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... is mountainous or flat, these images often have a striking resemblance to compositions by Caspar David Friedrich. Working out there in nature, then, Long is a performer in the open-air theatre of the sublime. But is this aspect of his work its main distinction? There are two possible extreme interpretations of the relationship between Long’s outdoor and ...

Bacon’s Furies

Robert Melville, 2 April 1981

Interviews with Francis Bacon 1962-1979 
edited by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 176 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 500 27196 8
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... In the preface to his new edition of montaged interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester draws our attention to what has become the last section of the fifth interview. Altogether, there are seven interviews but Sylvester considers the end of the fifth to be the most illuminating passage in the book: ‘I always think of myself not so much as a painter but as a medium for accident and chance … I think perhaps I am unique in that way; and perhaps it’s a vanity to say such a thing ...

In Denbigh Road

Peter Campbell: David Sylvester, 7 February 2002

... David Sylvester, who contributed regularly to this paper, died last June. People who worked with him usually agree that he was the most engaged and patient looker at art they ever knew. Robert Rosenblum rightly says, in David Sylvester: The Private Collection, that there was something comical about his high seriousness, but it is also true that, ‘unlike the rest of us ironists’, he could make one feel (or at least feel one ought to feel) that ‘art might matter more than life itself ...

Not His Type

Frank Kermode, 5 September 1996

About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 448 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 7011 6268 6
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... In a preliminary chapter called ‘Curriculum Vitae’ David Sylvester explains that he became interested in art when, at 17, he was fascinated by a black and white reproduction of a Matisse. He at once began to paint in oils, but soon discovered that he lacked talent and began to write about art instead, devoting himself thenceforth to the black and white of the page ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... an upper-class socialist. He liked cricket, bridge (with, among others, the ‘Machiavellian’ David Sylvester), chess (with Martin Amis, who felt humbly as if he always had, or anyway always ought to have, the black pieces). Women found him instantly attractive. And he rode a motor bike. The illustrations here are more than adequate reminders of his ...

Get out

Julian Bell: Francis Bacon, 19 October 2000

Looking back at Francis Bacon 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 272 pp., £29.95, June 2000, 0 500 01994 0
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... the homosexual artist, had converged to discuss painting and the human condition. The thought that David Sylvester and Francis Bacon were caught up in this dialogue seemed at once daunting and salutary to some of us then learning to paint in the same town. Their Interviews – first published in 1975 – conveyed such unassailable aplomb. ‘All art has ...

Robbing banks

George Melly, 25 June 1992

Magritte 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £45, May 1992, 0 500 09227 3
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Magritte 
by Sarah Whitfield.
South Bank Centre, 322 pp., £18.95, May 1992, 1 85332 087 0
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... of a bedside table defaced by cigarette burns. This fantasy has some bearing on the task facing David Sylvester in writing this marvellous book. He has discovered a room behind the wardrobe. In 1912, Magritte, 13 at the time, lost his mother who, after several unsuccessful attempts at suicide, managed to drown herself. According to Magritte’s ...

Italy’s New Art

David Sylvester, 30 March 1989

... The Italians have the same sort of problem over making art as we have over playing football. After ages of doing it far better than anyone else, they had to come to accept that quite a lot of foreigners were doing it better – with the difference that our football has been in that situation for about thirty-five years, Italian art for about three hundred and fifty ...

Notes on Cézanne

David Sylvester, 7 March 1996

... Refaire Poussin sur nature’. Why did Cézanne single out Poussin when Rubens was his hero – his avowed and his manifest hero? One thing that Cézanne and Poussin have in common is that they seem unable to make an image that isn’t imbued with gravity. Another is that everything in the picture seems to be in a place ordained for it. But not through a similar process ...

Something to look at

David Sylvester, 10 March 1994

... Great art collections formed by individuals are generally highly specialised – French Impressionist paintings, English sporting pictures, early Chinese bronzes – or somewhat specialised – Classical antiquities, Old Master drawings, Islamic art. What is special about George Ortiz’s collection of antiquities and ethnographic art, part of which is currently on show at the Royal Academy, is its combination of quality and breadth ...

On the Edge

David Sylvester, 27 April 2000

A New Thing Breathing: Recent Work 
by Tony Cragg.
Tate Gallery Liverpool
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... The debate went on for most of the 20th century: was its greatest artist Matisse or Picasso? This was perhaps the only century of the millennium in which the championship was a two-horse race – and a very close race, so that there may never be a consensus lasting more than fifty years as to which of them was the winner. Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction in their greatness, one relating purely to its nature, not its degree ...

Late Picasso at the Tate

David Sylvester, 1 September 1988

... which can be seen as a sort of compressed version of Guernica – whose dual models in Poussin and David are not painterly in style. Having gone further here than ever before into the post-Renaissance tradition, Picasso soon turned his back on it to work, more characteristically, in a pre-Giottesque tradition. If his painting of the period preceding his late ...

Mayhem at Millbank

David Sylvester: The new hang at the Tate Britain (2000), 18 May 2000

... at their ease; it’s argumentative. Here and there the argument is illuminating, as when David Bomberg’s In the Hold (c.1913-14) is hung next to Leon Kossoff’s Children’s Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon (1971). Both are busy compositions, with a mass of vigorous figures squeezed closely into a space. But the Bomberg is pretty abstract and is ...

Hanging Offence

David Sylvester, 21 October 1993

... of Josef Albers shows bias. The exclusion of Mark di Suvero means the omission of the one artist (David Smith is something else) who has created a sculptural equivalent of Abstract Expressionism, the movement which forms the nucleus of the exhibition. The exclusion of Chuck Close, accompanied by the inclusion of three large works by Jonathan Borofsky, can ...

Giacometti and Bacon

David Sylvester, 19 March 1987

Giacometti: A Biography 
by James Lord.
Faber, 592 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 571 13138 7
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... Giacometti’s widow, says the preface, has chosen ‘to prevent the appearance in her husband’s biography of any unpublished writings by him of whatever sort: letters, journals or random notations’. Another recent biography of a leading modern artist was composed under similar restrictions. Peter Ackroyd says he was ‘forbidden by the Eliot estate to quote from Eliot’s published work, except for purposes of fair comment in a critical context, or to quote from Eliot’s unpublished work or correspondence ...

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