With an extraordinary supporting cast including Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, this is the untold story of two of the most fascinating figures to emerge from the turbulent world of post-war British art.
Denis Wirth-Miller and Dicky Chopping were a couple at the heart of the mid-twentieth century art world, with the visitors' book of the Essex townhouse they shared from 1945 until 2008 painting them as Zeligs of British society. The names recorded inside make up an astonishing supporting cast - from Francis Bacon to Lucian Freud to Randolph Churchill to John Minton. Successful artists, although not household names themselves, writing Dicky and Denis off as just footnotes in history would be a mistake. After Denis's death in 2010, Jon Lys-Turner, one of two executors of the couple's estate, came into possession of an extraordinary archive of letters, works of art and symbolically loaded ephemera the two had collected since they met in the 1930s. It is no exaggeration to state that this archive represents a missing link in British art history - the wealth of new biographical information disclosed about Francis Bacon, for example, is truly staggering.
The Visitors' Book is both an extraordinary insight into the minutiae of Dicky and Denis's life together and what it meant to be gay in pre-Wolfenden Britain, as well as a pocket social history of the era and a unique perspective into mid-twentieth century art. With reams of previously unseen material, this is a fascinating and unique opportunity to delve into post-war Britain.
Jon Lys Turner first met Dicky Chopping in 1981, shortly after beginning his Masters degree at the Royal College of Art. The pair developed a close friendship that would last until Dicky's death in 2008. Jon has worked at the top end of the UK design industry ever since completing his Masters, and has been creative director to some of the world's largest brands.
An absolute goldmine for Bacon biographers ... But it would be unfair if The Visitors' Book was read only as a footnote to Bacon ... it is full of memorable vignettes, delicious anecdotes and many moving letters from Chopping to Wirth-Miller and vice versa ... haunting biography — Lynn Barber, Sunday Times
Perceptive ... an excellent social history of gay life in the 20th century ... a lively commentary on modern British art and culture ... entertaining yarns — Andrew Lycett, The Spectator
This handsome book is a stimulating and absorbing description of intertwined bohemian and artists' lives but also an important slice of social and cultural history from original sources. It not only describes the ferment of post-war Britain and the collapsing norms of class and convention, but also offers an example for all of us of a few brave souls doggedly pursuing their artistic vocations and world views against all the odds — Eamon Delaney, independent.ie
This panoramic portrait ... is immensely entertaining ... the disputed works in the plate section are the best Bacons I have seen — Roger Lewis, The Times
Anecdotes abound in this highly entertaining memoir — Sunday Times
An excellent read ... an essential reference source for Bacon researchers ... The Visitors' Book is a fascinating and informative study of two unjustly overlooked figures in the British post-war art scene — Alexander Adams, Jackdaw
A moving study of hero worship ... as entertaining as it is poignant — Michael Peppiatt, The Guardian
This lively, gossipy, indiscreet book brings the couple vividly to life, showing us their loving and destructive relationship in all its complexity. It sheds light on Bacon's professional and private life, and is essential reading for Bacon fans and scholars — Art Newspaper
A worthy memorial to this troubled pair — The Week
A compelling account of Fifties artistic bohemia from the fringes — Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler
Jon Lys Turner's marvellous book was obliged to carry its explanatory subtitle . . . but this is to diminish its scope and achievement . . . astounding vignettes of Bacon . . . The author tells his outrageous tales in a deadpan manner and has a knack for the concise character sketch . . . an alternative cultural history of the British scene — James Norton, Burlington Magazine