Derek Hill by Bruce Arnold - review by John McEwen

John McEwen

Portraits of Society

Derek Hill


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This is a labour of love and quite a labour to read. Bruce Arnold’s job is not easy. The book is dedicated to the artist’s ‘family and friends who “saw him through”’. As a friend answering the need of friends, Arnold must defend, celebrate and, if possible, not offend, in what is essentially a private offering. I find myself in much the same delicate position. Patrick Trevor-Roper said that Derek referred to almost everyone he knew as one of his ‘best and oldest friends’. That is why he will be called ‘Derek’ here.

Robert McKinstry wrote of Derek in his sixties that ‘he still has the vulnerability of a child and still retains the enthusiasm of a twenty-one-year-old’. The vulnerability explains a lot, the enthusiasm excuses much. Naim Attallah, the book’s publisher, knew Derek well, having suffered the ‘nightmare’ of producing

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