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Our March Book of the Month is The Great Bratby: A Portrait of John Bratby RA by Maurice Yacowar, reviewed by Exhibitions Curator, Victoria Howarth. 

The Great Bratby: A Portrait of John Bratby RA 
RRP: £30

Maurice Yacowar’s biography of John Bratby paints a revealing, sometimes disturbing, portrait of the artist. Bratby was a prolific painter and writer, becoming a household name during the 1950s when he represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale (1956) and created artworks for Alec Guinness’s character in the film ‘The Horse’s Mouth’ (1958).  

He was renowned for his paintings of domestic interiors, and later for his portraits of the great and good of his day, as was also known for his novels ‘Breakdown’, ‘Breakfast and Elevenses’ and ‘Break-Pedal Down’.  

Yacowar has taken on the daunting task of presenting the first full biography of Bratby, delving into thousands of pages of archive material, diaries, letters, records of sales and poetry. The result is essential reading for anyone interested in finding out more about Bratby’s life, loves and personal daemons.  

The book is structured chronologically into five sections, charting the most important decades of Bratby’s life. In these sections Yacowar explores Bratby’s key personal and creative moments, from his entrance to the Royal College of Art in 1951, to his death in Hastings in 1992, the day after his 64th birthday.

With chapter headings such as ‘Betrayals’, ‘The Affair’, and ‘The Pornographer’, it is clear that Yacowar is not shying away from the more private and controversial moments in Bratby’s life, and much of the book draws heavily on Bratby’s personal correspondence and diary entries. The result is a fascinating, often quite shocking, insight into the art and life of this remarkable man.   

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