I’m an established and critically acclaimed author specialising in cultural non-fiction. All too aware that the great stories lurking behind works of art and literature are not well enough known, I love excavating them and presenting them in the most accessible manner I can. My aim is to deliver factual books with the depth and authority of the very best in their field, which feel as exciting and moving as the best fiction.
When writing about visual art, I use the life of painters and their work as a lens to understand their era. In this way my biography of Hans Holbein the Younger provides a snapshot of Tudor England under Henry VIII, at the moment when that King was at his most tyrannical. Meanwhile my re telling of the life of the painter J M W Turner reveals a Britain on the cusp of modernity, when its painters were trying to forge their own national style and when the art world as we know it today was barely in its infancy.
I’m drawn to stories about relationships, particularly when these are integral to the creative process. My research into Oscar Wilde’s wife uncovered a complex and tragic relationship between two adventurous people, bound together by their passion for art and new ideas, which tried to redefine marriage and sexual politics. My serial biography of the Pre-Raphaelites relates how the ambitions of a group of young men to revolutionise art, saw them embrace social change for the women they drew into their milieu– with mixed results.
Strong, compelling characters set against challenging times are at the heart of all my books. These are crucial components when I choose my subjects.
Three of my four books have been adapted. In 2009 Desperate Romantics was serialized by BBC 2; in 2011 Constance was abridged for BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week; and in May 2021 my biography of Holbein was also featured as Book of the Week.
When I’m not writing and researching, I’m a regular speaker, consultant, sometime executive producer, and a trustee of Turner’s House in Twickenham. Please do visit this little known gem!
I’m also passionate about beautiful places. I was brought up in Shropshire and in the South of France, retain a passion for both, and let my homes there for those who are prepared to fall in love with old furniture and houses with histories set in lovely locations.