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Art

'Supermarkets' (1976), by Sigmar Polke. Picture: The Estate of Sigmar Polke

Tate Modern’s latest show feels like it’s from another planet

18 October 2014
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 Tate Modern

‘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… Read more

Poor, poor Effie: Dakota Fanning

Effie Gray can effie off

11 October 2014
Effie Gray 12A, Nationwide

Effie Gray, which has been written by Emma Thompson and recounts the doomed marriage of Victorian art critic John Ruskin to his teenage bride (he refused to consummate it), has… 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

27 September 2014
Late Turner — Painting Set Free Tate Britain

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… Read more

‘14.11.65’ by John Hoyland

Is John Hoyland the new Turner?

27 September 2014

What happens to an artist’s reputation when he dies? Traditionally, there was a period of cooling off when the reputation, established during a lifetime, lost momentum and frequently collapsed, quite… Read more

‘Modern Family’, 2014, byEd Fornieles,at Chisenhale Gallery

‘Likes’, lacquered cherry pies and Anselm Kiefer: the weird world of post-internet art

27 September 2014
Austin Lee: Mixed Feelings Carl Kostyál, 12a Savile Row, W1
Ed Fornieles: Modern Family Chisenhale Gallery, 64 Chisenhale Road, E3

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,… 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

‘A Battery Shelled’, 1919, by Percy Wyndham Lewis

The Imperial War Museum finds a deadly place to display first world war masterpieces

13 September 2014
Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War Imperial War Museum, London
The Great War as Recorded through the Fine and Popular Arts Morley Gallery, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1

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).… 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

30 August 2014
Disobedient Objects V&A
Maps to Memorials: Discovering the Work of MacDonald Gill The Lettering Arts Centre, Snape Maltings

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… Read more

‘He thought he could have made it as a visual artist — if only more people had liked his work.’ Above: John Arlott reading (1977) and Kathy and Jessy (1963)

The gentle intoxications of Laurie Lee

28 June 2014

He was always lucky, and he knew it: lucky in the secure rural intimacy of the upbringing described in Cider with Rosie; in the love of some passionate, clever women,… Read more

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Why the BBC will never match Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation

17 May 2014

One afternoon in 1942, Kenneth Clark and his wife Jane called on two young painters for tea. The artists were John Craxton and Lucian Freud, then both around 20 and… Read more

Della Francesca’s ‘Resurrection’

The mathematical revolution behind ‘the greatest picture in the world’

19 April 2014

It seems odd to enter a room dominated by what Aldous Huxley famously called ‘the greatest picture in the world’ to find not another soul there. Looking down from an… Read more

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This beautiful new history of Kew Gardens needs a bit of weeding

12 April 2014
Edward Bawden’s Kew Gardens Peyton Skipwith and Brian Webb

V and A Publishing, pp.112, £20, ISBN: 9781851777792

Edward Bawden’s Kew Gardens is a beautiful book. Lovers of early 20th-century British art will find it hard to stop gazing at the painted board cover under the dustjacket. It… Read more

American novelist Siri Hustvedt Photo: Getty

Caught between a New Age rock and a theory junkie hard place

22 March 2014
The Blazing World Siri Hustvedt

Sceptre, pp.379, £18.99, ISBN: 9781444779646

Siri Hustvedt’s new novel isn’t exactly an easy read — but the casual bookshop browser should be reassured that it’s nowhere near as punishing as the opening pages might suggest.… Read more

The Hunters in the Snow, 1565, by Pieter Brueghel Photo: De Agostini/Getty

A spirit to warm Bruegel’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’

15 February 2014

The ostensible subject matter is misleading, as is any conflation with his lesser relatives’ wassailing peasants and roistering village squares. But Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s work is profoundly serious. It… Read more

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Clarissa Tan's Notebook: Why I stopped drinking petrol

25 January 2014

Florence was in fog the day I arrived. Its buildings were bathed in white cloud, its people moved as though through steam. The Arno river was a dense strip of… Read more

Saving Italy, by Robert M. Edsel - a review

20 July 2013
Saving Italy: the race to rescue a nation’s treasures from the Nazis Robert M. Edsel

W.W. Norton, pp.454, £20, ISBN: 9780393082418

During the civil war, the Puritan iconoclast William Dowsing recorded with satisfaction his destructive visit in 1644 to the parish church of Sudbury in Suffolk: ‘We brake down a picture… Read more

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When a smartphone gallery is better than the real thing

20 July 2013

The best way to view some of the world’s greatest works of art is to go nowhere near them. Like other celebrities, the most famous paintings are hard to get… Read more

Christopher Sykes

6 July 2013

I began my week with a trip to Bridlington, the closest seaside town to my childhood home. ‘Brid’, as it’s known to the locals, has a special British charm, comprising… Read more

‘Artist’s Studio “Look Mickey”’, 1973, by Roy Lichtenstein

How Roy Lichtenstein became weighed down with superficiality

9 March 2013

On both sides of the Atlantic there are still heated debates about who invented Pop Art, the Americans or the British, but it seems much more probable that concurrently each… Read more

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An enigma wrapped in a conundrum

26 May 2012
Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall Will Ellsworth-Jones

Aurum, pp.323, 20

What to make of Banksy? Artist or vandal? Tate Modern holds no Banksys and, other than a redundant phone box that he folded in half and pretended to have reconfigured… Read more

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The picture of health

14 April 2012
The Healing Presence of Art: A History of Western Art in Hospitals Richard Cork

Yale, pp.460, 50

It must have been hard to settle on a title for this book; but then this is not the book that Richard Cork originally had in mind.  In his introduction… Read more

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Bookends: Disarming but disingenuous

14 April 2012

At first glance, Be the Worst You Can Be (Booth-Clibborn Editions, £9.99) by Charles Saatchi (pictured above with his wife, Nigella Lawson) seems a rather distinguished book, with its gilt… Read more

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Where dreams take shape

7 April 2012
Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and Their Studios edited by Hossein Amirsadeghi

Thames & Hudson, pp.600, 48

The question of what artists actually get up to in their studios has always intrigued the rest of us — that mysterious alchemical process of transforming base materials into gold,… Read more

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A fine and private painter

31 March 2012
Prunella Clough: Regions Unmapped Frances Spalding

Lund Humphries, pp.240, 35

Prunella Clough was a modest and self-effacing artist who nevertheless produced some of the most consistently original and innovative British art of the second half of the 20th century. She… Read more

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Portraits of an age

3 March 2012
Beaton in Vogue Josephine Ross

Thames & Hudson, pp.240, 28

By a fine coincidence, two legendary icons of British art were being feted in London on the same evening last month, and both are primarily famous, to the public at… Read more