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Picture Books of the Year: John Singer Sargent, Rex Whistler and Peter Campbell

Paul Johnson and John Lanchester chose the year's best picture books.

Paul Johnson

John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes 1900-1907

(The Brook, John Singer Sargent, 1907. IMAGE: Yale Press)

(The Mountains of Moab, John Singer Sargent, 1905. Image: Tate Modern)

This image is taken from the most significant art book of the year, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1900-1907, by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray (Yale University Press, £50). It reveals an important new aspect of Sargent’s art: his work as an innovative landscape painter, especially during his trip to Palestine and Syrian in 1905-1906. His painting The Mountains of Moab, from that winter, now in the Tate, is the finest landscape created in the first quarter of the 20th century.


In Search of Rex Whistler

(Self Portrait, Rex Whistler, 1933. IMAGE: Tate Modern)

One of the most poignant losses suffered by English art in the Second World War was the death of Rex Whistler in the Normandy campaign of 1944. In Search of Rex Whistler by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil (Frances Lincoln, £40) is a beautiful commemorative volume that brings out his talents as a muralist, illustrator and portrait painter and underlies the tragedy. Either of these splendid volumes would make a fine Christmas present.


John Lanchester

Artwork, by Peter Campbell

(IMAGE: Profile Books and the London Review of Books)

This image is taken from Artwork by Peter Campbell (Profile Books, £30). The only thing wrong with this collection of Campbell’s paintings and covers for the London Review of Books is that this beautiful book is coming out now, a year after Peter’s death, rather than when he would have been able to take pleasure from the amount of pleasure his work was giving.

Along with At...: Writing, Mainly about Art, from the London Review of Books (Hyphen Press, £20), which came out three years ago, it makes a substantial monument to a man who didn’t think in terms of leaving monuments and who is still keenly missed by everyone lucky enough to have known him.

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SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

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The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.