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The world belongs to Taylor Swift now. There will be no free-trial period

27 June 2015

All hail Taylor Swift. How she must give baby boomers the fear. Not just baby boomers. Also those who came next, the Generation Xers, who seemed to define themselves culturally… Read more

23 May 2015

Soldiering on Sir: Max Hastings’s article about demobbed army officers trying for a job after the war struck a chord (‘Demob unhappy’, 16 May). The problem prevailed. I left as… Read more

Underneath the arches: Cruikshank’s illustration of ‘one of those afflicting occurences in the life of London: 
TOM, JERRY and LOGIC are arrested in their progress home by the melancholy discovery of Corinthian KATE 
in the last stage of a Consumption, disease & inebriety’

Hogarth and the harlots of Covent Garden were many things, but they weren't 'bohemians'

2 November 2013
The First Bohemians Vic Gatrell

Allen Lane, pp.484, £25, ISBN: 9781846146770

It was Hazlitt who said of Hogarth that his pictures ‘breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air’, and the same could be said of this book. It describes the fermenting… Read more


The pen was mightier than the brush

2 June 2012
Joanna, George and Henry: A Pre-Raphaelite Tale of Art, Love and Friendship Sue Bradbury

Boydell, pp.336, £25

Of the making of books about the Pre-Raphaelites, it appears, there is no end. Like the Bloomsberries, most of the PRB are more interesting to read about than the study… Read more


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


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


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


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


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


A holy terror

11 February 2012
Michelangelo: The Achievement of Fame Michael Hirst

Yale, pp.438, 30

In the summer of 1520, Michelangelo Buonarotti wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of his protégé, the painter Sebastiano del Piombo, to Cardinal Bibbiena, an influential figure at the… Read more


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

Don’t mention the war

10 December 2011
Major/Minor Alba Arikha

Quartet, pp.217, 15

It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with glimpses of her godfather Samuel Beckett and a fragmented account… Read more


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


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


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


Forget the matchstick men

4 December 2010
L.S. Lowry: The Art and Artists T.G> Rosenthal

Unicorn Press, pp.320, 40

Here at last is a book that takes L. S. Lowry’s art seriously and treats it with the scholarly attention it deserves. Here at last is a book that takes… Read more


On the charm offensive

27 November 2010
Derek Hill Bruce Arnold

Quartet, pp.448, 35

Derek Hill (1916–2000), writes Bruce Arnold, was an English representational landscape and portrait painter of ‘haunting and evocative creative spirituality that is perhaps indefinable’. Derek Hill (1916–2000), writes Bruce Arnold,… Read more


Taking a firm line

23 October 2010
A Life In Pictures Alasdair Gray

Canongate, pp.303, 35

This book collects nearly 300 examples of Alasdair Gray’s work as a painter and illustrator. This book collects nearly 300 examples of Alasdair Gray’s work as a painter and illustrator.… Read more


Doing what it says on the tin

14 August 2010
Andy Warhol: His Controversial Life, Art and Colourful Times Tony Scherman and David Dalton

JR Books, pp.440, 25

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it. Much… Read more

A flammable individual

30 June 2010
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane Andrew Graham-Dixon

Allen Lane, pp.514, 30

On the night of 18 October 1969, thieves broke into the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, and removed Caravaggio’s Nativity. On the night of 18 October 1969, thieves broke into… Read more


More than a painter of Queens

30 June 2010
Philip De Laszlo: His Life and Art Duff Hart-Davis

Yale, pp.412, 30

The last words of Hungarian-born portraitist Philip de László, spoken to his nurse, were apparently, ‘It is a pity, because there is so much still to do.’ As Duff Hart-Davis’s… Read more


Small but perfectly formed

23 June 2010
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Edmund de Waal

Chatto, pp.351, 16.99

Some years ago, Edmund de Waal inherited a remarkable collection of 264 netsuke from his great-uncle Iggie, whom he had got to know 20 years previously while studying pottery and… Read more


Odd men out

16 June 2010
Peter Pan’s First XIWG’s Birthday Party Kevin Tefler

Sceptre, pp.344, 16.99

The first game played by the Allahakbarries Cricket Club at Albury in Surrey in September 1887 did not bode well for the club’s future. The first game played by the… Read more


On the brink

2 June 2010
Winter on the Nile: Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert and the Temptations of Egypt Anthony Sattin

Hutchinson, pp.316, 20

Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship contains a celebrated tip for writers who want to ensure good reviews. Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship contains a celebrated tip for writers who want to ensure good reviews.… Read more


Painting the town together

2 June 2010
The Last Bohemians Roger Bristow

Sansom, pp.416, 29.95

This book recounts a terrible story of self-destruction by two painters who, in their heyday, achieved considerable renown in Britain and abroad. Robert Colquhoun (1914-62) and Robert MacBryde (1913-66), both… Read more