Maurice Yacowar, who writes extensively on popular culture, knew of Bratby the artist. When he spotted out-of-print copies of his novels for sale on eBay, which were previously unknown to him, his interest was piqued. It led him to a mountainous cache of diaries, letters and documents. He supplemented these with interviews of Bratby’s intimates.
Middlesex University Press July 2008
The Great Bratby
A Portrait of the British Artist John Bratby (1928-1992)
Artistic reputations are subject to whims of fortune. The public’s perception of genius shifts radically, as if on a bungee chord, as Margaret Atwood once remarked.
In the late 1950s John Bratby suddenly became England’s most prominent artist, the leader of the Kitchen Sink Realist painters. Flouting the tradition of pretty paintings he poured out thick images of everyday experience--his family junk, wild gardens, crammed tabletops, sunflowers, toilets.
He was the darling of the British media from the social and style pages to the literary pages, to television talk shows. His paintings were featured in the film based on Joyce Carey’s novel The Horse’s Mouth and actor Alec Guinness modelled his portrayal of artist Gully Jimson on Bratby’s wild and outrageous energy.
Bratby lived large. He maniacally produced 1500 portraits of famous people from music hall comedians to the Queen Mother. He also wrote copiously. Hutchinson published four of his autobiographical novels. Bratby also chronicled his life, moods, and sexual appetites in diaries.
But the passion (or fashion) for abstract art swamped Bratby. The spotlight and critical attention was on New York not London.
Maurice Yacowar has produced a vivid account of an artist, his times, and the way reputations soar an die and sometimes flare to life again in this age of personal celebrity.