough impression of his strengths and major influences, all of which is reflected in Peppiatt's work. In addition to his own text, Peppiatt included several poems and essays written by Giacometti himself, in order to further enhance the impression of his art. Douglas F. Smith, in a review for Library Journal, dubbed the book "one of the better titles available on this important 20th-century figure."
Francis Bacon in the 1950s is the catalog that Peppiatt put together to accompany a touring exhibit that focused primarily on Bacon's portraits that were rendered in the 1950s. The decade is considered an important one in the development of Bacon's talents, and he produced a total of fifty-four paintings during the period. Peppiatt provides readers with a history of Bacon's career and development, calling on a series of letters the artist wrote to London's Hanover Gallery, as well as to two of his major patrons, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury. Russell T. Clement, in a review for Library Journal, opined that "interest in Bacon remains high since his death in 1992, which makes this a priority purchase for academic and museum libraries."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Artforum, summer, 1997, Lisa Liebmann, review of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, p. S9.
ARTnews, October, 2002, "The Thin Man Returns," p. 110.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 1999, P.C. Bunnell, review of Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, p. 318; September, 2002, J. Weidman, review of Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris, p. 90.
Library Journal, May 15, 1997, Heidi Martin Winston, review of Anatomy of an Enigma, p. 74; August, 2002, Douglas F. Smith, review of Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris, p. 88; April 1, 2007, Russell T. Clement, review of Francis Bacon in the 1950s, p. 88.
Listener, February 10, 1983, Stephen Gardiner, review of Imagination's Chamber: Artists and Their Studios, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 27, 1997, Nicholas Fox Weber, review of Anatomy of an Enigma, p. 3.
New Leader, November 3, 1997, Daniel Kunitz, review of Anatomy of an Enigma, p. 17.
New York Times Book Review, January 23, 1983, Janet Hobhouse, review of Imagination's Chamber, p. 8; July 27, 1997, John Russell, review of Anatomy of an Enigma, p. 6.
Spectator, November 9, 1996, Richard Shone, review of Anatomy of an Enigma, p. 54.
Times Literary Supplement, April 29, 1983, Tom Phillips, review of Imagination's Chamber; April 5, 2002, "A Tremendous Opening," p. 11; January 12, 2007, Keith Miller, review of Francis Bacon in the 1950s, p. 29.