Robert Cumming's Books

Here are details of some of the books I have written. Collectively they have been translated into over 20 languages and have sold well over 1 million copies worldwide.

Yale University Press, 2015

583 pages
Yale University Press
ISBN 978-0-300-20737-8

My Dear BB ... The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark, 1925--1959

In 1925, the 22-year-old Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) and the legendary art critic and historian Bernard Berenson (1865-1959) met in Italy. From that moment, they began a correspondence that lasted until Berenson's death at age 94. This book makes available, for the first time, the complete correspondence between two of the most influential figures in the 20th-century art world, and gives a new and unique insight into their lives and motivations. The letters are arranged into ten chronological sections, each accompanied by biographical details and providing the context for the events and personalities referred to. They were both talented letter writers: informative, spontaneous, humorous, gossipy, and in their frequent letters they exchanged news and views about art and politics, friends and family life, collectors, connoisseurship, discoveries, books read and written, and travel. Berenson advised Clark on his blossoming career, warning against the museum and commercial art worlds while encouraging his promise as a writer and interpreter of the arts. Above all, these letters trace the development of a deep and intimate friendship.

‘Robert Cumming's informative and shrewd linking commentaries, footnoted glosses and lively biographical appendix all enhance and illuminate the letters. There a skittish touches that are thoroughly endearing. He lets the correspondence's ‘evolving continuity’ stand as an ‘authentic testimony’.’-Richard Davenport-Hines, Literary Review.

‘Both men are blessed on this occasion in having Robert Cumming as editor. His apparatus is superbly thorough and the footnotes salvage many a dull reference. In giving us rather more than we need, Cumming confers amplitude and completeness upon his project.’-Duncan Fallowell, the Spectator.

‘...Cumming is a perceptive and diligent editor; his annotations and notes a mine of information’-Robert Carver, the Tablet.

"Superbly edited and annotated... Cumming’s introductions to the various chapters form a deft narrative of the two lives"-Patrick McCaughey, Australian Book Review.

"The letters have been edited and annotated to superlative effect by Robert Cumming... How do I love this book? Let me count the ways. First there are the letters themselves, richissime in information and observations on art, people and the world at large... a steady stream of historical context engages the reader and leads him on... This is a real contribution to the study of art history."-Eliot Rowlands, Art Newspaper.


Dorling Kindersley, 2015

Hardcover with slip case
416 pages
Dorling Kindersley
ISBN-10: 0241186102

Art: A Visual History

This beautifully illustrated book offers a comprehensive guide to western artists, themes, paintings, techniques and stories. Packed full of large, full-colour images of iconic works and lesser-known gems, Art: A Visual History covers over six-hundred and fifty artists, providing an expansive view of art history.

Covering every era, from early art in 3000 BCE to contemporary work, with chronological features on the major schools and movements and close-up critical appraisals of twenty-two masterpieces, this book is a broad but thorough introduction to art history. A firm foundation in the subject is ensured by an exhaustive glossary of art terms which reinforces technical knowledge such as an ability to identify impressionism from expressionism.

Art: A Visual History addresses the question 'what makes great art?' With detailed referencing, crisp reproductions and a fresh new look, this book is a must-have for anyone with an interest in art history.

"One of my best ever Christmas presents. This is a Dorling Kindersley (DK) book in hard cover. It's 416 pages and measures 20cm wide by 24 cm high. It's brilliant! The book is encased in a very solid slip cover, which I love, and takes the reader through the ages chronologically from 30,000BC to "1970 Onwards". Like all DK books the quality is excellent and the colour photographs are beyond brilliant. The book covers eight periods from "Early Art" to "Modernism" and has a good glossary section and a detailed index. The index covers mainly artists and to find a particular painting you have to look under the artist's name. It's a great reference and a book I shall really treasure and refer to often".


Dorling Kindersley 2006

Soft cover
512 pages
Dorling Kindersley
ISBN: 1 4053 1054 5

Art- The Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Companion

"This gem of a book an ideal companion when walking round galleries. It is everything one would look for in such a companion - lucid, witty, provocative and thoughtful. Robert Cumming has a unique ability to relate art, its artists and its subjects to the real world".

"It is the insight and the remarkably deft choice of words to convey this insight which marks out Robert Cumming's work as unique amongst all of the books on art I have ever come across. He says it as he sees it, and he sees it through crystal clear eyes. It is a wonderful "gift".


Everyman, 2001

480 pages
ISBN 1 84159 044 4

A.R.T: A no-nonsense guide to art and artists

How do you get inside a Rothko? What should you look for in a Rembrandt? Will Damien Hirst last? Is Canaletto overrated? Why was Edward Hicks called Peaceable? What are the different labours of Hercules? What is special about Ursula? What does a crow represent? Was St Lawrence shot to death or clubbed to death? How do you recognise Abraham? What is: decalcomania, marouflage, ruperstain, gender surfing? How does poppy oil differ from linseed oil? What does post-humanism mean? Who were the Hudson River School? Can you give a clear crisp explanation, or a thought provoking answer for the above? A.R.T can. A.R.T is a lively, concise but authoritative guide to the creators, the stories, and the techniques that have made the art of painting one of the glories of Western civilisation. The book is divided into 3 main sections: Section One Explores over 700 artists from Abbate to Zubaran, Explains their characteristics, Locates the principal collections, Identifies the price ranges and records for each artist. Section Two Interprets over 700 stories and subjects from Aaron to Zeus, Decodes the essential signs, symbols and characters. Section Three Defines over 650 words and concepts from Abstract Art to Zinc White, Explains the principal technical, critical and historical terms, Demystifies the language that surrounds art. Plus An evaluative list of the best art sites available on the Internet. Robert Cumming's witty, enlightening comments accompany each entry. Thorough but never dry, lavishly illustrated with the work of hundreds of artists; A.R.T is an essential guide to the subject.


Dorling Kindersley, 1995, 2007

Hard cover
104 pages
Dorling Kindersley
ISBN: 0751301582

Annotated Guides: Art (or Annotated Art)

This fascinating book takes a stunning, visual approach to exploring and deconstructing everything you could want to know about 45 of the world's favourite paintings. Introductory text sets the scene for each picture, then captions and numerous annotations guide the reader all around the work, detailing the painter's techniques and intentions and explaining the picture's meaning and symbolism. A short biography of each artist places the work in its appropriate personal and historical context. The book's generous size and accurate colour reproductions display every detail of each painting, allowing the reader to study and understand the outstanding qualities of each painting.

"Extraordinary ... all you need to know that might otherwise have gone unnoticed" -- New York Times.


Dorling Kindersley, 1998, 2007

Hard cover
104 pages
Dorling Kindersley
ISBN: 0751330965

Annotated Guides: Great Artists

"A benchmark for intelligent, engaging nonfiction, this superbly designed book is written and illustrated with a lushness that takes the breath away. Robert Cumming is chairman of Christie's education department: he knows his art history. But he also knows how to seduce you with the sheer beauty of the material, and the well-placed pointer to telling details. Fifty double-page spreads cover artists from da Vinci and Rubens to Monet, Picasso, and Pollock. Each spread is a concentrated master-class on the life, the style, and the influence. Check out the luminous full-color reproductions of "Bacchus" and "The Conversion of St. Paul," then read the opening sentence above them--"One of the few great artists to have a criminal record, Caravaggio was violent, loutish, and frequently under arrest"--and see if you can resist the temptation to read on. Great Artists is a dream of a book that adults and their older children will fight over. (Ages 12 to adult)"


Viking Kestrel 1979

Hard cover
60 pages
ISBN: 07226 5676 9

Just Look....A Book about Paintings

This excellent introduction to looking at pictures is written in an approachable and inviting style, showing its readers how to observe and understand the ways in which different artists paint. Suitable for readers aged 8 to 80.

Robert Cumming has chosen about paintings to illustrate how artists such as Breughel, da Vinci, Hogarth, Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse and many others use colour, light and various techniques to achieve specific effects. Cumming is clear and down-to-earth in his approach, drawing on many years of experience lecturing at the Tate Gallery in London to both young and older audiences.

Published in ten languages, Just Look won the prestigious Silver Pencil Award for Children's Literature in Holland.


Kestrel Books, 1982

Hard cover
60 pages
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0722658230

Just Imagine

Understanding a painting comes out of the meeting of two people's imaginations: the spectator's and the artist's. ‘If you are going to get into a painting and see what it is really about,’ explains Robert Cumming, ‘you will need to know what to look for and be prepared to use your imagination. Becoming involved in this way is what makes great art such a continual excitement - a voyage of discovery.’

Robert Cumming's second book, is a lively guide to 'reading' the intellectual/emotional content of paintings: the use of symbols and the depiction of biblical/mythological events; the appeal to the sense of pattern, texture and colour; the expression of emotion through distortions of colour and shape; indications of social and cultural attitudes.

Translated into six languages, JUST IMAGINE won The Times Senior Information Book Award and the Premio Pier Paolo Vergerio European Prize for Children's Literature from Padua University.