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Who invented Vercingétorix?

Julian Jackson: French national identity

27 June 2002
Rethinking France: Les Lieux de mémoire. Volume I: The State 
by Pierre Nora, translated by Mary Trouille.
Chicago, 475 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 226 59132 8
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... Who broke the Vase of Soissons? Once, every French school child would have known the answer to that question, as they would have known that their ancestors were Gauls with blue eyes and blond hair (they knew this even if they were learning their lessons in Africa or the West Indies); that Charlemagne had a flowing white beard and cared about education (but he may have been most popular because his ...

The Seducer

Ferdinand Mount: De Gaulle

2 August 2018
A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle 
by Julian Jackson.
Allen Lane, 887 pp., £35, June 2018, 978 1 84614 351 9
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... them of prestige, sometimes of honour, often of life’. De Gaulle furiously retorted: ‘It is an ascending hierarchy: “prestige, life, honour”.’ Which came first, life or honour? That, as JulianJackson points out in his tremendous life of de Gaulle, was the nub of the conflict between the two men, and led eventually to the Ile d’Yeu for one and the Elysée for the other. Jackson is the ...

In Cardiff

Julian​ Bell: Gillian Ayres

12 July 2017
... her steps backwards. The exercise gets to feel archaeological. Artists in 1950s London were challenged both by Continental tachisme, with its blots and smears, and by Hans Namuth’s photographs of Jackson Pollock at work on his drip paintings. Ayres responded by laying great boards on the floor and splattering them with hardware shop enamel paints in black, sienna, flame red and prussian blue. The ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian​ Bell

24 January 2013
Julian​ Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... Julian Bell returned briefly to England in the spring of 1937. He was 29; he had been teaching in China for 18 months and was now determined to fight in Spain. Everyone knew this was his plan, or rather ...

Damsons and Custard

Paul Laity: Documentary cinema’s unsung poet

3 March 2005
Humphrey Jennings 
by Kevin Jackson.
Picador, 448 pp., £30, October 2004, 0 330 35438 8
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... English directors’. That this status isn’t more generally acknowledged is partly because Jennings died only five years after the end of the war, at the age of 43, but mostly because, as Kevin Jackson says in this engaging, adulatory biography, he ‘spent most of his professional life not in the glamorous and highly publicised world of features’, but as a jobbing documentary-maker on the ...

The Greatest

R.W. Johnson

4 August 1994
Charles de Gaulle, Futurist of the Nation 
by Régis Debray, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 111 pp., £29.95, April 1994, 0 86091 622 7
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De Gaulle and 20th-Century France 
edited by Hugh Gough and John Horne.
Edward Arnold, 158 pp., £12.99, March 1994, 0 340 58826 8
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François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership 
by Alistair Cole.
Routledge, 216 pp., £19.99, March 1994, 0 415 07159 3
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... his general egomania ... A far more balanced account of de Gaulle’s gifts is to be found in Gough and Home’s collection of essays, which includes chapters by Douglas Johnson, René Rémond, JulianJackson, Michel Winock and Serge Berstein. Perhaps the most interesting contribution, however, is Jean-Marie Mayeur’s essay on ‘De Gaulle as Politician and Christian’, for the whole point about ...

A New Twist in the Long Tradition of the Grotesque

Marina Warner: The monstrousness of Britart

13 April 2000
High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s 
by Julian​ Stallabrass.
Verso, 342 pp., £22, December 1999, 1 85984 721 8
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This is Modern Art 
by Matthew Collings.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 297 84292 7
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... bear!’ he commanded as he evoked in the darkness a prehistoric drawing. Then, describing the vitality of art made thousands of years ago, he marvelled: ‘In the beginning there was no fumbling.’ Julian Stallabrass, in his Verrine blast against Britart, combines the early Berger’s fierce critique of consumerist contamination with the later Berger’s sense of art’s high purpose: ‘It is often ...

Number One Passport

Julian​ Loose

22 October 1992
Rising Sun 
by Michael Crichton.
Century, 364 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7126 5320 1
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Off Centre: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States 
by Masao Miyoshi.
Harvard, 289 pp., £22.95, December 1992, 0 674 63175 7
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Underground in Japan 
by Rey Ventura.
Cape, 204 pp., £7.99, April 1992, 0 224 03550 9
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... in 1989, a Newsweek cartoon replaced the Statue of Liberty in the Columbia logo with a geisha; other icons now under Japanese management include the Rockefeller Center, Universal Studios and Michael Jackson. Such high-profile acquisitions are seized upon by opportunistic commentators, all too keen to foster suspicions of Japanese duplicity, racism and greed. Writing about Japan, its society and its ...

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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... self-portrait by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua. We find it almost impossible to conceive that many artists have felt indifferent and even hostile to the genre, or regarded it as inappropriate. Julian Bell is untroubled by this in his elegant introduction to Five Hundred Self-Portraits, a slickly packaged picture book. Bell says that by 1500, ‘when Dürer searches in himself for the likeness of ...


John Bayley

9 July 1987
The Songlines 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 293 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02452 3
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... all the devices of scientific ‘objectivity’. Blake must have been told something about Aboriginal style and equipment, perhaps by the authors of An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson, in which his picture appeared. But the faces of his naked family – father, mother, two children – have the ideal look, not so much of the Noble Savage who was a cliché in cultivated circles at ...

The Grin without the Cat

David Sylvester: Jackson​ Pollock at the Tate

1 April 1999
Jackson​ Pollock 
by Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel.
Tate Gallery, 336 pp., £50, March 1999, 1 85437 275 0
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Interpreting Pollock 
by Jeremy Lewison.
Tate Gallery, 84 pp., £9.99, March 1999, 1 85437 289 0
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... as consummately as Correggio’s or Fragonard’s. But I’m afraid that readers could do with the weightier book for the sake of its weightier texts, or one of them. Varnedoe’s essay, ‘Comet: Jackson Pollock’s Life and Work’, is a splendidly intelligent, informative, well-organised and readable introduction to the subject. What I like so much about Varnedoe’s writing is the enjoyment, the ...

The Medium is the Market

Hal Foster: Business Art

9 October 2008
... of a patron class first and custodians of collective patrimony second. The commingling of much contemporary art with the media and the market has affected it in other ways as well. The critic Julian Stallabrass highlights the parallels with corporate mass culture in his book Art Incorporated (2004): ‘an emphasis on the image of youth, the prevalence of work that reproduces well on magazine ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops

4 June 2014
Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... of the many advantages offered by high-level journalism is the repeated opportunity for meeting people of distinction,’ Pincher writes. The list is long: cabinet ministers such as Duncan Sandys and Julian Amery; industrialists in the arms business such as Arnold Weinstock of General Electric and the Clark brothers, who ran Plessey together with ‘two splendid shooting estates’; the old airplane ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger

26 September 2019
... in.*To mark the 400th anniversary this year of the arrival of the first slaves in the US, Obama had arranged for a portrait of Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, to replace Andrew Jackson, the slave owner known as the Indian Killer, on the $20 bill. Steve Mnuchin, the secretary of the treasury, states that this will not be possible until at least 2028 and probably not at all. Trump ...

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