Red faces in the galleries

21 April 2010
The Conman: How One Man Fooled the Modern Art Establishment Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Gibson Square, pp.327, 14.99

Art fraudsters, especially forgers, have a popular appeal akin to Robin Hood. Their cock-a-snook cunning provides a twist on those money shots on the Antiques Roadshow when some dotty great… Read more


A certain look

7 April 2010
A Hundred or More Hidden Things Mark Griffin

Da Capo Press, pp.330, 9.99

Just as there are people who are their own worst enemies, so there are books that are their own worst reviews. Mark Griffin’s A Hundred or More Hidden Things, a… Read more


Fine artist, but a dirty old man

31 March 2010
Linley Sambourne: Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist Leonee Ormond

Paul Holberton, pp.312, 30

I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended… Read more


Life beyond the canvas

24 February 2010
Into the Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown Angela Thirlwell

Chatto, pp.328, 25

Angela Thirlwell’s previous book was a double biography of William Rossetti (brother to the more famous Dante Gabriel) and his wife Lucy (daughter of the more famous Ford Madox Brown).… Read more

Master of accretion

30 December 2009
Frank Auerbach William Feaver

Rizzoli, pp.359, 100

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) is one of the most interesting artists working in Europe today, a philosophical painter of reality who works and re-works his pictures before he discovers something… Read more

Squeaks and squawks

14 December 2009
The Bloomsbury Group The British Library

The British Library, pp.2 CDs, 131 minutes, 15.50

How often, when listening to announcers or weather forecasters or politicians on the radio, do I think, ‘That’s an ugly voice’! This seldom applies to speakers with educated regional accents,… Read more

The king of chiaroscuro

14 December 2009
Caravaggio: The Complete Works Sebastian Schütze

Taschen, pp.306, 100

These days, it is easy to take it for granted that Caravaggio (1571-1610) is the most popular of the old masters, yet it was not ever thus. In my Baedeker’s… Read more

Repeat that, repeat

9 December 2009
The Infinity of Lists Umberto Eco

Maclehose Press, pp.408, 35

When the Louvre invited me to organise for the whole of November 2009 a series of conferences, exhibitions, public readings, concerts, film projections and the like on the subject of… Read more

The optimism of a suicide

9 December 2009
Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker

Thames & Hudson, 325

A postal strike would have been a disaster for Van Gogh. Letters were his lifeline and consolation. Not only did he receive through the mail his regular allowance from his… Read more

Fiery genius

16 September 2009
John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art Frances Spalding

Oxford University Press, pp.598, 25

In July 1967, a young artist named John Nankivell, living in Wantage, plucked up the courage to knock on John Betjeman’s front door, in the same town, to show the… Read more

Not so serene

9 September 2009
Venice, Pure City Peter Ackroyd

Chatto & Windus, pp.387, 25

Is there anything original left to say about Venice? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop the books from coming, tied in, as they mostly now are, with a television series.… Read more