Exhibitions

‘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

Helio Oiticica's Metaesquema (1958) and Kazimir Malevich Black and White Suprematist Composition (1915)

Geometry in the 20th and 21st centuries was adventurous - and apocalyptic

Exhibitions

Almost a decade ago, David Cameron informed Tony Blair, unkindly but accurately, ‘You were the future once.’ A visitor to the Whitechapel Gallery’s exhibition, Adventures of the Black Square, might mutter the same words in front of the first exhibits.… Read more

‘The Spectators’, 1947 and 'Woman with the birdcage' by Robert Colquhoun

The tragic tale of the Two Roberts is a story of two artists cut off in their prime

Exhibitions

In 1933, two new students met on their first day at Glasgow School of Art. From then on they were inseparable. They lived and worked together. They became lovers. They stayed together throughout their lives. They shone at art school,… Read more

‘The Life Room’, 1977–80, by John Wonnacott

The death of the life class

Exhibitions

‘Love of the human form’, writes the painter John Lessore, ‘must be the origin of that peculiar concept, the Life Room.’ Then he goes on to exclaim on the loveliness of that name. It is indeed a venerable institution with… Read more

‘North Cape’, probably 1840s, by Peder Balke

We must never again let this 19th century Norwegian master slip into oblivion

Exhibitions

You won’t have heard of Peder Balke. Yet this long-neglected painter from 19th-century Norway is now the subject of a solo show at the National Gallery. And it’s an absolute revelation. Walking around, I marvelled at the intensity of a… Read more

‘Chair’, 1969, by Allen Jones, which had acid thrown on it in 1986

Does Allen Jones deserve a retrospective at the Royal Academy?

Exhibitions

It has been a vintage season for mannequins. At the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, an exhibition called Silent Partners looks at the relationship between artist and mannequin, from function to fetish. In London, the Royal Academy is hosting a retrospective… Read more

‘Sunrise’, 1938, by John Armstrong

The good, the polite and the ugly: British artistic responses to the Spanish civil war

Exhibitions

The Paris World’s Fair of 1937 was more than a testing ground for artistic innovation; it was a battleground for political ideologies. The Imperial eagle spread its wings over the German Pavilion; the Soviet hammer swung above the Russian Pavilion;… Read more

‘Gian Girolamo Albani’, c.1570, by Giovanni Battista Moroni

Without a model, Moroni could be stunningly dull. With one, he was peerless...

Exhibitions

Giovanni Battista Moroni, wrote Bernard Berenson, was ‘the only mere portrait painter that Italy has ever produced’. Indeed, Berenson continued, warming to his theme, ‘even in later times, and in periods of miserable decline, that country, Mother of the arts,… Read more

‘Before the Mirror’, 1913, by Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele at the Courtauld: a one-note samba of spindly limbs, nipples and pudenda

Exhibitions

One day, as a student — or so the story goes — Egon Schiele called on Gustav Klimt, a celebrated older artist, and showed him a portfolio of drawings with the abrupt query, ‘Do I have talent?’ Klimt looked at… Read more