Laura Gascoigne

The quiet genius of Gwen John

In the rush to right the historical gender balance, galleries have been corralling neglected women artists into group exhibitions: the Whitechapel Gallery rounded up 80 women abstract expressionists for its recent Action, Gesture, Paint show. But imbalances can’t be corrected retrospectively. Rather than elevating women artists who didn’t make it in a male-dominated world –

From Botticelli to Marvel: why artists love St Francis

‘A small, black, repulsive picture’ is not how most people today would describe Zurbaran’s haunting painting of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’ (1635-9) in the National Gallery. But that was how one Protestant critic of its acquisition in 1853 described this image of an Italian saint satirised three centuries earlier by the German Lutheran cleric Erasmus

How two Dutchmen introduced marine art to Britain

In March 1675 the Keeper of His Majesty’s Lodgings at Greenwich received an order for ‘Three pairs of shutters for the three windows in a lower room, at the Queen’s building next to the park (where the Dutch painters work’). Willem van de Velde and his son, also called Willem, would have preferred a studio

The grisliest images are the earliest: Bearing Witness? Violence and Trauma on Paper, at the Fitzwilliam Museum, reviewed

‘Graphic’ scenes of violence are now associated with film, but the word betrays an older ancestry. The first mass media images to shock the public were engravings documenting contemporary social ills pioneered by the Victorian magazine The Graphic, though the association goes a long way further back, to Jacques Callot’s etching series ‘Miseries of War’

An Uffizi Adoration that upstages even the Botticellis

Tourists who queue for hours outside the Uffizi to see Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and ‘Birth of Venus’ are sometimes surprised to find his world-famous paintings upstaged by the work of a non-Italian they’ve never heard of. At three metres tall and five metres wide, Hugo van der Goes’s ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ – known as the

Does gender matter? Making Modernism, at the Royal Academy, reviewed

 The catalogue to Making Modernism opens with an acknowledgment from the Royal Academy’s first female president, Rebecca Salter, that in the past it has overlooked women artists. To compensate, it has bundled seven – four headliners and three of their lesser-known contemporaries – into this one show. Excluded from official art schools and reliant on