Martin Gayford rss

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

Irresistible: Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery reviewed

11 April 2015
Ravilious Dulwich Picture Gallery

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… Read more

Detail from the great and strange Altar of the Holy Blood by Tilman Riemenschneider at the Jakobskirche, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Is this the greatest sculpted version of the Easter story? It's certainly the strangest

4 April 2015

In April 1501, about the time Michelangelo was returning from Rome to Florence to compete for the commission to carve a giant marble David, a very different sculptor named Tilman… Read more

Head of a Man with Kausia, third century BC

Reimaging the lost masterpieces of antiquity

28 March 2015

For centuries there has been a note of yearning in our feelings about ancient Greek and Roman art. We can’t help mourning for what has irretrievably vanished. In 1764 Johann… 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

21 March 2015
Richard Diebenkorn Royal Academy

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… 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?

14 March 2015
Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album Courtauld Gallery
Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue Serpentine Gallery

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.… 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

7 March 2015
Inventing Impressionism National Gallery

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… Read more

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

Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain reviewed: entertainingly barmy

28 February 2015
Sculpture Victorious Tate Britain
Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840–1860 Tate Britain

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,… 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

21 February 2015
Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends National Portrait Gallery
Sir Jacob Epstein: Babies and Bloomsbury Foundling Museum

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… Read more

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

Marlene Dumas at Tate Modern reviewed: 'remarkable'

7 February 2015
Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden Tate Modern

‘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… 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

31 January 2015
Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne Royal Academy

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… Read more

‘Pan and Syrinx’, 1617, by Peter Paul Rubens

How will the British public take to Rubens’s fatties?

24 January 2015

This week a monumental exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy, is opening at the Royal Academy. It makes the case — surely correct — that the Flemish master was among the… 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

17 January 2015
Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015 Whitechapel Gallery

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… Read more

‘Woman at Her Toilette’, 1875/80, by Berthe Morisot

2015 in exhibitions - painting still rules

3 January 2015

The New Year is a time for reflections as well as resolutions. So here is one of mine. In the art world, media and fashions come and go, but often… Read more

‘The Census at Bethlehem’, 1566, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Climate change, Bruegel-style

13 December 2014

It is cold, but not in a cheery, robin-redbreast kind of way. The sky is slate blue; the sun, a red ball, is slipping below the horizon, figures carrying heavy… Read more

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

The death of the life class

6 December 2014
John Wonnacott and John Lessore: The Life Room and the City Norwich Castle Museum
John Wonnacott and John Lessore: About Life NUA Gallery

‘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… Read more

David Hockney at work in his studio, c.1967

David Hockney interview: ‘The avant-garde have lost their authority’

22 November 2014

‘I just stay here and do my thing,’ David Hockney told me soon after I arrived at his house and studio in Los Angeles this August. ‘I’m not that interested… Read more

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

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

15 November 2014
Giovanni Battista Moroni Royal Academy

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… Read more

‘Before the Mirror’, 1913, by Egon Schiele

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

8 November 2014
Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude Courtauld Gallery

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… Read more

Alan Beeton, ‘Reposing’, 1929

The secret world of the artist's mannequin

1 November 2014
Silent Partners: Artist & Mannequin from Function to Fetish Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

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 —… Read more

Left: The Apostle Simon, 1661. Right: Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan, 1658–60

Rembrandt at the National Gallery: the greatest show on earth

25 October 2014

At the opening of Rembrandt: The Late Works at the National Gallery (until 18 January), I met a painter friend of mine in the final room. This was, he said,… Read more

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

Why everyone loves Rembrandt

27 September 2014
‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ National Gallery

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,’… Read more

‘Interior (Innenraum)’, 1981, by Anselm Kiefer

'I like vanished things': Anselm Kiefer on art, alchemy and his childhood

20 September 2014

At the entrance to Anselm Kiefer’s forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy visitors will encounter a typically paradoxical Kiefer object: a giant pile of lead books, sprouting wings. When I… Read more

‘La Guingette à Montmartre’ by Van Gogh (1886)

Exactly how much fun was it being an impoverished artist in Paris?

30 August 2014
In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900–1910 Sue Roe

Penguin/Fig Tree, pp.365, £20, ISBN: 9781905490868

What he really wanted, Picasso once remarked, was to live ‘like a pauper, but with plenty of money’. It sounds most appealing: the perfect recipe for a bohemian life, dreamed… Read more

‘Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces’ by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Reynolds produced some of the finest portraits of the 18th century – and a few of the silliest

9 August 2014
Reynolds: Portraiture in Action Mark Hallett

Yale, pp.488, £50, ISBN: 978030019699

On Monday 21 April 1760 Joshua Reynolds had a busy day. Through the morning and the afternoon he had a series of sitters. Each of these stayed for an hour… Read more

Wynton Marsalis: ‘The pressure of playing in public makes it all for real’

'They took me in like I was their son': Wynton Marsalis on jazz's great tradition

9 August 2014

At the end of his performance at the Barbican with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis made a little speech. The next piece, he announced, was a number… Read more