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Art

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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

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Currents of imagery

17 December 2011
The Book of the Wind: The Representation of the Invisible Alessandro Nova

McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp.223, 50

In the first book of his scientific-cum-philosophical poem ‘De rerum Natura’ — or ‘On the Nature of Things’ — Lucretius draws the reader’s attention to the power of invisible forces.… Read more

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Oh brother!

17 December 2011
Van Gogh: The Life Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Profile Books, pp.953, 30

Long in the writing, deep in research, heavy to hold, this is the latest of umpteen biographies of Vincent van Gogh (1853-90). But it should be said straightaway that it… Read more

Settling old scores

10 December 2011
Outsider: Almost Always, Never Quite Brian Sewell

Quartet, pp.343, 25

As a boy, Brian Sewell was unimpressed by opera but enraptured by pantomime which, he reveals in Outsider, sowed in him ‘an undying ambition, never fulfilled, to play the Widow… Read more

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Lust for life

3 December 2011
Hockney: The Biography, Volume I, A Rake’s Progess Christopher Simon Sykes

Century, pp.363, 25

Seduced by the hayseed hair and the Yorkshire accent it’s tempting to see the young David Hockney as the Freddie Flintoff of the painting world: lovable, simple, brilliant, undoubtedly a… Read more

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Art Books: A sumptuous tour

19 November 2011

In 1930 Evelyn Waugh, already at 27 a famous novelist, spent two days in Barcelona. He came upon one of the art nouveau houses designed by Antonio Gaudí, who had… Read more

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William Nicholson: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings by Patricia Reed

5 November 2011
William Nicholson: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings Patricia Reed

Modern Art Press/ Yale University Press,, pp.672, 95

A pleasingly tactile canvas-like cover adorns this heavy book and proclaims its purpose; the boldly brushed illustration is a detail from ‘Mauve Primulas on a Table’ painted in January 1928… Read more

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A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

29 October 2011
A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney Martin Gayford

Thames & Hudson, pp.248, 18.95

Like his contemporary and fellow Yorkshireman, Alan Bennett, whom he slightly resembles physically, David Hockney has been loved and admired throughout his lifetime. He painted one of his greatest works,… Read more

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Art for ransom

27 August 2011
Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Story of Notorious Art Heists Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.272, 15.99

Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners Sandy Nairne

Reaktion Books, pp.224, 20

These two books make mutually illuminating and surprisingly contrasting companions, given the similarity of their subjects. Both are written by those with hands-on experience in the field of art preservation… Read more

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Poetry in paint

23 July 2011
Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Bloomsbury, pp.382, 25

At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits. At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits.… Read more

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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

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1951 and all that

18 June 2011
Beacon for Change: How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age Barry Turner

Aurum, pp.282, 16.99

The author of this book and I both visited the 1951 Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank as schoolboys. The author of this book and I both visited the… Read more

Religious doubt

23 April 2011

No description of Eric Gill is ever without the words ‘devout Catholic’, and Eric Gill: Lust for Letter & Line (British Museum Press, £9.99), while short, provides evidence to both… Read more

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Fish and chaps

23 April 2011
The Day of the Peacock: Style for Men, 1963-1973 Geoffrey Aquilina Ross

V&A, pp.144, 24.99

This is the ultimate ‘niche’ book. This is the ultimate ‘niche’ book. It focuses on that singular decade between the years of rockers and punks, when toffs, freed from school… Read more

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The Midas touch

23 April 2011
Bill Gold: Poster Works introduction by Christopher Frayling, edited by Tony Nourmand, foreword by Clint Eastwood

Reel Art Press, pp.447, 400

Now that we can read on Kindle and some people fear that paper-and-ink books will become extinct, one’s first impulse might be to say hurrah for this mighty production. Now… Read more

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Never the same

12 February 2011

There is a saying that art in restaurants is like to food in museums. You know the feeling: the attendant monstrosity on the wall peers over your shoulder, wrecking your… Read more

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Creative protesting

22 January 2011

It’s time to heed the complaints and free art schools from the constraints of the university system, says Niru Ratnam The Turner Prize award ceremony always attracts protest — usually… Read more

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Never the same

15 January 2011

Simon Starling’s art often involves some form of recycling — his controversial ‘Shedboatshed’ won the 2005 Turner Prize – and his ‘new’ exhibition at Camden Arts Centre (until 20 February)… Read more

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More real art, please

15 January 2011

Although I am an admirer of Dulwich Picture Gallery, and like to support its generally rewarding exhibition programme, I will not be making the pilgrimage to see its latest show,… Read more

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Best in show

15 January 2011

Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, talks to Ariane Bankes about the planned revamp of the museum and 100 different ways of showing sculpture The evening after first meeting Penelope… Read more

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A Cumberland legend

8 January 2011
Sheila Fell Cate Haste

Lund Humphries, pp.136, 35

The legend of the glamorous artist Sheila Fell (1931–79), with her striking looks — black hair, white skin, large eyes — who died young, has tended to obscure the real… Read more

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A look ahead

18 December 2010

The trend of fewer temporary exhibitions in our museums is becoming established, as the cost of mounting blockbusters escalates beyond even the generous reach of sponsorship. This is in sharp… Read more

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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