Martin Gayford rss

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

The only art is Essex

29 August 2015
The Art of Acquisition: the Great Bardfield Artists’ Houses; From Eric Ravilious to Grayson Perry Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden

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… 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

22 August 2015
Sickert in Dieppe Pallant House Gallery

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,… Read more

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

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

15 August 2015
Unfinished... works from the Courtauld Gallery Courtauld Gallery
Drawn from the Antique: Artists & the Classical Ideal John Soane Museum

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… Read more

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

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

1 August 2015
Watercolour – Elements of nature Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Larry Bell – 2D-3D: Glass & Vapor White Cube

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… 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

25 July 2015
The Art of Bedlam: Richard Dadd Watts Gallery
Girl — Lucian Freud Ordovas

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… 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

18 July 2015
Turner’s Wessex — Architecture and Ambition Salisbury Museum
Soundscapes National Gallery

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.… 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

11 July 2015
The Waddesdon Bequest: A Rothschild Renaissance British Museum
Agnes Martin Tate Modern

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… Read more

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

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

4 July 2015
Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust Royal Academy

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… 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?

27 June 2015
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World Tate Britain, until 25 October

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… Read more

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

The artist who turned the Hayward Gallery into Disney World

20 June 2015
Duane Hanson Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Carsten Höller: Decision Hayward Gallery
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dusk Serpentine Gallery

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… Read more

West Façade Illumination, 2015, by James Turrell

James Turrell interview: ‘I sell blue sky and coloured air’

13 June 2015

James Turrell gave me extremely precise instructions. After dinner, I was to walk out through the grounds at Houghton Hall to the skyspace he has built. Here I should observe… Read more

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

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

6 June 2015
Summer Exhibition Royal Academy

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… Read more

Grayson Perry's 'Walthamstow Tapestry' (2009)

Grayson Perry - heir to Lewis Caroll and William Blake

30 May 2015
Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk Turner Contemporary, Margate

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… Read more

Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima. Photo: Fujitsuka Mitsumasa

Welcome to Japan’s best kept cultural secret: an art island with an underground museum

23 May 2015

In his introductory remarks to the Afro–Eurasian Eclipse, one of his later suites for jazz orchestra, Duke Ellington remarked — this was in 1971 — that east and west were… Read more

One of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s Scots pines in the French Pavilion

Martin Gayford finds a few nice paintings amid the dead trees, old clothes and agitprop of the Venice Biennale

16 May 2015

At the start of Canto XXI of the ‘Inferno’, Dante and Virgil look down on the pit of Malebolge, the Eighth Circle of Hell, in which sinners guilty of simony,… Read more

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

Modernism lite? Modigliani at the Estorick Collection reviewed

9 May 2015
Modigliani: A Unique Artistic Voice Estorick Collection
Gillian Ayres: New Paintings and Prints Alan Cristea Gallery
Fiona Rae Timothy Taylor Gallery

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.… Read more

‘Wrestlers’, 1914, by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

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

2 May 2015
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Art, Dance and Movement in London 1911–1915 Kettle’s Yard

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’.… Read more

‘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