Nicholas Penny

Nicholas Penny is a former director of the National Gallery.

At the Ikon Gallery: Carlo Crivelli

Nicholas Penny, 7 April 2022

Ittakes about ten minutes to walk from Birmingham New Street Station to the Ikon Gallery, which occupies one of the few Victorian buildings to have survived the redevelopment of the city centre. Above the excellent café and a shop, the white walls of the first floor, where contemporary art is normally displayed, are at present devoted to Carlo Crivelli (until 29 May). Most of the...

At the Courtauld: Hanging Paintings

Nicholas Penny, 27 January 2022

When​ the Courtauld Institute of Art moved in 1989 from a house designed by Robert Adam in Portman Square to a wing of Somerset House, William Chambers’s masterpiece, it seemed a very satisfactory solution, especially because it provided an opportunity for the Courtauld Gallery to join the institute in its new premises. But whether the paintings could be happily accommodated in the...

Leave me my illusions: Antiquarianism

Nicholas Penny, 29 July 2021

In​ her new book, Rosemary Hill characterises the achievements of more than thirty antiquaries of the late 18th and early 19th century whose records of mysterious inscriptions, stone circles, monastic chronicles and ruined abbeys, and whose collections of rusty weaponry, stained glass and old ballads, provided new ways by which the past could be recovered – and also, of course,...

FabioBarry’s book about stones alters our understanding of the sacred, or at least symbolic, nature of much of the great architecture of the past. In addition to his command of specialist modern scholarship in several languages, he has studied many old and often obscure texts, and supplies translations of these. But his ideas have developed on site as well as in libraries. In the...

From The Blog
18 September 2020

The National Trust, unsurprisingly, has had a bad year. An honest statement of how the fulfilment of its duty to preserve places of historical interest and beauty has come under great pressure might have persuaded many of its members to double their subscriptions – especially if the Trust were to abandon some of its more extravagant and sillier initiatives. But the PowerPoint presentation entitled ‘Towards a Ten-Year Vision for Places and Experiences’, written by the director of visitor experience and leaked last month, must have left many people feeling that further support for the organisation should be conditional on the removal from office of those in the executive who endorsed such a document.

School of Hard Knocks

Peter Campbell, 2 December 1993

There are two forces at work in sculpture. One pushes it towards the waxwork, where materials suggest something quite contrary to their native qualities – marble flesh, wooden flowers,...

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The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

When I used to give a survey course for first-year students, I dreaded December. That was when I reached the High Renaissance and my audience fell away. It was not only the alternative seasonable...

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Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

Richard Payne Knight was an important English intellectual of the era of the French Revolution. He flourished from the 1770s until his death, perhaps by suicide, in 1824. Most of that time he...

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Perfection’s Progress

E.H. Gombrich, 5 November 1981

Here, at last, is a book of which we can sincerely say in the old phrase that it meets a long-felt want. It offers, in the modest words of the Preface, ‘a series of illustrations (which are...

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