WRITING

James writes in all formats, from academic monographs and journals to newspapers, magazines and trade non-fiction.


He has published widely on modern art, British art and the cultural history of colour. His first book, British Art and the First World War, 1919-24, was published to critical acclaim by Cambridge University Press in 2015.

His latest book, The World According to Colour: a cultural history, will be published by Allen Lane in September 2021 (see more below). He's currently working on another book for Allen Lane, on British art, and an academic book on the relationship between art and knowledge in the twentieth century.

James has also written op-eds for The Times, The Telegraph, the Independent, articles for Christie's and Bonham's magazines, The Art Newspaper, the BBC website, and many essays for exhibition catalogues.

Titian_Bacchus_and_Ariadne_edited.jpg

The World According To Colour:
A Cultural History

Allen Lane, 4 September 2021

This book is about humankind's extraordinary relationship with colour. It is composed of a series of voyages, ranging across the world and throughout history, which reveal the meanings that have been attached to the colours we see around us and the ways these have shaped our culture and imagination. It takes seven primary colours - black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green - and uncovers behind each a root idea, based on visual resemblances or properties so rudimentary as to be common to all societies.The book traces these meanings to show how they changed and multiplied, the role that they have played in our culture and history, and how understanding them allows us to see many of the milestones in the history of art - from Bronze Age gold-work to Turner, Titian to Yves Klein - in a new way. It proceeds by stories, which cumulatively tell another, larger one- a history of the world from the black nothing which preceded existence to the birth of our red-blooded species; the gilded gods who animated the world in antiquity to the blue horizons which framed the Age of Discovery; the pristine aspirations of Enlightenment, the technicolour innovation which fuelled the Industrial Revolution and the colour which most embodies the environmental crisis which now faces us.