Gilbert and George: A Portrait

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9780006388852: Gilbert and George: A Portrait

Gilbert and George are said to be among the most important and original artists of the late 20th century. Critics have come to recognize the artists' vision and to regard some of their works as among the major pictures of the century. Gilbert (from the Italian Dolomites) and George (from Totnes) met at St Martin's School of Art in the late 1960s and formed an immediate friendship. This is an informal portrait in which they reminisce about their family upbringing, their friendship, life in Spitalfields, and their relish of the mixed cultures of the East End. With their distinctive trademark single-breasted, three-button suits and their famously studied but courteous composure, Gilbert and George set out as artists without a gallery. From living, and singing, sculptures, they developed a line in controversial subject matter that extends from the "Dirty Words Pictures" to "The Naked Shit" and "The Fundamental" pictures.

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Review:

This affectionate, almost loving portrait of two of Britain's most distinguished and controversial artists is made all the more poignant by the fact that the biographer, art journalist and author Daniel Farson, died while writing it. Being about Gilbert & George, the salacious material is fairly unorthodox--the most shocking revelation is that George married as a young man and has two children--and for the most part Farson is almost apologetic about any intrusion into Proesch and Passmore's (their surnames) private lives. The first half of the book takes us from their childhoods in the Dolomites and Tiverton via their meeting at St. Martin's School of Art in the late 1960s to their current status as art icons. The second half sees Farson following them around--Moscow, Shanghai, Barnstable--as they exhibit around the world. Farson wisely highlights his admiration at the outset, and the reader is clear that this is no hatchet job. That said, he covers both the art and the lives with a straightforward professionalism that is never less than absorbing. This book is a fine tribute to Gilbert & George; equally, their closing words are a fine tribute to Farson: "On 27 November our dear Daniel died, not knowing how much we loved him (though we told him often enough)." --Nick Wroe

About the Author:

Daniel Farson was born in 1927 and died in November 1997, the year his autobiography Never a Normal Man was published to widespread acclaim. The manuscript of Gilbert & George was on his desk when he died at home in Appledore. He was a pioneering television reporter and interviewer, photographer, art critic, legendary bohemian, pub-owner and exotic traveller. His friends included Francis Bacon, Caitlin Thomas, John Deakin and many others. He wrote biographies of Jack the Ripper, his own great-grand-uncle Bram Stoker, and Francis Bacon, and his other books included Soho in the Fifties and With Gilbert & George in Moscow.

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