Books: Art: The Britpack for breakfast

OSCAR WILDE quipped that "every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter". But even he may not have envisaged that a century later there would be artists whose oeuvre would consist of little but self-portraits: Gilbert and George, Anthony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Cindy Sherman...

It wasn't always thus. In Joanna Woods-Marsden's lucid and copiously illustrated study of Renaissance Self-Portraiture (Yale, pounds 45), we learn about the slow birth of the genre during the Renaissance. The proliferation of self-portraiture coincides with artists' attempts to move up the social and cultural pecking order, and distinguish themselves from "mere" craftsmen. Woods-Marsden's chapters on Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana can be read in tandem with Frances Borzello's discursive, if inconclusive, Seeing Ourselves: women's self-portraits (Thames & Hudson, pounds 28).

The greatest self-portrait of all may well be Velazquez's "Las Meninas", and the unique way in which this and 29 other works were created is the subject of Jonathan Brown and Carmen Garrido's eminently readable Velazquez: the technique of genius (Yale, pounds 29.95). Full-colour details allow us to stay with the argument. The modern cult of the artist, exemplified by solo exhibitions and personal museums (no more, please!), is explored in Oskar Batschmann's stimulating The Artist in the Modern World (Yale, pounds 30).

While self-portraits and their survival do reflect a genuine improvement in the status of the best artists, the vast majority remained anonymous drones. David Alan Brown's Leonardo da Vinci: origins of a genius (Yale, pounds 35) is a study of the busy workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, where the young Leonardo learned his trade. This gripping bit of art historical sleuthing hit the headlines because of Brown's plausible claim that Leonardo contributed a dog and a fish and other frilly bits to Verrocchio's "Tobias and the Angel" in the National Gallery. Brown believes that as Verrocchio was a sculptor who only turned to painting late in life, he was OK on figures, but got assistants to do many non-sculptural bits.

The often grim and sometimes sordid reality of painters' lives in Rome is meticulously explored in Helen Langdon's Caravaggio: a life (Chatto, pounds 25), the first full-length biography of the artist. Langdon takes full advantage of recent research to chart the complex network of relationships that sustained and thwarted Caravaggio through his brief life. She shows that his seemingly outlandish behaviour was not so unusual in a city full of unemployed soldiers, serviced by thousands of prostitutes. Tracey Emin and fellow Britpackers would have been eaten alive for prima colazione.

Bernini was another highly successful Roman thug. He set about his younger brother with a crowbar after discovering him with his own mistress (the wife of one of his studio assistants) and then had her disfigured with a razor. In his more creative guise, Bernini presides over Bruce Boucher's Italian Baroque Sculpture (Thames & Hudson, pounds 7.95), an elegant distillation of information on this massively under- researched area. Its thematic structure works well, with chapters on fountains, garden sculpture, and even ephemera such as sugar sculptures.

British art is given a professional check-up in Judy Egerton's catalogue to The British School in the National Gallery (National Gallery Publications, pounds 50). An introductory essay charts the uncertain position of British art within this institution, followed by detailed autopsies of 60 British pictures. Because of the matchless quality and range of so many parts of the collection, this new series of catalogues is an essential work.

William Blake has never been shown in the National. Not clubbable enough? For Blake, we can now gratefully turn to a landmark edition of his Illuminated Books, (Tate Gallery, six volumes, pounds 15-pounds 20 each). They are beautifully produced and great value. Sarah Symmons has done a deft job contextualising Blake's contemporary, Goya (Phaidon, pounds 12.99). She even reproduces a caricature of the Duke of Wellington as a vain peacock (these days, no aristocrat is sacred) and ends in the present with the Chapman Brothers.

There are several good books on modern sculpture. Richard Kendall's Degas and the Little Dancer (Yale, pounds 30) looks at the circumstances surrounding one of the oddest sculptures of the 19th century, while Sergiusz Michalski's Public Monuments (Reaktion, pounds 14.95) is a well-illustrated study of monuments from 1870 to the present. Michalski's discussion of the graceless German contribution is fascinating.

Andrew Causey's Sculpture Since 1945 (Oxford, pounds 8.99) is an extremely intelligent and thorough survey. Unusually for this type of book, Causey is as good on, say, Henry Moore as he is on Richard Serra. Ingo Walter's two-volume Art of the Twentieth Century (Taschen, pounds 49.99) is an attractive anthology that covers work in all media: stick it by the loo.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower