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At Tate Modern

Jeremy Harding: Giacometti, 17 August 2017

... Beckett, and none for John Berger, who was cool at first, then much warmer, coming under fire from David Sylvester – another S – for disparaging Giacometti’s work in the 1950s, and then for revising his opinion after the artist’s death in 1966. ‘Head of a Woman’ (1936) The first room contains a superb display of heads, dating from ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... can be tolerated, and might even be enjoyed, as piano-players in the funhouse of letters. Early in David Plante’s diaries, we find him tinkling away, dropping names in basso profundo, as if knowing people and knowing what they do in private can be the thing that makes one special. He is 28 years old when he comes to London from the US (a little younger than ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bio Insecurity, 5 November 2009

... Fear, Globalising Risk and Making Us All Less Secure (Chicago, £19), Lynn Klotz and Edward Sylvester make a compelling case for a radical and immediate change in America’s biosecurity policy. Since 9/11, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the US government has spent $50 billion on its biodefence programme: Klotz and ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... who claimed to have given every member of the royal family a blowjob’. George Melly or David Sylvester, good listeners and both regulars, might have tuned in a bit more carefully and given us the details. Muriel had many tousled Boswells, but her friends were generally too stocious – even by Boswell’s standards – to write the kinds of ...

Something an academic might experience

Michael Neve, 26 September 1991

The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... A small news item with a large history behind it: John Sylvester, an inhabitant of Lancashire, was released last month from a life spent in mental hospitals and institutions, aged 81. He had been incarcerated when he was six years old, and his offence had been the stealing of an apple. His mother had died soon after this first confinement, and so when declared ‘mentally fit’ in 1929, he became the responsibility of his father, who was disabled and could not take up his case ...
... antiquities at Sotheby’s and head of modern painting. When Magnus Linklater took over as editor, David Sylvester, my neighbour and great friend, who had been art adviser, offered his resignation. So suddenly there wasn’t an art adviser. Bruce was at a terribly low ebb. He’d been working for ages on the book which eventually came out as The ...

Into the Southern Playground

Julian Bell: The Suspect Adrian Stokes, 21 August 2003

'The Quattro Cento’ and ‘Stones of Rimini’ 
by Adrian Stokes.
Ashgate, 668 pp., £16.99, August 2002, 0 7546 3320 9
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Art and Its Discontents 
by Richard Read.
Ashgate, 260 pp., £35, December 2002, 0 7546 0796 8
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... ambition rubbed off on critical admirers who grew up reading him in the 1940s and 1950s – David Sylvester, Lawrence Gowing and above all Richard Wollheim. In later life his own understated work as a painter from observation (‘the poor man’s Bonnard’ – he got the crack in first) gathered in conviction, and the showing after his death in ...

Top Brands Today

Nicholas Penny: The Art World, 14 December 2017

The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-Breaking Auctions 
by Simon de Pury and William Stadiem.
Allen and Unwin, 312 pp., £9.99, April 2017, 978 1 76011 350 6
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Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers 
by Philip Hook.
Profile, 282 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 1 78125 570 4
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Donald Judd: Writings 
edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray.
David Zwirner, 1054 pp., £28, November 2016, 978 1 941701 35 5
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... point, of an artist’s work and then describing the impression that art makes on an open mind. (David Sylvester was especially good at this.) It has seldom generated a productive debate because it tends to be defensive, but also because there is such a fear of encouraging philistinism or of being mistaken for a philistine. Artists themselves have not ...

Falling in love with Lucian

Colm Tóibín: Lucian Freud’s Outer Being, 10 October 2019

The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, 1922-68 
by William Feaver.
Bloomsbury, 680 pp., £35, September 2019, 978 1 4088 5093 0
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... be dizzy with so much money or otherwise not have my bus fare.’ In his interviews with David Sylvester, Francis Bacon connects chance in gambling with chance in making a painting. What Freud did seems more deliberate, less open to chance. Because the process was slow and delicate, involving many small decisions in the mixing of paint and the ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Henry Moore, 25 March 2010

... the grain follows the form as contours follow the slope of a hill – and led to analyses such as David Sylvester’s of the 1945-46 Reclining Figure: ‘the sacrificed and resurrected god of a fertility rite … at once skeletal and alive, prone in burial and flowering into new life’. The carvings in this room provide a formidable example of sustained ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford, 12 May 1994

The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... War’s continuing hold on the American imagination. One could just about suspend disbelief when Sylvester Stallone set about rewriting history, but it was disconcerting to find the President of the United States so clearly in the grip of the same fantasy of revenge. The internal strife bequeathed by Vietnam has proved almost as intractable as the war ...


Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... a second screening, and seeing Mr Minh’s point afresh, I was struck by the final scene in which Sylvester Stallone howlingly machineguns a whole roomful of his boss’s high-tech computers, radios and retrieval systems. To him, of course, they represent the power of the pot-bellied bureaucrat over the man in the field. But to the blue-collar, semi-employed ...

Enemy of the Enemies of Truth

Frank Kermode: The history of the footnote, 19 March 1998

The Footnote: A Curious History 
by Anthony Grafton.
Faber, 241 pp., £12.99, December 1997, 0 571 17668 2
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... to be the instrument by which the Emperor Constantine had in the fourth century ceded to Pope Sylvester I dominion over Rome, all Italy, Jerusalem, and lots of other places as well. Proof that the Donation was a fake was an obvious boon to Protestant polemic: Valla was edited by Ulrich von Hutten and popularised by Melanchthon and Luther. The Vatican ...


Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... well seated. Never mind; I was able to introduce Alexander Hitchens to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, both of whom were very nice to him, as was Jessica Lange and as were Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey. His only autograph refusal came from Jane Fonda. I was impressed by how many people didn’t go for Gump. Usually, success is everything and ...

In the Butcher’s Shop

Peter de Bolla: Deleuze on Bacon, 23 September 2004

Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 
by Gilles Deleuze, translated by Daniel Smith.
Continuum, 209 pp., £9.99, March 2004, 0 8264 7318 0
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... book is on the work of Francis Bacon it is certainly not so in the same way that, say, David Sylvester’s Looking Back at Francis Bacon is. Yet it does contain moments of looking that prompt me to see Bacon’s art in new ways. I was most struck by the fourth chapter, entitled ‘Body, Meat and Spirit, Becoming-Animal’, where Deleuze ...

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