Insipid show of a weak painter: Angelica Kauffman, at the Royal Academy, reviewed

Angelica Kauffman’s funeral in Rome in 1807 was designed by her friend Canova on the model of Raphael’s. The corpse of ‘the great Woman, the always illustrious holy and most pious… was accompanied to the Church by two very numerous Brotherhoods… followed by the rest of the Academicians & Virtuosi who carried in triumph two of her Pictures’. At the Royal Academy in London, the account of her obsequies was read out at the general assembly and entered in the minutes; as a founding member of the institution – one of only two women so honoured, with Mary Moser – Kauffman was gone, but not forgotten. Kauffman was a decorative

Hugely pleasurable – a vision of summer: Jennifer Packer at the Serpentine Gallery reviewed

We need to talk about Eric. In Jennifer Packer’s portrait of her friend and fellow artist, Eric N. Mack sits on a yellow chair that might have been borrowed from Van Gogh’s bedroom. He’s wearing excellent odd socks, one pink to rhyme with his shoes, the other yellow matching his trousers and chair. But it’s Eric’s face that’s most compelling. Like the ‘Mona Lisa’, Eric’s expression is inscrutable. He might be thinking about what’s for tea, the crisis in pictorial representation or, quite likely, nodding off. This enigmatic quality is intentional. ‘When I painted Eric, I wanted accuracy, but I also wanted to privilege his subjectivity and privacy,’ says Packer.

Full of masterpieces: Paula Rego at Tate Britain reviewed

The Victorian dictum ‘every picture tells a story’ is true of Paula Rego’s works, but it’s only part of the truth. Rego has said that she hopes and expects that when people look at her pictures, ‘Things will come out that I’m not even aware of.’ And that’s right too: every marvellous picture tells so many stories, and is so charged with under- and overtones, that no one, including its creator, can be aware of everything that’s going on. That’s certainly true of many works in the Rego retrospective at Tate Britain. All notable painters and sculptors are, of course, sui generis. They don’t follow established rules; instead they make

It is impossible to imagine Henrician England except through the eyes of Hans Holbein

‘Holbein redeemed a whole era for us from oblivion,’ remarks the author of a trilogy of novels set at Henry VIII’s court. ‘He has forced us to believe that his vision of it was the only feasible one.’ This is a bit of a tease. It’s not written by Hilary Mantel, as you might be expecting, but by Ford Madox Ford, who, a century before Wolf Hall, published a sequence of novels about Henry’s fifth queen, Katharine Howard. Nevertheless, Ford’s point is irrefutable. It is impossible to imagine the England of Henry VIII except through the eyes of ‘the King’s Painter’, Hans Holbein. Not just the king, portrayed as massive,