Arthur Jeffress: A Life in Art by Gill Hedley - review by Andrew Lambirth

Andrew Lambirth

A Dealer & A Dandy

Arthur Jeffress: A Life in Art


Bloomsbury 355pp £27 order from our bookshop

There are many types of biography reader. Some people prefer the early years of a subject, the period of innocence and growth of character, when all seems possible and disenchantment has not yet cast its blight. Others, and I am one, are more concerned with the achievements of maturity. So while I respect the huge amount of research that has gone into reconstructing the early life of Arthur Jeffress, from his birth to wealthy American parents in Acton in 1905, to school at Harrow, to Cambridge in 1923 and beyond, I cannot find it of great interest. I want to know about his role in the postwar London art world, where he was an influential gallery owner and collector, not about his student acting exploits and female impersonations, however brilliant. So it was not until Jeffress met the photographer John Deakin in Chapter Nine that my attention became fully engaged.

In fact, it is a problem throughout the book that the subject remains curiously elusive, right up to his suicide in 1961. Even when the friendship with Deakin brings Jeffress into focus – they were extremely close from the 1930s to the 1950s and lived together for some of that

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