Art history

Alesso Baldovinetti’s ‘Madonna and Child’ (c. 1464) is rich in symbolism. The infant Christ holds his swaddling band up to the Virgin’s womb, as if it were a token of the umbilical cord that united them. The winding shape of the bandage is echoed in the distant meandering river. The Madonna’s gossamer veil falls over her head as a pyx-cloth might cover a sacramental vessel.The child touches another translucent veil, draped over the cushion beside him. Towering above him, his Mother joins her hands in devotion, as if to acknowledge her Son’s meaningful gestures

Unfolding mysteries: the drama of drapery in Italian art

10 November 2018 9:00 am

The striking yet subtle jacket image from Donatello’s ‘Madonna of the Clouds’ announces this book’s quality from the outset. Its…

Left: ‘Self-portrait,’ 1916. Right: Homage to the Square: Renewed Hope’, 1951 by Josef Albers

Josef Albers: the Bauhaus artist whose pupil designed Auschwitz

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The German-born artist, Josef Albers, was a contrary so-and-so. Late in life, he was asked why — in the early…

‘The Poltergeist’ by Conroy Maddox (1941)

A violent ultimatum ended Giacometti’s brief flirtation with Marlene Dietrich

19 May 2018 9:00 am

Those with long enough memories may remember Desmond Morris as the presenter of the hit ITV children’s programme of Zoo…

Portrait of Gabrielle Renard and Jean Renoir. Gabrielle was an important part of the Renoir household, both as nanny and artist’s model

Renoir’s exuberant canvases masked a tortured soul

7 October 2017 9:00 am

In 1959 the formidable interviewer John Freeman took the Face to Face crew to the 81-year-old Augustus John’s studio. The…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

The dazzling vision of Thomas Gainsborough

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Working in semi-darkness, Thomas Gainsborough produced some of the airiest, most poetic paintings imaginable, says Philip Hensher

Ida Nettleship, aged 24, the year she married Augustus John

The ordeal of being married to Augustus John

6 May 2017 9:00 am

What will we do when there are no longer caches of letters to piece together and decipher; only vague memories…

Saint Helena and the Emperor Heraclius restore the Holy Cross to Jerusalem after its recapture from the Persians. Altarpiece by Miguel Jimenez and Martin Bernat, c.1485

From Tree of Death to Tree of Life: the history of the cross

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Among Christians, the cross is seen as an instrument of execution and an emblem of victory. Christopher Howse explores the paradox

Moses has a formidable authority, with the physique of a bodybuilder and a beard that cascades like Niagara Falls

Michelangelo’s grave miscalculation

4 February 2017 9:00 am

‘How often’, wrote Sigmund Freud in 1914, ‘have I mounted the steep steps from the unlovely Corso Cavour to the…

Kenneth Clark: from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Our collective attention spans may not be as short as is widely cited, but they are pretty short. Take the…

Illuminated manuscript c.1335 depicting seven fiery red seraphim, the highest order of angelic beings

The power and glory of red

20 August 2016 9:00 am

The colour contains the greatest contradictions, the richest play on nuances and goes further back than any other. Paul Keegan follows the red thread through history

Roland Penrose sculpting

The surreal life — and loves — of Roland Penrose

25 June 2016 8:00 am

Roland Penrose: The Life of a Surrealist

Tug of war over the world’s heritage

12 March 2016 9:00 am

Isis’s blowing up of the Roman theatre at Palmyra should concentrate our minds: our world heritage is vulnerable. Not that…

Is Julian Barnes right to think Lucian Freud will survive? Jonathan Meades thinks not

30 May 2015 9:00 am

The subject of the least characteristic essay in this engrossing collection of meditations on painters, painters’ lives, painting and reactions…

Art has ceased to be beautiful or interesting — but we are more obsequious than ever to artists

16 May 2015 9:00 am

Two ambitious volumes of interviews with artists have just been published. They are similar, but different. The first is by…

Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark: pen friends, not true friends

25 April 2015 9:00 am

Robert Cumming’s opening sentence is: ‘Kenneth Clark and Bernard Berenson first met in the summer of 1925.’ One is then…

It’s not easy for a middle-aged woman to get inside the head of a 12-year-old innkeeper’s son in 1914

13 September 2014 9:00 am

Esther Freud wrote dazzlingly in the first person through the eyes of a five-year-old child in her first novel, Hideous…

This beautiful new history of Kew Gardens needs a bit of weeding

12 April 2014 9:00 am

Edward Bawden’s Kew Gardens is a beautiful book. Lovers of early 20th-century British art will find it hard to stop…

The Artist Formerly Known As Whistler

22 February 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith on the exasperating, charismatic painter who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee

Do Manet's asparagus remind you of your struggling long-term relationship?

4 January 2014 9:00 am

In calling their book Art as Therapy Alain de Botton and John Armstrong have taken the direct route. They’re not…

How honest was Bernard Berenson?

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith suspects that even such a distinguished connoisseur as Bernard Berenson did not always play a straight bat

A book on Art Deco that's a work of art in itself — but where's the Savoy, Claridge's and the Oxo Tower? 

30 November 2013 9:00 am

Over the past 45 years, there have been two distinct and divergent approaches to Art Deco. One of them —…

When Francis Davison made me judge — and burn — his art

30 November 2013 9:00 am

In 1983, Damien Hirst saw an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery of the collages of Francis Davison which ‘blew him…

A is for Artist, D is for Dealers

26 October 2013 9:00 am

‘S is for Spoof.’ There it is on page 86, a full-page reproduction of a Nat Tate drawing, sold at…

How to avoid bankers in your nativity scene

19 October 2013 9:00 am

With an eye to the blasphemy underlying some of the loveliest Renaissance painting, Honor Clerk will be choosing her Christmas cards more carefully this year

Lucian Freud in his bedroom in Notting Hill, May 2011

Breakfast with Lucian, by Geordie Greig - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

According to the medical historian Professor Sonu Shamdasani, Sigmund Freud was not the best, nor actually the most interesting, psychoanalyst…