The prize was presented by Sir Timothy Clifford at a reception held at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London on the evening of Thursday 5 July. The book was, in the opinion of the assessors, ‘quite simply definitive’. It seemed incredible, several thought, that ‘one man could do it’. It was ‘a revelation of the sheer variety of architecture involved’, all organized ‘with the utmost care and lucidity’. It seems to be, they said, ‘an exhaustive treatment’ of a very understudied but major subject, and yet it ‘opens up entirely new fields for further research and discussion’.
Sir Timothy quoted the assessors' remarks about the other books on the Short List of six:
John Zoffany RA: Society Observed edited by Martin Postle, was the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name, at Yale and the Royal Academy, published by the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and the Royal Academy of Arts, in association with Yale University Press. It was, in the assessors’ opinion, ‘fantastic, wonderful, with an excellent cast of contributors’. ‘Exciting’, with ‘lots of new material’, obviously at ‘the cutting edge of research’, and ‘beautifully produced’. It ‘shows the way forward for almost endless research into this underestimated artist’. ‘This is the Zoffany who captures the imagination’.
The English Castle by John Goodall, published for the Paul Mellon Centre by Yale University Press, was, the assessors said, an instance of ‘an individual scholar taking an enormous subject and making it both clear and exciting’. ‘The extraordinary clarity of the exposition was brilliantly complemented by splendid photographs and invaluable diagrams of all kinds’. ‘The captions alone are brilliant’ while ‘the text with its many technical terms is not only easy to read but a great pleasure’. It was, they thought, ‘definitive’.
Inigo Jones: The Architect of Kings by Vaughan Hart, published for the Paul Mellon Centre by Yale University Press, was ‘a model for a monograph on any architect’, a ‘focused effort at providing both a national and international context to Jones’s architecture’. The book was ‘full of stimulating ideas’, ‘fresh and exciting’, and ‘the author is at pains to confront several contentious issues – and he does so with vigour’, and puts forward ‘any number of ingenious and original interpretations’.
Johan Zoffany: 1733-1810 by Mary Webster was also published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press. This was ‘truly the achievement of a lifetime’, a book that has been some forty years in the making, and it was ‘well worth the wait’. It was, the assessors felt, not only ‘extremely successful as a biography’ but also ‘hugely enjoyable’ with its subject ‘emerging from the shadows in all his eccentricity and brilliance’. The ‘excellent illustrations’ were considered by several of the judges almost as valuable as the ‘mass of historical material so very well marshalled and presented’. ‘A great book’.
Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination by Scot Mckendrick, John Lowden & Kathleen Doyle, published by British Library Publishing, accompanied the magnificent exhibition of the same name. It was, said the assessors, ‘exactly the kind of exhibition that the British Library ought to put on, and the book amply complemented an extraordinary show’. The illustrations are ‘stunningly’, ‘jaw-droppingly’ beautiful. ‘If anything it left one wishing for more’.
Sir Timothy reported that the assessors wished especially to note the outstanding nature of a few of the many titles which can be seen on the Long List, notably the pioneering study by Gwen Yarker of portraiture in Dorset, Georgian Faces – Portrait of a County; the book (in Dutch) of the Stanley Spencer exhibition in Rotterdam by Alied Ottevanger; and the catalogue raisonné of William Nicholson by Patricia Reed, Wendy Baron and Merlin James.
The assessors were: Timothy J. Standring, Gates Foundation Curator of Painting & Sculpture, Denver Art Museum; Robin Simon, Editor, The British Art Journal; Rosemary Hill, sometime Fellow, All Souls’ College, Oxford, and independent scholar; Katherine Eustace, Editor of the Sculpture journal; Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures; Angus Trumble, Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture, Yale Center for British Art