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12 Days

26 December 2013

For each of the 12 days of Christmas we have asked Apollo staff and contributors to select the artistic highlights that they are most eagerly anticipating in 2014. The Muse Room will return with its regular daily blogs on 7 January 2014. From all of us at Apollo, happy new year!

The subtitle of Daniel Sutherland’s forthcoming Whistler biography, A Life for Art’s Sake (Yale), makes such a confident connection between biographical circumstance and artistic production that I can’t help wanting to question it. The artist himself subscribed to the credo that: ‘A picture is finished when all trace of the means used to bring about the end has disappeared.’ All the same, I’m very much looking forward to this life, which promises to delve into Whistler’s letters to reveal a rather different character from the bickering self-publicist we have grown accustomed to.

Another biography I’m looking out for is James Banker’s Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man (Oxford). Quite how nuanced a man can be drawn forth from what is left over from the 15th century remains to be seen, but I hope that Banker’s archival research helps to clarify the social, if not the personal contexts of what Carlo Ginzburg called ‘the enigma of Piero’.

Finally, I can’t wait to see what director Mike Leigh makes of J.M.W. Turner in his biopic of the artist (due September 2014). Leigh did a remarkable job with the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan in Topsy-Turvy (1999). But how will the light and landscape of late Turner translate to the big screen?

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