William Feaver rss


The English El Greco

25 June 2011
John Craxton Ian Collins, with an introduction by David Attenborough

Lund Humphries, pp.184, 35

Talk about ‘enemies of promise’. Talk about ‘enemies of promise’. In the March 1942 number of Horizon magazine there appeared what could be a heartfelt illustration of the whinger’s conceit… Read more


Another form of segregation

18 December 2010
The Image of the Black in Western Art edited by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr

Harvard University Press, pp.4 volumes, 69.95 each

N.B. This review was published without its final two paragraphs in the 18th December 2010 issue of The Spectator. These paragraphs have been reinstated for the online version below. These… Read more

Dilly-dallying romance

22 April 2009
Constable in Love Martin Gayford

Penguin/Fig Tree, pp.370, 20

Translated to Borsetshire, John Constable’s courtship of Maria Bicknell would provide more material than any script editor could handle without straining audience impatience beyond endurance. Nine years it took, from… Read more

A backdrop of beasts and losers

5 November 2008
Chagall: Life, Art, Exile Jackie Wullschlager

Allen Lane, pp.558, 30

There’s this cow nuzzling a bunch of roses though floating belly up over a matchwood village where smoke springs from every blessed chimney and a po-faced couple issues forth, poised… Read more

‘Seeing by doing’

14 May 2008

William Feaver explains how his book ‘Pitmen Painters’ inspired a new play at the National ‘It means knaaing what to de.’ This is Jimmy Floyd speaking, his Ashington accent spelt… Read more

Lashings of homely detail

13 December 2006
Norman Rockwell Richard Halpern

Chicago University Press, pp.188, 18.50

Norman Rockwell’s the name. You’ll know it of course. Rockwell the byword. It wasn’t simply the perpetual air of impending Thanks- giving that gave his Saturday Evening Post covers such… Read more

A tasteless ham from Parma

2 November 2006
Parmigianino David Ekserdjian

Yale, pp.303, 50

Girolamo Francesco Mazzola was born in Parma (hence the tag ‘Il Parmigianino’), and died in 1540 aged 37. At some point he dropped the ‘Girolamo’, maybe round about when he… Read more

Shaggy dog story

5 July 2006
William Wegman: Funney/Strange Joan Simon

Yale, pp.292, 29.95

Until 1970 when he got his first Weimaraner from a litter in Long Beach, California, William Wegman was just another West Coast conceptual tyro, doing regular doubletake stuff like spelling… Read more

A free spirit in Philadelphia

19 May 2006
The Revenge of Thomas Eakins Sidney D. Kirkpatrick

Yale, pp.565, 25

‘Eakins errs just a little — a little — in the direction of the flesh,’ Walt Whitman observed in the late 1880s. Ideally he would have had the Frenchman Millet… Read more

Trademarking the ordinary

22 April 2006
Andy Warhol ‘Giant’ Size conceived by Phaidon editors

Phaidon, pp.624, 75

Lecterns have been installed in some bookshops enabling customers to flip through the 625 tabloid-format pages of what must be the largest volume ever devoted to a single modern artist.… Read more

Ego trip with excess baggage

5 November 2005
Strangeland Tracey Emin

Sceptre, pp.288, 14.99

Readers may sympathise with Tracey Emin. Her big mouth and huge appetite for self- advertisement make her a ready target; she’s so shameless and yet, by her own account, so… Read more

From dumb to singing pictures

23 July 2005
Patrick Caulfield Paintings Marco Livingstone

Lund Humphries, pp.224, 35

Patrick Caulfield’s paintings look specific while giving us tantalisingly little to go on. Where are we? Seemingly, a spotlight moves, the disc of dislocated brightness slithering over tablecloth, tankard, swirly-plastered… Read more

Not a matching pair

21 May 2005
Bacon and Sutherland Martin Hammer

Yale, pp.272, 25

Horny black hills on red grounds and exposed roots clawing the air like scary glove puppets are typical of Graham Sutherland in his prime. Teeth and thorns, the odd crucifixion… Read more

A true poet of war

27 November 2004
Humphrey Jennings Kevin Jackson

Picador, pp.448, 30

‘On a hazy day Jerry comes droning over, three miles up.’ May sound Biggles-ish now, but it was OK for then, November 1940, in the commentary for Humphrey Jennings’s brief… Read more

Never short of an answer

16 October 2004
Kitaj Andrew Lambirth

Philip Wilson, pp.144, 25

People, that’s to say some critics, just don’t get it about R. B. Kitaj. They dislike the way he paints, running things past us in dead heats, so to speak,… Read more

The usual Soho suspects

25 January 2003

Sansom & Co., pp.280, 24.99

When John Moynihan was three and living with his painter parents in a flat off Primrose Hill he used to be terrified by nocturnal howls and squeals from the Regent’s… Read more

Very trying indeed

23 November 2002

Bloomsbury, pp.333, 20

Ralph Steadman has always employed graphic spatter. The pen jabs, the ink spurts and – yoiks! – how the victims suffer. Eyes popping, they retch, they convulse, they become pinstriped… Read more

A set of linked doodles

31 August 2002
REFLECTIONS AND SHADOWS Saul Steinberg, with Aldo Buzzi

Penguin, pp.100, 9.99

The niceties of Saul Steinberg’s cartoon drawings are doodle-related. Figures begin at the nose, become elaborately hatted and shod and strut like clockwork toys; words are transformed into free-standing objects;… Read more