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‘Hat Stand’, 1969, one of a group of three sculptures that caused controversy early on in the artist’s career

The pop artist whose transgressions went too far – for the PC art world

1 November 2014

Allen Jones (born 1937) has been demonised. In 1969 he made a group of three sculptures of scantily-clad female figures. They were slightly larger than life and arranged in positions… Read more

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Mr Turner: the gruntiest, snortiest, huffiest film of the year - and the most beautiful too

1 November 2014
Mr Turner 12A, Nationwide

Mr Turner may be the gruntiest film of the year, possibly the gruntiest film ever. ‘Grunt, grunt, grunt,’ goes Mr Turner (Timothy Spall) as he sketches, paints, gropes his housekeeper,… Read more

Finding his feet: ‘Untitled (man and two women in a pastoral setting)’, 1940

How Rothko become the mythic superman of mystical abstraction

1 November 2014
Mark Rothko Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Mark Rothko was an abstract artist who didn’t see himself as an abstract artist — or at least not in any ‘formalist’ sense. If a critic called him a ‘colourist’,… Read more

'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

‘Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft)’, 1970, by Anselm Kiefer

All my doubts about Anselm Kiefer are blown away by his Royal Academy show

11 October 2014
Anselm Kiefer Royal Academy
The Turner Prize 2014 Tate Britain

In the Royal Academy’s courtyard are two large glass cases or vitrines containing model submarines. In one the sea has receded, dried up, and the tin fish are stranded on… 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

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

‘Interior (Innenraum)’, 1981, by Anselm Kiefer

'I like vanished things': Anselm Kiefer on art, alchemy and his childhood

20 September 2014

At the entrance to Anselm Kiefer’s forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy visitors will encounter a typically paradoxical Kiefer object: a giant pile of lead books, sprouting wings. When I… Read more

‘Futurist Motif’, 1920, by Gerardo Dottori

Futurism’s escape to the country

23 August 2014
Gerardo Dottori: The Futurist View Estorick Collection

Futurism, with its populist mix of explosive rhetoric (burn all the museums!) and resolutely urban experience and emphasis on speed, was a force to be reckoned with (at least in… Read more

Who’s in, who’s out: George Bernard O’Neill’s ‘Public Opinion’ depicts a private view of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy

The age of the starving artist

26 July 2014
A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain James Hamilton

Atlantic Books, pp.400, £25, ISBN: 9781848879249

What remains of art is art, of course; and what chiefly interests us is the creative talents of a painter or a sculptor. What we forget is that the work… Read more

How can I train my brother to not eat like a pig?

26 July 2014

Q. I live far away from my brother and his family, but went to stay with them recently for the first time in many years. Having supper was like eating… 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

Andrew4

Do critics make good artists? Come and judge ours

1 March 2014

Artists make good critics, but do critics make good artists? It’s hard to tell, when most are too chicken to try. For over 20 years, Spectator critic Andrew Lambirth has… 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

‘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

Ominously unstable elements of ocean and atmosphere: ‘Turning Vessel’ by Peter Archer

Peter Archer — Notes from an Inland Sea

9 March 2013
Peter Archer — Notes from an Inland Sea Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter’s Street, London N1

Peter Archer used to paint landscapes on the Cornish side of the Tamar river. Their most notable features were lovingly observed trees and the tall chimneys of abandoned tin mines.… Read more

‘The Badminton Game’ 1972–3, by David Inshaw

David Inshaw: the great romantic

2 March 2013

David Inshaw will celebrate his 70th birthday on 21 March, around the time of the spring equinox. On the eve of this grand climacteric, which will be marked by an… Read more

‘Moi et le village’, 1911, by Marc Chagall

Wandering eye

2 March 2013
Chagall — Modern Master Kunsthaus Zürich

‘When Matisse dies,’ declared Picasso, ‘Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.’ Wandering around this splendid show you can see exactly what he meant.… 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

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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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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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Enlightened patronage

12 February 2011

Alberto Della Ragione (1892–1973) was a naval engineer from Genoa with a passion for music, poetry and the visual arts; he also had the collecting bug. Alberto Della Ragione (1892–1973)… 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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Death watch

8 January 2011

Although I stopped watching TV some years ago, films are a continuing solace and pleasure. Among the Christmas treats was a previously unseen Jack Nicholson movie, entitled The Bucket List.… Read more