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Lawrence Gowing, 19 March 1987

... Thinking far away about my friend and teacher, who died a fortnight ago, I am aware of how many owed to William Coldstream, not necessarily, as I did, the circumstances of their whole lives, but the terms of reference through which they came to the painting and thought of their time. It must have been in 1936 that I met him at the suggestion of W.H ...


Lawrence Gowing: English Romanesque at the Hayward Gallery, 19 April 1984

... In the future, when people are wondering whether they ‘like’ that cyclopean mass of concrete, the Hayward Gallery, or how they can endure the dictates of British Gaullism, or whether they love that faithful wing of it that is charged with cultural governance, I hope they will remember the successive anxiety, bafflement, reassurance, and ultimate aesthetic conciliation, which chased one another across their hearts in this cold spring of 1984 ...

The Rainbow

Lawrence Gowing, 17 March 1983

Rubens and the Poetics of Landscape 
by Lisa Vergara.
Yale, 228 pp., £29, November 1982, 0 03 000250 8
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James Ward’s Gordale Scar: An Essay in the Sublime 
by Edward Nygren.
Tate Gallery, 64 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 905005 93 7
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... The idea of the painter as a power of nature, an organ of creation in himself, has been as deeply-rooted and long-lasting as anything in the Western legend of the artist. Rubens was every kind of power. He was the instrument of divinity, the tool of statecraft, the agent of dynastic aspirations, the wielder of philoprogenitive potency until the last month of his life and the progenitor not only of children but of generative images to match ...

The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

by Roger Jones and Nicholas Penny.
Yale, 256 pp., £15.95, May 1983, 0 300 03061 4
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The Drawings of Raphael 
by Paul Joannides.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £65, July 1983, 0 7148 2282 5
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Drawings by Raphael from English Collections 
by J.A. Gere and Nicholas Turner.
British Museum, 256 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 7141 0794 8
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... 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 employment that left the slopes of the theatre to echo vacantly my conventional claims for the ideal. Although I did not disbelieve the convention, it was hard to feel sure that the perfections of Leonardo and Michelangelo – the ideally empirical theory of knowledge and the ideal of human physique in the likeness of God – did not outclass the merely intelligent perfection of pictorial form, which was the apparent distinction of Raphael ...

Human Stuff

Lawrence Gowing, 2 February 1984

... Day after day I find an excuse to be in Piccadilly and once there give up any attempt to stay out of the galleries at the Royal Academy.* Venetian art of the 16th century is running in one’s head like music, complete with its resounding orchestration. One abandons oneself to it. Yet it is not merely indulgence. One is drawn by the magnetism of an idea: the idea of art invented in Venice soon after 1500, at just the moment when this incomparable exhibition begins, an idea that one recognises, without reasoning how, as the modern idea ...
... Some of Lawrence’s earliest paintings are self-portraits in the mould of Courbet – the painter as Artist. Latterly the role was deepened in its tragic aspect, the artist as Marsyas flayed. Lawrence’s gift to us, his perennial celebration of substance, richness, colour, the great blossoming of form – to use one of his own phrases – all in the name of painting, was never unattached from a sense of mortality ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Goya’s Witches, 9 April 2015

... Maybe the opposite. It isolates it; it specifies it; it gives it the blank of the page to live in. Lawrence Gowing once said that Goya’s achievement ‘transcended the conditions of painting’ (or drawing) and that ‘Goya’s ultimate message might have been conveyed by a writer of comparable greatness in words.’ I’m not sure this is true. I see ...

English Art and English Rubbish

Peter Campbell, 20 March 1986

C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist 
by Alan Crawford.
Yale, 500 pp., £35, November 1985, 0 300 03467 9
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The Laughter and the Urn: The Life of Rex Whistler 
by Laurence Whistler.
Weidenfeld, 321 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78603 2
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The Originality of Thomas Jones 
by Lawrence Gowing.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £4.95, February 1986, 0 500 55017 4
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Art beyond the Gallery in Early 20th-century England 
by Richard Cork.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, April 1985, 0 300 03236 6
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Alfred Gilbert 
by Richard Dorment.
Yale, 350 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 300 03388 5
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... a little out of his time in thinking that anyone any longer cared to try for this sort of thing. Lawrence Gowing, writing of a painting by Thomas Jones who was in Rome a century and a half earlier, explains: ‘The normal way of gathering information about nature is in a drawing, but this oil sketch is nothing like a drawing. It is based not on line but ...

Under the Loincloth

Frank Kermode, 3 April 1997

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Chicago, 417 pp., £23.95, January 1997, 0 226 77187 3
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... were inclined to be contemptuous or dismissive, so some venerable commentators – the late Lawrence Gowing, Michael Levey, Richard Wollheim, Marina Warner and, singled out for a special treatment, Charles Hope – are, in this new edition, keenly reprehended. It should be said that Steinberg, a lively and resourceful writer, could not with any ...

Coming of age in Wiltshire

Nell Dunn, 21 November 1985

Everything to lose: Diaries 1945-1960 
by Frances Partridge.
Gollancz, 383 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03549 8
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... talking about everything. It was in this company that I made my first good joke. Julia and Lawrence Gowing were staying, and Lawrence plonked himself down at the supper table on a frail kitchen chair next to me. I saw the back legs begin to splay out. ‘...

Eros and Hogarth

Robert Melville, 20 August 1981

by David Bindman.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 9780500201824
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... magic: they look as if they have escaped from a dream. It’s probably true to say that before Lawrence Gowing organised a comprehensive exhibition of Hogarth at the Tate in 1971-2, very few people thought of him as one of the great European painters of the 18th century. The paintings were always overshadowed by the engravings, and one is inclined to ...

Solus lodges at the Tate

Peter Campbell, 4 June 1987

J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’ 
by John Gage.
Yale, 262 pp., £19.95, March 1987, 0 300 03779 1
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Turner in his Time 
by Andrew Wilton.
Thames and Hudson, 256 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 500 09178 1
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Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence 
by Cecilia Powell.
Yale, 216 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 300 03870 4
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The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner 
by Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll.
Yale, 944 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 300 03361 3
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The Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery 
Tate Gallery, 128 pp., £9.95, April 1987, 0 946590 69 9Show More
Turner Watercolours 
by Andrew Wilton.
Tate Gallery, 148 pp., £17.95, April 1987, 0 946590 67 2
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... supports this view of Turner’s genius. John Gage ends his introduction with a remark made by Lawrence Gowing in 1966: ‘It is not certain that we are yet prepared to see Turner whole.’ Gage reckons it is time to renew the attempt. He uses another quotation from Gowing to epitomise the Modernist view of Turner ...

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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... human predicament. Nearer home, the existential fervour surrounding the paintings was kept up by Lawrence Gowing – ‘The imagination that does not recognise its own dilemma in Bacon’s images simply does not know the score’ – and, indeed, by Sylvester himself: he ruefully owns up to a ‘gnomic and incantatory’ text of 1957 containing phrases ...

Lucian Freud

Nicholas Penny, 31 March 1988

... the second and larger of his two versions of this subject; the other is reproduced in Lawrence Gowing’s Freud monograph – and Factory in North London (1972), which are also window views and have the same apparently arbitrary framing. It is typical of Freud, who abhors rhymes and easy patterns in composition, that he permits neither the ...


Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... here and there, that George Lyttelton’s name is spelt indifferently right or wrong, or that Lawrence Gowing becomes ‘Gowring’. But a student sent by the bibliography in quest of ‘Whittkower’ might not end up at Wittkower’s door; Marjorie Hope Nicolson is three times hidden as ‘Nicholson’; the enquirer after Bolingbroke will be ...

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