Michael Prodger

When a smartphone gallery is better than the real thing

The best way to view some of the world’s greatest works of art is to go nowhere near them. Like other celebrities, the most famous paintings are hard to get close to and there are few less spiritual experiences than being cattle-prodded as part of a crowd through an overpacked exhibition. You may visit in

Making Russia great

Catherine the Great was born neither a Catherine nor with any prospects of greatness. As Sophie Frederica Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst she was a minor German princess with modest expectations, but when the Empress Elizabeth of Russia chose her to be the consort of her nephew and heir, the Grand Duke Peter, Sophie’s and Russia’s fates

Miniatures to dazzle

Alongside his distinguished career as a painter, Howard Hodgkin has also long been a collector of note. As a schoolboy at Eton he was given to bouts of running away but while briefly in situ his art master, Wilfrid Blunt (the brother of Anthony), borrowed a 17th-century Indian painting of a chameleon from the Royal

Opportunity knocks

Tony Hall tells Michael Prodger about how he transformed the Cultural Olympiad into the London 2012 Festival The most obvious gift possessed by Tony Hall, or Baron Hall of Birkenhead to give him his proper title, is for cleaning up an almighty mess. When he joined the Royal Opera House in 2001, after a long

Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape

Claude Gellée (c.1600–1682), known as Claude Lorrain, started life as a pastry cook and despite turning his attentions from pies and patisserie to painting he never lost his love for confection. Although he is revered as the father of the landscape tradition and was hailed by Constable as ‘the most perfect landscape painter the world

We are the mockers, too

Hieronymus Bosch had a distinctive view of our debased humanity, most distinctly expressed in his paintings of Christ’s Passion, says Michael Prodger Carl Jung described the painter Hieronymus Bosch as ‘the master of the monstrous…the discoverer of the unconscious’. He was, however, only half right. While it is true that Bosch has no peers as

A true portrait

In painting, as in music and literature, artists whose work in old age is comparable to that of their youth are rare beasts: Titian, who traditionally if implausibly lived to be 99, was one; Goya, who died aged 82, was another. But of neither can it be claimed that they saved their greatest work for

The word made flesh

Alongside the Easter Week story of sacrifice and salvation runs a second narrative – the story of Christ’s body. Each stage of Jesus’s spiritual journey – from the entry into Jerusalem to the Ascension – has its corporeal counterpart. As the last few days of his earthly life passed by so his physical appearance deteriorated:

An artist for our times

If faith can be said to have fashions, then it has been worn loosely for several seasons. The Christian belief that underlies the great religious paintings of the Renaissance is for many people an alien concept: it can appear, to modern eyes, too structured, too certain, too sentimental. At this time of year in particular,