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At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits, 12 March 2009

... Gallery, painted around 1620 when he was just out of his teens, with the Metropolitan Museum’s James Stuart, Fourth Duke of Lennox, painted in 1633. The former is a small picture: you look at it close. Threads of white paint highlight the old man’s hair, beard, watering eye and damp lip. Paint and flesh exchange substance. The same is true of a picture ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: James Gillray, 21 June 2001

... are just straight portraits – and good ones. This skill with likeness is one thing revealed by James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, at Tate Britain until 2 September – the inclusion of formal portraits of his victims by other hands makes it possible to see exactly how he tweaked appearance. Another is his ability as an engraver. There are passages of ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... tried to get him better treated in prison. But his letters to their great mutual friend Reggie Turner suggest quite a different view of the trial from the one Ellmann presents. It was not a cathartic and humbling metamorphosis for the poor victim but a smart triumph quite in his usual style. ‘Oscar has been quite superb. His speech about the Love that ...

Diners-out

E.S. Turner, 3 July 1986

Augustus Hare: Victorian Gentleman 
by Malcolm Barnes.
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £20, May 1986, 9780049201002
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Midway on the Waves 
by James Lees-Milne.
Faber, 248 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 571 13723 7
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... like that at the Villa Mauresque. The book should have a special piquancy for those familiar with James Lees-Milne’s sparkling volumes about the years he spent flitting round stately homes during and after World War Two, making the most of such high life as was going. The most recent volume is Midway on the Waves; the others, all with titles lifted or ...

Missionary Work

Christopher Turner: Henry Wellcome, 13 May 2010

An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World 
by Frances Larson.
Oxford, 343 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 19 955446 1
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... Wellcome felt free to start collecting on a grander scale. In his 1994 biography, Robert Rhodes James dismissed Wellcome as a ‘magpie collector’ who tried to rationalise the contents of his hoard after the fact, and concentrated instead on his subject’s social and business interests and his patronage of scientific research. Frances Larson, in ...

Charging about in Brogues

Jenny Turner: Sarah Waters, 23 February 2006

The Night Watch 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 472 pp., £16.99, February 2006, 1 84408 246 6
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... make them sound; Waters is not at all one of those writers setting out to profit from what Henry James called the ‘fatal cheapness’ of period fiction. Her work is always rich in feeling, and clever, and precise. That Waters has decided to move her historical interests on is courageous, but not surprising. The wonderful Fingersmith surely took the queer ...

Morality in the Oxygen

E.S. Turner: Tobogganing, 14 December 2000

How the English Made the Alps 
by Jim Ring.
Murray, 287 pp., £19.99, September 2000, 0 7195 5689 9
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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps 
by Fergus Fleming.
Granta, 398 pp., £20, November 2000, 1 86207 379 1
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... king’. Both kings and cockneys, he felt, were very objectionable neighbours in a hotel. Henry James thought the new breed of tourists were ‘rarely, to judge by their faces and talk, children of light to any eminent degree’. Another huge embarrassment was the female mountaineer, sometimes wearing breeches, a sight to attract a hail of stones. Up to now ...

Killing Stripes

Christopher Turner: Suits, 1 June 2017

Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress 
by Anne Hollander.
Bloomsbury, reissue, 158 pp., £19.99, August 2016, 978 1 4742 5065 8
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The Suit: Form, Function and Style 
by Christopher Breward.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £18, May 2016, 978 1 78023 523 3
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... metallic brocades with which their heraldic costumes were decorated. Charles Dickens, Henry James, Bram Stoker, Ulysses S. Grant, Toulouse-Lautrec, Lillie Langtry, Robert Mitchum and Jean Cocteau were also on the books. Some of their accounts are closed, crossed out with lines of red ink and marked ‘Dead’. Grand Duke Sergei of Russia’s reads ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... writers and artists, but the one that posterity will really value is her interview with ‘Sir James Savile’ for the IoS, on the occasion of his belated knighthood, 22 July 1990. ‘People were terribly shocked when I asked [him] if it was true that he liked little girls … Of course he denied it. But at least by posing the question I’d alerted ...

Beyond the Cringe

John Barrell: British Art, 2 June 2016

Art in Britain 1660-1815 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 367 pp., £55, October 2015, 978 0 300 21556 4
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... Richard Wilson and Sawrey Gilpin, all of whom are adjudged to be of ‘good family’, and Sir James Thornhill, who came from ‘good Dorset stock’, a phrase more at home in a book on country cooking than in a serious work of scholarship. Why pedigree mattered to him is rarely clear, as by his own account it seems to have no particular influence on the ...

In Farageland

James Meek, 9 October 2014

... and a few steps forward would take you into some infinite, radiant void. It’s easy to see why Turner told Ruskin that the skies over Thanet were the most beautiful in Europe. Thanet has two parliamentary constituencies, North Thanet and South Thanet, and a single local council, also called Thanet. Otherwise ‘Thanet’ is a concept linking three seaside ...

Private Nutshells

Janette Turner Hospital, 4 August 1994

Debatable Land 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 216 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 7475 1708 8
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... which tilts at the sinister shadowside of the familiar and domestic, reads as though Henry James had updated The Turn of the Screw for the late 20th century. Now in Debatable Land she jousts on against her big windmills: the whys and wherefores of unsettled characters and their off-kilter perceptions and the slippage of their language. She writes, that ...

Point of View

Frank Kermode: Atonement by Ian McEwan, 4 October 2001

Atonement 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 372 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 224 06252 2
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... Minor resemblances between this novel by Ian McEwan and Henry James’s What Maisie Knew have already been noticed and are of some interest. James left a quite full record of the development of his story, which described modern divorce and adultery from the point of view of a young girl ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason, 7 September 2000

Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... was adopted at the English treason trials and confirmed in the charge the Chief Justice Sir James Eyre made to the grand jury. The most celebrated response to Eyre’s statement was that of William Godwin, who, ironically, had recently condemned the process of legal reasoning based on precedent. Now he described the medieval statute of treason as ‘one ...

Look me in the eye

James Hall: Self-portraiture, 25 January 2001

The Artist's Body 
edited by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones.
Phaidon, 304 pp., £39.95, July 2000, 0 7148 3502 1
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Five Hundred Self-Portraits 
edited by Julian Bell.
Phaidon, 528 pp., £19.95, November 2000, 0 7148 3959 0
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Renaissance Self-Portraiture 
by Joanna Woods-Marsden.
Yale, 285 pp., £45, October 1998, 0 300 07596 0
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... installations and performances constitute a lurid confessional – had been shortlisted for the Turner Prize. The postwar upsurge in self-portraiture is amply documented in Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones’s anthology of texts and images, The Artist’s Body. The serial stuff-strutters include the photo-artists Gilbert & George, Cindy Sherman and John ...

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