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Looking to Sea


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About the Author

Lily Le Brun is a writer from London. A graduate of Edinburgh University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, she has written on art for publications such as Art Quarterly, the Financial Times and the Economist. In 2018 Lily won a Royal Society of Literature Giles St Aubyn Award for the early chapters of Looking to Sea. She lives in Paris, and this is her first book.


This history of twentieth-century Britain, refracted through ten artistic responses to the sea, is beautifully written - authoritative and questioning; scholarly, but also vividly insightful about bodies, private lives, feelings, the often-overlooked quotidian.
*Aida Edemariam, judge of the RSL awards*

Looking to Sea is a remarkable and compelling book. It is both a wonderfully sustained mapping of the intersection between artists, writers and the sea and a meditation on belonging and displacement. I loved it.
*Edmund de Waal*

Le Brun's writing is at once bold and delicate, far-reaching and fine-tuned. Her book explores the inexhaustible variety of human perception.
*Alexandra Harris*

A smart and clear-eyed set of meditations on marine gaze, made with a painterly touch worthy of the chosen artists. Empathy and intelligence lift memoir into cultural history.
*Iain Sinclair*

An elegant scheme, beautifully written... From Alfred Wallis to Tracey Emin's Margate beach hut, this is an elegant guide to a century of seaside art... This book will give you sea fever. Pack your sou'wester, fill your Thermos, take a train to the coast. Read this sitting on the pier and see what you can see
*The TImes*

Ambitious . . . accessible . . . a chronicle of British art, unfurled against the panoramic backdrop of 20th-century history
*Sunday Telegraph*

A carefully considered and enjoyable mix of biography, art criticism and personal reflection

One for wild swimmers, beachcombers, wind surfers and all who like to be beside the seaside with a sketchbook and watercolour set. In her first, transporting book, Lily Le Brun sweeps the beaches of the past century of British art, collecting treasures from sea, shingle and shore . . . A book to pack in your picnic basket for shivering dips, heatwave day trips and ice-cream Sundays.
*The Times*

Held within a neatly conceived structure and based on far-reaching research, this book is not only about art but also about national identity, belonging and displacement. It churns with large ideas as well as persuasive arguments . . . Le Brun has an eye and ear for details that catch the reader's attention. She handles words with great skill and piercing thought
*Literary Review*

Ten hallmark, water-themed artworks provide a key into reading the modern history of the UK and the 20th century

A beautifully illustrated, meditative book for art lovers who also like the sea . . . This guide will make you long for salty air, sand and fish and chips. Pack the book and a flask of tea (or whisky) and head for the coast
*The Lady*

[A] rich portrait of our island nation . . . Le Brun has written a study of Britain imagined, Britain as it recently was, and of Britain becoming . . . elegant and endlessly interesting . . . as much a rich compendium of social history as it is a hard consideration of art itself . . . reading Le Brun's book will give you a renewed love for this place that sits apart

Each chapter mixes biography with anecdote, cultural criticism with lyrical description and wider philosophical musing . . . Le Brun apparently uses the artists' own visions to comment on today's Britain, though in fact her own range often outstrips theirs
*Financial Times*

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