Damian Thompson

Confessions of an illegal downloader

I’ve never been into shoplifting, though I once had a friend who was. And, no, before you ask, I’m not using that old ‘friend’ device to hide my own identity. She was a girl I met at university. Bookshops were her hunting ground. I’m assuming she was driven by some sort of compulsion because she

Arts feature

How will the British public take to Rubens’s fatties?

This week a monumental exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy, is opening at the Royal Academy. It makes the case — surely correct — that the Flemish master was among the most influential figures in European art. There are few painters of the 18th or 19th century — from Joshua Reynolds to Cézanne, Watteau to Constable

Mohammed — in pictures

Two months ago I was sitting beside the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, telling a story about the last week of the Prophet’s life. It was detailed enough to paint an imaginary portrait of him and included a mildly ribald joke from one of his wives, told to him on his deathbed




Broadchurch, review: ‘unwatchable’

Probably the two greatest advances in western culture in my lifetime have been the Sopranos-style epic serial drama and the advent of TV on demand and/or the DVD box set. I don’t think I’m saying anything weird or contentious — or indeed original — here. For example, I’m writing these words at the end of



Radio 4’s War and Peace: almost as good as the book

To have listened to Radio 4’s marathon ten-hour adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace as it was being broadcast on New Year’s Day must have been both wonderful and a bit weird. Like soaking in an ever-replenishing warm bath, indulgent, luxuriant, all-absorbing. Yet at the same time I imagine it was quite hard by the