Julian Bell

Julian Bell is a painter based in Lewes. Natural Light: Adam Elsheimer and the Horizons of 1600 is forthcoming from Thames and Hudson.

So Much for Caligula: Caesarishness

Julian Bell, 24 March 2022

GaiusSuetonius Tranquillus was a scholar and man of letters on the imperial payroll in early second-century Rome. Around 120 ce he completed his Lives of the Caesars, a set of biographies informed by his access to official libraries and his longstanding insider status at court. Suetonius began with the career of Julius Caesar, whose rise to political supremacy 170 years earlier had marked...

Shaggy Horse Story: Fabulising about Form

Julian Bell, 17 December 2020

What​ is the point of art history? If we say that history is a series of stories about changes, and that by art we mean things that humans have made for one another to look at, then what stories would be most interesting? Stories that tell us something special about humans, perhaps, something we could learn no other way. But it’s not easy to see what that is. There’s a shaggy...

Arook​ alights on the turret of a four-storey townhouse, wings braking and feet outstretched to land. The blackbird already perched there stands his ground. Two rooks on another turret watch a fifth bird swoop off to the roofs beyond, while high and far above them in the pale morning sky, a kestrel wheels over the gables and pinnacles, seeing what I cannot, the countryside beyond the...

Gauguin’s​ 1893 painting of Tehamana, the teenager with whom he cohabited during his first visit to Tahiti, shows her seated facing forward, yet her eyebrows no more match than the share and handle of a plough: one is a stout black wedge, the other a long curving arc. The eyes beneath them slip sideways, evading attention, and if you look closely you’ll notice that their sockets...

At Tate Britain: Van Gogh

Julian Bell, 1 August 2019

Miners in the Snow(1880) was Vincent van Gogh’s first pictorial declaration of intent. Unable to hold down work in the family picture trade or as a preacher, he was persuaded by his brother Theo to turn his energies to drawing, and after some copying exercises he came up with this sheet. A large – roughly A2 – and scruffy affair, worked mostly in graphite with touches of...

Selfie with ‘Sunflowers’

Julian Barnes, 30 July 2015

No one did colour more blatantly and more unexpectedly than Van Gogh.

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Global Moods: Art, Past and Present

Peter Campbell, 29 November 2007

Julian Bell has written a tremendous history of world art, one that will inevitably be compared with Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published nearly sixty years ago. Since then image-making...

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Look me in the eye: self-portraiture

James Hall, 25 January 2001

According to the catalogue for the National Gallery exhibition of Rembrandt self-portraits, the artist’s portrayal of himself is ‘unique in art history, not only in its scale and the...

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