Garden delights

23 April 2011 12:00 am

There were two John Tradescants, father and son, operating in the 17th century as travellers and gardeners from a base in south London.

Personal vision

9 April 2011 12:00 am

At the beginning of Richard Ingrams’s book on John Piper (1903–92), he quotes the artist as saying: ‘The basic and unexplainable thing about my paintings is a feeling for places.

Lines of beauty

2 April 2011 12:00 am

So far, 2011 has been a good year for drawing. The great Pre-Raphaelite drawings show at Birmingham is still fresh in my mind as I write this review of a superb Watteau exhibition at the Royal Academy (supported by Region Holdings) and a select survey of Victorian drawings and watercolours at the Courtauld. Watercolours are often described as a form of drawing, though they are in fact made with paint. So they occupy a hybrid category, allowing rather too great a laxity of definition, as can be seen in the Tate’s current watercolour compendium. But there is no uncertainty about the Academy’s show: this is all drawings, and of a very high quality indeed.

Maastricht treats

26 March 2011 6:00 am

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) takes place in Maastricht, Netherlands, every year. It showcases the finest examples that the most prestigious commercial galleries of the international art world have to offer — from ancient to contemporary art and design.

East Anglian friends

26 March 2011 12:00 am

Three exhibitions in East Anglia serve to remind us that museums and galleries outside London continue to programme stimulating events. At Norwich Castle is an excellent survey of British art from the beginning of the first world war to the end of the second — a time of great richness and considerable innovation. There’s so much of interest and value here that it’s difficult to decide what to mention and what to leave out.

Out of place

19 March 2011 12:00 am

Since pluralism in the arts became the order of the day, categories have been bursting at the seams, and the old definitions have lost validity.

Erotic review

12 March 2011 12:00 am

First, a note about naming. The artist here presented as Jan Gossaert (c.1478–1532) was formerly known as Jan Mabuse, so designated after the Walloon town he came from — Maubeuge in Hainaut.

Aesthetic responses

5 March 2011 12:00 am

Over the past month I’ve strolled through Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie to examine Edouard Manet’s ‘In the Conservatory’ in close detail.

Fruit of the vine

5 March 2011 12:00 am

According to Athenaeus of Naucratis, the 2nd-century AD author of The Sophists’ Banquet, the ancient Sybarites kept the capital of their city-state in southern Italy supplied with wine through a network of ‘vinoducts’ that reached far out into the surrounding countryside.

Visual dialogue

5 March 2011 12:00 am

An encounter with the paintings by the established Berlin-based Swede Peter Frie comes as a breath of fresh and insightful air to the British contemporary art scene.

On the edge

5 March 2011 12:00 am

There’s nothing safe or cosy — and, indeed, there shouldn’t be anything safe or cosy —about being an artist.

Selective attention

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Another vast exhibition at Tate Britain, but one which will no doubt prove popular with the public.

Fine lines

19 February 2011 12:00 am

Drawings are often valued as an artist’s first thoughts, the most direct and intimate expression of his or her response to a subject.

Never the same

12 February 2011 12:00 am

There is a saying that art in restaurants is akin to food in museums. You know the feeling: the attendant monstrosity on the wall peers over your shoulder, wrecking your appetite. But times are changing. Independent galleries have faded under recent financial strain, and the upward pressure on shop rents continues. Denied their premises, dealers are using new spaces and have reached new markets in the process.

Enlightened patronage

12 February 2011 12:00 am

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.

Death watch

8 January 2011 12:00 am

Although I stopped watching TV some years ago, films are a continuing solace and pleasure.

Direct observation

1 January 2011 12:00 am

Although he was the leading portrait painter of Regency England, Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) has somehow slipped beneath the catch-net of modern public recognition.

A look ahead

18 December 2010 12:00 am

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.

Light relief

4 December 2010 12:00 am

The so-called Glasgow Boys had no manifesto, common background or style, apart from working in and around the city of Glasgow and sharing a belief in the importance of painting from direct observation and experience.

At the heart of Europe

27 November 2010 12:00 am

The historic centre of Bruges has 16 museums, enough to cater for every touristic taste. There’s a Diamond Museum, a Lace Centre, a Choco-Story (the narrative element distinguishes it from the 50 chocolate shops) and a Friet Museum — or ‘Belgian Fries Museum’, for English-speakers under the misapprehension that fries are French. But the main focus of the city’s five-yearly festival, now in full swing, is on a local product the French cannot lay claim to: the Flemish painting tradition founded by Jan van Eyck, who died in Bruges in 1441.

Smoke and mirrors

27 November 2010 12:00 am

The Prince, according to Machiavelli, ‘should appear, to see him, to hear him, all compassion, all good faith, all integrity, all piety’ — which might be translated into Basic Blairish as ‘should appear a pretty straight kind of guy’ — but, as the Florentine Father of Spin emphasised, it was a great deal more important to seem to have, rather than actually to have, these qualities.

Small blessings

20 November 2010 12:00 am

As I pointed out last week, one of the chief attractions of the Treasures from Budapest show at the Royal Academy is the inclusion of two rooms of Old Master drawings.

Fresh and feisty

13 November 2010 12:00 am

Harry Becker (1865–1928) is one of those artists too often dismissed as being of regional interest only, who feature but rarely in the art chronicles of the period.

Look and learn

6 November 2010 12:00 am

The greatest myth to affect Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) is the one of his own life: the romantic bohemian who escaped to the South Seas.

UnEnglish triumph

30 October 2010 12:00 am

Sometimes an exhibition does what it says on the tin. The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy, the Ashmolean’s first major show post-revamp, is such an exhibition.