The Making of Modern Art

A selection of essays on modern art brought out by Yale University Press earlier this year.

In his review for The London Magazine, Andrew Lambirth said: “Peppiatt is always worth reading and there isn’t a dud in this stimulating collection.

Full review:

The Making of Modern Art by Michael Peppiatt is a collection of previously published pieces (the author calls it a ‘scrapbook’) ranging from the 1960s to date. It demonstrates once again Peppiatt’s gifts of lively récit, vivid description and jargon-free assessment, which he has spent a lifetime honing and fruitfully applying to art and artists. Here we have a number of the big names of Modern Art, such as Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Bacon and Jackson Pollock, but also a good admixture of the lesser-celebrated. Among these I would mention Vieira da Silva, Zoran Mušič and Nicolas de Staël – all of whom are not nearly well-known enough in this country. Peppiatt’s choice is inevitably Gallocentric, after all he has lived and worked for most of his life in Paris, but none the less valid for that.

His admitted bias towards figuration at the expense of abstraction is potentially far more worrying; perhaps this is why he is more moved by van Gogh than Cézanne. At one point, in an essay on Klimt, he suggests that artists attempted to conceal the fundamental postwar malaise, or deep uneasiness with life, by disposing of the human figure and going abstract. Clearly he feels this is some sort of betrayal of art, or art’s primary subject. He takes his lead from his mentor Francis Bacon, who dismissed all abstraction as mere decoration.

In his introduction, Peppiatt notes that this collections of reviews, catalogue prefaces and interviews is a kind of voyage of discovery (the critic doing his learning in public), moving, as he puts it, ‘from youthful dilettantism and journalistic necessity to deep commitment’. He muses that such an anthology may be ‘as close as one gets to a true autobiography, a compendium of one’s tastes and times.’ One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is the new introduction he has written for each piece, a compact reflection on the history of the writing and Peppiatt’s feelings about the artist, mingled with more personal memories and anecdotes. I would pick out for special notice the compelling essay on Maillol, the story of the correspondence between Dubuffet and James Fitzsimmons, and the detailed investigation of the School of London. But Peppiatt is always worth reading and there isn’t a dud in this stimulating collection.

‘The Valves of Sensation’


Essay discussing Bacon’s process for the creation of the Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the ‘Oresteia’ of Aeschylus.

This essay is now available on the Sotheby’s website here.

Photographs at Michael’s Home in Southwest France

Two recent photographs by Fred Lahache for a forthcoming article about Michael in Christie’s magazine.

Older Photos of Michael

On Francis Bacon and My Life in Art

Michael discussed his friendship with Francis Bacon and his life in art, on 16 October at the Cambridge Centre for Visual Culture.

Paris Among the Artists

From The Existential Englishman, Michael shared his experiences in conversation with writer and translator Miranda France, followed by Q&A, of a life spent amongst the artists. A life spent at its bohemian heart, rich with adventures, misadventures and the beauty of one of the most enduringly romantic cities in the world.

The event was a tremendous success. It was a partnership between The London Library and Bloomsbury Publishing, and took place on 15 October.

Bacon / Giacometti: A Dialogue

An exclusive read-through of Michael’s new play took place at Christie’s on 18 June.

A video of the performance is available here.

Talks at the RA and American Library

The American Library in Paris invited Michael to talk about his recent book The Existential Englishman on 27 March.

Michael then joined Royal Academy Artistic Director Tim Marlow on Tues 21 May.


Two Talks at the Cercle Littéraire de Lausanne

Michael gave talks on Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti at the ancient and very amiable Cercle Littéraire in Lausanne in January 2019.

‘Francis Bacon: An Intimate Portrait’

Michael gave a revealing talk on Francis Bacon at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in Soho, London, on 25 October 2018.


Michael has co-curated the Francis Bacon / Alberto Giacometti exhibition at Fondation Beyeler, Basel, which ran from 29 April until 2 September 2018.

For further details, click HERE.

A video of Michael discussing Giacometti with Stanley Tucci is available HERE.

Two Talks about Francis Bacon

Michael recently gave his new talk about his close relationship to Francis Bacon, entitled Francis Bacon: An Intimate Portrait, at the Beyeler Foundation on 30 May 2018.


Many thanks to Krzysztof Cieszkowski for compiling this complete bibliography of Michael’s writings and films on Francis Bacon, which can be consulted HERE.


Michael was recently interviewed by Blouin ArtInfo, who asked him “Who should play Francis Bacon in a biopic?”  The full interview transcript can be found HERE.

Michael was also interviewed while in Singapore by Billionaire magazine. You can read the full article HERE.


Michael has just written a substantial essay on the new phenomenon of ‘World Art’ to coincide with an exhibition of 27 established and up-and-coming artists from all points on the globe that opened in Singapore in January 2014. You can order the book HERE.

Michael has been interviewed about his involvement in this event, as well as about his career and his current projects. You can read transcripts of two of the interviews HERE and HERE.

Michael being interviewed by Jill Lloyd


Michael Peppiatt talks about Nicolas de Staël during a recent exhibition of his paintings at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York. Watch it HERE.


Michael is currently curating a full-scale retrospective of the work of Joan Miró (working title: Joan Miró: A Painter among Poets), opening in January 2015 at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg and travelling to the Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf.


The recently rediscovered full and unedited version of Michael’s interview with Francis Bacon in 1987 – the first part in Bacon’s studio in London and the second in the Art International offices in Paris – can now be heard HERE.


To coincide with the opening of his recent Alberto Giacometti exhibition in Hamburg in January 2013, Michael Peppiatt gave the following keynote lecture at the Bucerius Kunst Forum on Giacometti’s crucial friendships with the leading poets and philosophers of post-war Paris, in particular André Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett. Listen to the lecture HERE.


Michael Peppiatt’s latest book “Interviews with Artists (1966–2012)” published by Yale University Press is out now. If you would like to read Michael’s account of how the book was written please click HERE.

Talking to Today programme’s Justin Webb, Michael recalls many incidents from forty years of interviewing artists, including getting drunk with Francis Bacon in an “epic fashion”. Listen to the interview HERE.