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Michael Bird

Non-fiction writer

Michael Bird is an independent art historian, with special interests in modern art, cultural history and the ‘art/life divide’. His books on British artists such as Sandra Blow and Lynn Chadwick explore the poetics of creation in biographical terms. In The St Ives Artists: a biography of place and time, he investigates the unique mid-century flowering of international modernism in a small seaside town. His history of art for children, Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories, told through 68 semi-fictional stories, has been translated into fifteen languages.

As Goodison Fellow at the British Library, Michael produced the first in-depth research into National Life Stories’ vast Artists’ Lives archive of oral history recordings. This resulted in an exhibition at The Lightbox and a book, Studio Voices: art and life in twentieth-century Britain. He’s convinced that art can often work better on radio than TV (imagined pictures being more vivid than those on screen) and has presented numerous features for BBC Radio.

After reading English at Oxford, Michael taught English and published poetry and short stories in PN Review, Encounter and other magazines. He then worked as an editor on art projects for Macmillan and Phaidon and began to write on art, going on to publish ten books and many essays and articles. He has also written exhibition scripts for museums in Britain, Nigeria and Sweden.

Michael lectures widely, and gives seminars and workshops in universities and galleries, schools and festivals. He lives in Cornwall with his wife, the artist Felicity Mara.

Michael Bird


University of Exeter, Penryn 2018-21
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