A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book has been a staff favourite for quite some time now. So we were delighted to hear that she has a new (non-fiction) book due out in July that covers some of the areas explored in the fictional The Children’s Book.
Our Random House rep, Stef recently sent us this message about her experience with Peacock and Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny.
Byatt has given us a wonderfully detailed insight into the lives of two brilliantly creative and inventive artists, William Morris and Mariano Fortuny, who were also obsessive craftsmen, striving for perfection.
Both Morris and Fortuny drew much of their inspiration from nature, the patterns of nature and symbolism from the past. They developed repetitive patterns based on nature, perfect for block printing on textiles and papers.
They were often inventive solving technical difficulties by inventing new techniques or equipment.
Both were masters of many mediums, not just limiting themselves to one artistic medium. They drew, painted, were printmakers and designers of both homewares and clothes. They developed printing presses, photography techniques and theatre lighting. They surrounded themselves with other artistic friends and associates.
But both suffered from being misunderstood by their families. Morris tolerated his wife’s open affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite painter and Fortuny fell out with his mother when he fell in love with Henrietta Negrin and moved Henrietta in with him at the Palazzo Pesaro Orfei, in Venice.
For me, Byatt has given just enough about both artists to draw you in and whet your appetite for more. I have spent hours looking up images, the repeated motifs and their symbolism and meaning, their homes and studios.
Her writing shimmers off the pages, capturing the light of Venice and rich jewel like colours of the English countryside that both artists depicted so beautifully in their timeless work, that is still fresh and beautiful today.
This is a book for anyone who is interested in beauty, in art and in artist’s lives, discovering more about how they lived and worked. It is a small hardcover, illustrated, perfect for the gift market or for anyone who enjoys dipping into others’ lives.
We hope this review tantalises you as much as did us!
Pre-orders for this book can be taken over the phone or pop into the shop to reserve your copy.
9781784740801 Peacock and Vine, A. S. Byatt $ 35.00
Published by Chatto and Windus 18th July 2016