Hilary Spurling is a biographer who works according to the mantra that: ‘Anyone attempting a portrait should above all approach the subject without preconceptions’.

Spurling started her career as theatre critic for the Spectator before turning to biographies. Among her subjects, at ‘the frontier between life and art’, are the 1977 Booker Prize-winner Paul Scott (Staying On), Ivy Compton-Burnett, and the painter Henri Matisse, who she covered in a three-volume life authorised by the Matisse family. She became a biographer rather than a novelist, she says, ‘because nature gives me better plots than any novel I could invent’. As a Booker Prize judge she admitted to being a supporter of V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River.