Exhibitions

Ravilious in Essex: ‘Two Women in the Garden’, watercolour, 1932

The only art is Essex

Exhibitions

When I went to visit Edward Bawden he vigorously denied that there were any modern painters in Essex. That may not have been true then — this was in the 1980s — or even now. What is indisputable, however, is… Read more

Walter Sickert 'The Theatre of the Young Artists' (1890)

Between the death of Turner and advent of Bacon, there was no greater British painter

Exhibitions

Walter Sickert was fluid in both his art and his personality: changeable in style and technique, mutable in appearance — now dressing as a French fisherman, now as a dandy, next shaving his head — and even in name (for… Read more

‘Turning Road (Route Tournante)’, c.1905, by Paul Cézanne

I can’t stop thinking about the Courtauld’s Unfinished exhibition

Exhibitions

A while ago, David Hockney mused on a proposal to tax the works of art stored in artists’ studios. ‘You’d only have to say they weren’t finished, and you are the only one who could say if they were,’ he… Read more

‘Marie-Anne Françoise Liotard with a Doll’, c.1744, by Jean-Etienne Liotard

The forgotten Swiss portraitist and his extraordinary pastels: Jean-Etienne Liotard at the Scottish National Gallery reviewed

Exhibitions

This is not the biggest exhibition at Edinburgh and it will not be the best attended but it may be the most daring. While the main gallery at the Royal Scottish Academy, commandeered as usual for Festival season by the… Read more

Turner's 'Shakespeare Cliff, Dover' (c.1825)

Whole worlds are conjured up in a few strokes: Watercolour at the Fitzwilliam Museum reviewed

Exhibitions

I learnt to splash about in watercolour at my grandmother’s knee. Or rather, sitting beside her crouched over a pad of thickly ‘toothed’ paper and a Winsor & Newton paintbox on a wind-swept East Anglian seashore. Now, looking back, I… Read more

Portrait photograph of Richard Dadd painting Contradiction (c.1857) in Bedlem

The artist who only turned into a major painter once he became a homicidal maniac

Exhibitions

Charles Dickens’s description of Cobham Park, Kent, in The Pickwick Papers makes it seem a perfect English landscape. Among its ‘long vistas of stately oaks and elms’, he wrote, ‘occasionally a startled hare’ ran with ‘the speed of the shadows… Read more

‘Stonehenge’, c.1827, by J.M.W. Turner

There’s not a trace of shaving foam in sight in the early Turners on show at Salisbury Museum

Exhibitions

It has often been related how, towards the end of his long life, a critical barb got under J.M.W. Turner’s skin. ‘Soapsuds and whitewash!’ Turner apparently snorted, repeatedly, to himself. However, until now no one has traced the perpetrator of… Read more

Detail of a maiolica vase, c.1565–1571, a star piece for both Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill and later for Baron Ferdinand at Waddesdon Manor

Forget Vienna - Britain now has its own chamber of curiosities at the British Museum

Exhibitions

Art is not jewellery. Its value does not reside in the price of the materials from which it is made. After all, the cost of the pigment, oil and cloth that made up a Rembrandt was negligible. It’s what he… Read more

‘Untitled (Tilly Losch)’, c.1935–38, by Joseph Cornell

Poetic or pretentious? Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust at the Royal Academy reviewed

Exhibitions

Someone once asked Joseph Cornell who was his favourite abstract artist of his time. It was a perfectly reasonable question to put to a man who numbered Piet Mondrian, as well as other masters of modernism, among his acquaintance. But,… Read more

‘Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) [6]’, 1943, by Barbara Hepworth

Was Barbara Hepworth a giant of modern sculpture - or a dreary relic of post-war Britain?

Exhibitions

In the last two decades of her life, Barbara Hepworth was a big figure in the world of art. A 21-foot bronze of hers stands outside the UN headquarters in New York, emblematic of her friendship with secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld… Read more

Carsten Höller's 'Flying Mushrooms' (2015). Photo: Linda Nylind

The artist who turned the Hayward Gallery into Disney World

Exhibitions

Gianlorenzo Bernini stressed the difficulty of making a sculpture of a person out of a white material such as marble. Imagine, he said, that someone we knew well whitened his hair, his beard, his lips and his eyebrows, and, were… Read more

RA Summer Exhibition 2015. Photo: John Bodkin / Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition reviewed: a jumble sale with pizzazz

Exhibitions

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has very little in common with the Venice Biennale. However they do share one characteristic. Each always contains so many diverse and potentially incompatible elements that orchestrating a smoothly blended result is dauntingly difficult. But,… Read more

Grayson Perry's 'Walthamstow Tapestry' (2009)

Grayson Perry - heir to Lewis Caroll and William Blake

Exhibitions

At the Turner Prize dinner of 2003, as the winner, Grayson Perry, took a photo call with his family wearing a girlish dress and huge bow in his hair, a German contemporary artist who was sitting at the same table… Read more

‘Claros’ (woodcut), 2015, by Gillian Ayres

Modernism lite? Modigliani at the Estorick Collection reviewed

Exhibitions

The British painter Nina Hamnett recalled that Modigliani had a very large, very untidy studio. Dangling from the end of his bed was a web inhabited by an enormous spider. ‘He explained that he could not make the bed as… Read more

‘Wrestlers’, 1914, by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska at Kettle's Yard reviewed: he's got rhythm

Exhibitions

One evening before the first world war, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, fired by drink, tried out such then-fashionable dances as the cakewalk and the tango, ‘his eyes burning — his hair wild’. What was funny about this spectacle, his companion Sophie Brzeska… Read more

‘Combs, Hair Highway’, 2014, by Studio Swine

Luxury isn’t the opposite of poverty but the opposite of vulgarity - but don’t tell the V&A

Exhibitions

Different concepts of luxury may be inferred from a comparison of the wedding feast of Charles Bovary and Emma Rouault with the habits of their contemporary the Duke of Wellington. At the Bovary wedding were served four sirloins, six chicken… Read more

‘Propeller (Air Pavilion)’, 1937

Better than Robert? Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern reviewed

Exhibitions

In 1978, shortly before she died, the artist Sonia Delaunay was asked in an interview whether she considered herself a feminist. ‘No! I despise the word!’ she replied. ‘I never thought of myself as a woman in any conscious way.… Read more

‘Observer’s Post’, 1939, by Eric Ravilious

Irresistible: Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery reviewed

Exhibitions

The most unusual picture in the exhibition of work by Eric Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery, in terms of subject-matter at least, is entitled ‘Bomb Defusing Equipment’. In other ways — crisp linear precision, a designer’s eye for the melodious… Read more

‘Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington’, 1829, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Wellington's PR machine

Exhibitions

The history of portraiture is festooned with images of sitters overwhelmed by dress, setting and the accoutrements of worldly success. Vanity, complacency and, frequently, insecurity have led men and women to commission or sit for likenesses in which an extra… Read more

Richard Diebenkorn 'Berkeley #5' (1953) . Copyright:
The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy reviewed: among the best visual evocations of LA there are

Exhibitions

It is true that, like wine, certain artists don’t travel. Richard Diebenkorn, subject of the spring exhibition in the Royal Academy’s Sackler Wing, is a case in point: an American painter who is revered in his native land, but of… Read more

Left: ‘Dream of a good witch’, c.1819–23, by Goya Right: ‘Bajan niñendo (They descend quarrelling)’, c.1819–23, by Goya

Flying witches, mad old men, cannibals: what was going on in Goya’s head?

Exhibitions

It is not impossible to create good art that makes a political point, just highly unusual. Goya’s ‘Third of May’ is the supreme example of how to pull it off. It is a great picture with a universal message —… Read more

Camille Pissarro
The Avenue, Sydenham, 1871.
© The National Gallery, London

Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery reviewed: a mixed bag of sometimes magnificent paintings

Exhibitions

When it was suggested that a huge exhibition of Impressionist paintings should be held in London, Claude Monet had his doubts. Staging such an exhibition, he wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, would be ‘unwise’ and only likely to baffle… Read more

Don’t mock the schlock: from left to right: Taking Care of Business Ring designed by Elvis and Priscilla Presley; presidential cufflinks; gold phone

We all live like Elvis now

Exhibitions

In the giftshop at the new Elvis exhibition at the Dome, you can buy your own version of his flared white jumpsuits. I can’t think of anyone who could wear one and not look ridiculous — particularly if they had… Read more

‘The Great Elm at Lacock’, 1843–45, by William Henry Fox Talbot

Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain reviewed: entertainingly barmy

Exhibitions

In the centre of the new exhibition Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain there is a huge white elephant. The beast is not, I should add, entirely colourless. On the contrary, it has a howdah richly decorated in gold and green,… Read more

‘Group with Parasols’, c.1904, by John Singer Sargent

Sargent, National Portrait Gallery, review: he was so good he should have been better

Exhibitions

The artist Malcolm Morley once fantasised about a magazine that would be devoted to the practice of painting just as some publications are to — say — cricket. It would be filled with articles extolling feats of the brush, rather… Read more

Sound and vision: spectators watch Polly Harvey in a glass box recording her new album

The future of the album lies in the gallery

Exhibitions

The album is not what it was. It still exists, in record collections, as part of the torrential streaming of everything, and in the sentimental memories of those who lament the loss of what once seemed a permanent fixture and… Read more

The Widow (2013) by Marlene Dumas. Photo: Peter Cox/Tate Modern.

Marlene Dumas at Tate Modern reviewed: 'remarkable'

Exhibitions

‘Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting,’ Henri Matisse once advised, ‘should begin by cutting out his own tongue.’ Marlene Dumas — whose work is the subject of a big new retrospective at Tate Modern — has not gone quite… Read more

Weight watching: ‘Three Bathers’, c.1875, by Paul Cézanne

Rubens and His Legacy at the Royal Academy reviewed: his imitators fall short of their master miserably

Exhibitions

The main spring offering at the Royal Academy, Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne, teaches two useful lessons. One — not much of a surprise — is that Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a protean giant of a… Read more