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27 June 1991
... 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 ...


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. Auden, the friend of a friend, in the pub in Charing ...


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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Goya’s Witches

8 April 2015
... There’s not even the feeling that the horror is a trauma, or that drawing necessarily lessens it. Maybe the opposite. It isolates it; it specifies it; it gives it the blank of the page to live in. LawrenceGowing 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 ...
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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... instance, is such a hideous colour I often think, and it is very hard not to “improve”.’ He was a little out of his time in thinking that anyone any longer cared to try for this sort of thing. LawrenceGowing, 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 ...
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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... impact of number’ – and to rebut his critics. It seems to him that English reviewers in particular were inclined to be contemptuous or dismissive, so some venerable commentators – the late LawrenceGowing, 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 ...
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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... this was the sort of life I’d like – looking at wild flowers, reading by the fire, and talking, talking, talking about everything. It was in this company that I made my first good joke. Julia and LawrenceGowing 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. ‘Gowing! Going! Gone!’ I shouted as ...

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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... picture if the project had not been abandoned. It lends the insubstantiality of the figures a peculiar magic: they look as if they have escaped from a dream. It’s probably true to say that before LawrenceGowing 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 ...
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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... is Goethe’s idea of genius. The clutch of books published to mark the opening of the new galleries supports this view of Turner’s genius. John Gage ends his introduction with a remark made by LawrenceGowing 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 ...

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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... and Milan Kundera all produced high-flown testimonies to the stature of his work as a comment on the human predicament. Nearer home, the existential fervour surrounding the paintings was kept up by LawrenceGowing – ‘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 ...

Lucian Freud

Nicholas Penny

31 March 1988
... recalling in front of two later paintings in the exhibition, Wasteground with houses, Paddington, (1970-72) – the second and larger of his two versions of this subject; the other is reproduced in LawrenceGowing’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 ...

Imperfect Knight

Gabriel Josipovici

17 April 1980
Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary 
by Terry Jones.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 297 77566 9
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Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination 
by David Aers.
Routledge, 236 pp., £9.75, January 1980, 9780710003515
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The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry 
by Marcel Thomas.
Chatto, 120 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2471 7
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... deepest memories’. Proust reminds us that there is an alternative to the German art-historical tradition. It is the tradition of Ruskin, of Proust himself, of Benjamin on aura, of Adrian Stokes, of LawrenceGowing on Vermeer. Its patient exploration of the phenomenology of perception, rather than the brilliant and erudite iconographic work of Panofsky and his disciples, can best help us to understand ...

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