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Exhibitions

‘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

Are the British too polite to be any good at surrealism?

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

Alan Beeton, ‘Reposing’, 1929

The secret world of the artist's 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