Ariane Bankes

Why Ronald Blythe is so revered

Ronald Blythe, the celebrated author of Akenfield, is to turn 100 next month, and to mark his centenary a beguiling calendrical selection has been made of his ruminations for the Church Times, for which as a lay reader he penned a weekly ‘Word from Wormingford’. It is distilled from 25 years of musings that chase

The ‘delishious’ letters of Lucian Freud

Love him or loathe him, Lucian Freud was a maverick genius whose life from the off was as singular as his paintings were celebrated. He never really knew his famous grandfather, who left Vienna in 1938 only a year before his death, and one can only speculate what Sigmund would have made of his wayward

The high and low life of John Craxton

Charm is a weasel word; it can evoke the superficial and insincere, and engender suspicion and mistrust. But charm in its most authentic sense was surely the defining quality of the painter John Craxton, and it flavours this lively and richly coloured account of his life. Ian Collins only met the elderly Craxton — by

Arthur Jeffress: bright young person of the post-war art scene

The name Arthur Jeffress may not conjure many associations for those not familiar with the London post-war art world, but this wayward, flamboyant, controversial connoisseur and patron who left much of his ‘small but subversive’ collection to the Tate and the Southampton Art Gallery after his death in 1961 certainly deserves his footnote in history.

Five bluestockings in one Bloomsbury square

The presiding genius of this original and erudite book is undoubtedly Virginia Woolf, whose essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ provided the rallying cry, whether consciously or not, for five remarkable women, all drawn at some point in their careers to Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburgh Square. There they found the freedom and independence they craved to explore

The Lost Girls of World War II – a tribute

It is to Peter Quennell in his memoir The Wanton Chase that D.J. Taylor owes his concept of wartime London’s ‘Lost Girls’: ‘adventurous young women who flitted around London, alighting briefly here and there, and making the best of any random perch on which they happened to descend’. They were courageous, living ‘without any thought

Mysteries unfold

The striking yet subtle jacket image from Donatello’s ‘Madonna of the Clouds’ announces this book’s quality from the outset. Its focus is drapery, and the way that artists of the Italian Renaissance clothed their subjects, and furnished their narratives, to articulate veils of meaning that were infinitely suggestive. Marshalling a lifetime’s inquiry into the art

A husband to die for

What will we do when there are no longer caches of letters to piece together and decipher; only vague memories of myriad emails? We will be like butterfly hunters flailing around with our nets, hoping to catch some rare specimen with glittering wings among the detritus of daily exchanges. The letters of Ida Nettleship, first

Dizzying swirls of impasto

With a career of more than 60 years so far, Frank Auerbach is undoubtedly one of the big beasts of the British art world. His personal reticence, however, and the condensed, impacted idiom of his painting have contributed to his enigmatic, somewhat opaque reputation. Catherine Lampert, who has sat regularly and patiently for him since

Hannah Höch – from Dada firebrand to poet of collage

I suspect I am not alone in finding it surprising to encounter at the close of this exhibition an unexpected Hannah Höch — a gently spoken elderly lady filmed wandering among the overgrown flowers in her garden, talking of beauty. A far cry from the radical firebrand and Dada collagiste of interwar Berlin whose works

The Lisson show is so hermetic, sometimes we flounder for meaning

The title of the Lisson Gallery’s new show, Nostalgic for the Future, could sum up the gallery’s whole raison d’être. From its inception in 1967, the Lisson has championed the cutting edge, providing a British and European platform for the major conceptual and minimal artists from the States — Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and Dan

The big tease

Perhaps the greatest irony of many in this first solo London show of Sarah Lucas is that it is sponsored by Louis Vuitton. ‘Symbolising French elegance and joie de vivre, the Maison LV has always collaborated with the best engineers, decorators and artists,’ it claims. Well, welcome to a new world. Soiled mattresses provocatively pierced

Exhibition review: The charm and dexterity of Sir Hugh Casson

It is nothing short of a miracle that this aptly titled exhibition could be shoehorned into just two rooms at the Royal Academy, such was the range of the irrepressible Hugh Casson’s work and influence during his lifetime. Architect, artist, designer and writer, he was a fireball of energy and a fount of ideas. He

Sculptural conundrums

2012 is proving something of an annus mirabilis for Anthony Caro OM CBE RA, now 88, with no fewer than three exhibitions of his work on view around the country.  And he continues to beaver away daily in his studio in Camden Town, London, with the strength of a man much younger than himself, one

Where dreams take shape

The question of what artists actually get up to in their studios has always intrigued the rest of us — that mysterious alchemical process of transforming base materials into gold, or at least into something marketable in the present volatile art world. Today’s studio might as likely be a laptop as laboratory, factory, hangar or

Best in show | 15 January 2011

Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, talks to Ariane Bankes about the planned revamp of the museum and 100 different ways of showing sculpture The evening after first meeting Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, I bumped into a mutual friend who told me, only half-joking, that she could be frightening. Fair enough, I thought:

Friends reunited

Zanzotti’s in Soho: redolent of surreptitious lunches fondly remembered, with its red gingham cloths and crusted tricolore paintwork, its ‘chianti-in-a-basket./ Breadsticks you snap/ with a sneeze of dust…And Massimo himself/ touring the tables / with his fake bonhomie.’ An old haunt, and the setting, in Christopher Reid’s poem ‘The Song of Lunch’, for a reunion

‘If he couldn’t paint, he couldn’t live’

Ariane Bankes talks to the widow of Arshile Gorky, whose retrospective is about to open at Tate Mougouch Fielding opens the door to me looking a little gaunt but as beautiful as ever, though I have not seen her for a couple of years. She is in her late eighties, but no less stylish now