Humanity is going through an unprecedented crisis and in times of isolation and constant anxiety, “Artists’ Letters, Leonardo da Vinci to David Hockney” by Michael Bird, a writer, art historian and radio broadcaster, published by The White Lion Publishing, might offer moments of solace.
The remarkable and entertaining book features fascinating letters written by eminent artists to other artists, family members, gallerists and collectors. Themes of love, human condition, travel, artistic techniques and inspirations dominate the captivating letters by artists including Goya, Vanessa Bell, David Hockney, Eva Hesse, Anni Albers, Lee Krasner, Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman, Lucian Freud, and many more.
While the letter from Cy Twombly (with his iconic handwriting recalling some of his paintings) to Leo Castelli demonstrates both friendship and insights into the art business, the letter between Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin show a dynamic bouncing of creative concepts and, to some extent, elements of rivalry.
“The letters in which the writers seem most able to speak their minds or paint word pictures are often, as you would expect, between artist and artist. Hoping that his compare (best mate) Michelangelo can use his contacts to ensure that he gets paid, Sebastiano del Piombo admits ‘to tell you the truth, I am in in the red’. ‘Sometimes,’ muses Dorothea Tanning in a letter to Joseph Cornell, ‘I think that the only true and satisfactory means of contact with those we love is by writing rather than talking … our letters are far more the real barometer of our feelings than when we speak for a few overcharged moments in New York.’” the remarkable introduction highlights.
The letters often include drawings, reproduced with the transcript and contextual information which enable readers and viewers to fully penetrate artists’ minds. An absolute must-have to understand the most significant artists of our time.