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Exhibitions

Alan Beeton, ‘Reposing’, 1929

Art's shameful secret and the birth of the mannequin

Exhibitions

A 19th-century London artists’ supplier named Charles Roberson offered imitation human beings for sale or rent, with papier-mâché heads, soft leather skin and flexible, jointed limbs. The top-of-the-range article — described in Roberson’s catalogue as ‘Parisian stuffed’ — was pricey.… Read more

Finding his feet: ‘Untitled (man and two women in a pastoral setting)’, 1940

How Rothko become the mythic superman of mystical abstraction

Exhibitions

Mark Rothko was an abstract artist who didn’t see himself as an abstract artist — or at least not in any ‘formalist’ sense. If a critic called him a ‘colourist’, he would bristle; if they admired his sense of composition,… Read more

Alexander Rodchenko’s costume design for Meyerhold masterwork, ‘The 
Bedbug’, 1929

Russians made the theatre space the most liberating imaginative device ever invented

Exhibitions

You have to hand it to the Russians. They beat us into space, beat us to sexual equality, and a small display of early Soviet avant-garde theatre and film design, tucked away in the V&A’s ‘Performance’ area, proves that they… Read more

'Supermarkets' (1976), by Sigmar Polke. Picture: The Estate of Sigmar Polke

Tate Modern’s latest show feels like it’s from another planet

Exhibitions

‘Some day we shall no longer need pictures: we shall just be happy.’ — Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, 1966 Who says Germans have no sense of humour? OK, so their writers tend to be a pretty gloomy bunch —… Read more

‘Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft)’, 1970, by Anselm Kiefer

All my doubts about Anselm Kiefer are blown away by his Royal Academy show

Exhibitions

In the Royal Academy’s courtyard are two large glass cases or vitrines containing model submarines. In one the sea has receded, dried up, and the tin fish are stranded on the cracked mud of the ocean floor. In the other,… Read more

‘Water-meadows near Salisbury’, 1829/30, by John Constable

Curator-driven ambitions mar this Constable show at the V&A

Exhibitions

The V&A has an unparalleled collection of hundreds of works by John Constable (1776–1837), but hardly anyone seems to know about them. This is perhaps because they’re usually kept on an upper floor of the Henry Cole Wing, rather off… Read more

‘Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway’, 1844, by J.M.W. Turner

Tate Britain’s Turner show reveals an old master - though the Spectator didn’t think so at the time

Exhibitions

Juvenilia is the work produced during an artist’s youth. It would seem logical to think, therefore, that an artist’s output during their old age would be classified as ‘senilia’. Yet no such word exists. But how else to classify the… Read more

‘Modern Family’, 2014, byEd Fornieles,at Chisenhale Gallery

‘Likes’, lacquered cherry pies and Anselm Kiefer: the weird world of post-internet art

Exhibitions

In the mid-1990s the art world got excited about internet art (or ‘net.art’, as those involved styled it). This new way of making art would harness the world wide web, take the form of exciting online projects, bypass traditional galleries… Read more

Portrait of a couple as Isaac and Rebecca, known as ‘The Jewish Bride’, c.1665, by Rembrandt

Why everyone loves Rembrandt

Exhibitions

Talking of Rembrandt’s ‘The Jewish Bride’ to a friend, Vincent van Gogh went — characteristically — over the top. ‘I should be happy to give ten years of my life,’ he exclaimed, ‘if I could go on sitting here in… Read more

‘Moonrise and Pale Dancer’ by Derek Hyatt

The man who brought Cubism to New York

Exhibitions

The American Jewish artist Max Weber (1881–1961) was born in Belostok in Russia (now Bialystok in Poland), and although he visited this country twice (he came to London in 1906 and 1908), it was the experience of continental Europe —… Read more

‘A Battery Shelled’, 1919, by Percy Wyndham Lewis

The Imperial War Museum finds a deadly place to display first world war masterpieces

Exhibitions

The Imperial War Museum has reopened after a major refit and looks pretty dapper, even though it was overrun by hordes when I visited (it was still the school holidays). There’s a new and effective restaurant, inevitably, but also a… Read more

Still Life with Carrots (c. 1921) by Duncan Grant

The Bloomsbury painters bore me

Exhibitions

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) claimed that nothing has really happened until it has been recorded, so this new exhibition at the NPG devoted to her life can only now be said to have happened — for here I am recording it.… Read more

‘I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies’, 2011,by Coral Stoakes

Agitprop, love trucks and leaflet bombs: the art of protest

Exhibitions

Titles can be misleading, and in case you have visions of microwave ovens running amok or washing machines crunching up the parquet, be reassured — or disappointed. Disobedient Objects, the new free display in the V&A’s Porter Gallery, is about… Read more

‘Futurist Motif’, 1920, by Gerardo Dottori

Futurism’s escape to the country

Exhibitions

Futurism, with its populist mix of explosive rhetoric (burn all the museums!) and resolutely urban experience and emphasis on speed, was a force to be reckoned with (at least in Italy) for longer than one might imagine. It was launched… Read more

‘The Sutherland Cup’ by Angie Lewin

The perfect excuse to get out all the best Ravilious china

Exhibitions

A day trip to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is a summer pleasure, and two concurrent shows are proving a considerable draw, with their focus on design and applied art. Designing the Everyday is in some ways just an… Read more

‘Llyn Cau, Cader Idris’, 1765–67, by Richard Wilson

How Richard Wilson made Wales beautiful

Exhibitions

‘I recollect nothing so much as a solemn — bright — warm — fresh landscape by Wilson, which swims in my brain like a delicious dream,’ wrote Constable of his encounter with the Welsh artist’s ‘Tabley House, Cheshire’ after he… Read more

‘Equivalents for the Megaliths’, 1935, by Paul Nash

A lost opportunity to show John Nash at his best

Exhibitions

John Northcote Nash (1893–1977) was the younger brother of Paul Nash (1889–1946), and has been long overshadowed by Paul, though they started their careers on a relatively even footing. The crucible of WW1 changed them: afterwards Paul became an art-world… Read more

‘Goose Woman’, c.1840, by George Smart

Why did it take so long to recognise the worth of British folk art?

Exhibitions

British folk art has been shamefully neglected in the land of its origin, as if the popular handiwork of past generations is an embarrassment to our cultural gurus and the kind of supposedly hip commentators who sneer at morris dancing.… Read more

‘The Scyther (Mower)’, 1912, by Kazimir Malevich

Malevich: Are Tate visitors ready for this master of modernism?

Exhibitions

Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935) is one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and as such entirely deserves the in-depth treatment with which this massive new Tate show honours him. But it should be recognised from the start that this is a… Read more

‘Paul Newman’, 1964, by Dennis Hopper

Had Hollywood not lured him away, Dennis Hopper could have made his name as a photographer

Exhibitions

In an age when photographs have swollen out of all proportion to their significance, and are mounted on wall-sized light boxes the better to show off their high-resolution colour, it’s a relief to see an exhibition of small photographic prints… Read more

‘Hawk Pouncing on Partridges’, c.1827, by John James Audubon

Painted, sculpted and stuffed: a history of the bird in art

Exhibitions

These days, as the sparrows and starlings so common in my youth are growing scarce, there’s less need for a rarity like the osprey or butcher bird (the red-backed shrike) to raise awareness of the plight of birds, and with… Read more

‘After the Bath (Le repos après bain)’, 1897, by Edgar Degas, at Stephen Ongpin

Charles Hadcock – taking on the age of speculation with sculpture in the City

Exhibitions

As the boundary between auction house and art dealer blurs yet further, with auctioneers acting increasingly by private treaty as well as taking over commercial galleries, and as West End gallery space becomes ever more expensive, alternative exhibiting venues are… Read more

‘Tondo the Winged Hours of the Seabirds’ by Keith Grant

Oceans and forests in kaleidoscopic flow – discovering Keith Grant

Exhibitions

For decades I’ve been aware of the work of Keith Grant (born 1930), but it is only in recent years that I have come to know it at all well. During that time both the style and the subject of… Read more

Diceman no. 5 by Pat Mills and Hunt Emerson

A comic drawn by Bob Monkhouse in which a superhero battles giant penises? Yes, it’s all here

Exhibitions

Fwoooosh! That, were someone to write a strip about it, would be the sound of a thousand comic books going up in flames. They used to do that, you know; burn comics. It was mostly in America, in the late… Read more

Inspired and springing draughtsmanship: ‘Femme dans la nuit’, 18 April 1945, by Jean Miró

The painter who channelled the forces of gravity

Exhibitions

Tragically, Ian Welsh (1944–2014) did not live to see this exhibition of his latest work. Diagnosed with terminal cancer on the eve of his 70th birthday, he struggled to finish the two large paintings in his last series of works,… Read more

‘Prince Pig’s Courtship’ by Paula Rego

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition offers up the good, the bad and the ugly – and a sore neck

Exhibitions

One of the great traditions of the RA’s Summer Exhibition has always been that each work submitted was seen in person by the Hanging Committee, passed in front of their keen or bemused gaze by a succession of porters. Of… Read more

Mondrian's 'Evening; Red Tree' (1908)

When Mondrian was off the grid

Exhibitions

I find it easy to forget that Piet Mondrian is a Dutch artist. The linear, gridlocked works he is famed for seem to beat with the energy of the New York metropolis. But it was not always so. His path… Read more

Different stages of suffering: ‘Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)’ , 2014, by Bill Viola

It took 11 years to bring Bill Viola to St Paul’s Cathedral – but it was worth it

Exhibitions

Deans are a strange breed. Growing up in the Church of England, I met a wide range, their cultural tastes embracing everything from Chagall to In Bed with Madonna. In 2003, I didn’t know what appealed to the then Dean… Read more