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In the Turner Gallery

Peter Campbell: Coleridge’s Note-Taking, 26 February 2009

... isn’t quite the point. Nor should the fact that Coleridge might well have met a tourist on a Lake District mountaintop make one question the intensity of his embrace of the landscape. (A ‘lean expressive-faced man’ came upon him on Skiddaw, after Coleridge had scribbled ‘with a bit of slate my name among the other names’. The man exclaimed, after ...

In Bexhill

Peter Campbell: Ben Nicholson, 20 November 2008

... the earlier paintings, just as the late reliefs relate to the look of the modern, white house on Lake Maggiore that he moved to in 1961. August 1956 (Val d’Orcia), the big still life that won the Guggenheim International Painting Prize in 1956, has white shapes – a table and table legs – over which curved black and red-brown slices of colour suggest ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Thomas Girtin, 22 August 2002

... departure has made monotone what was polychrome, are indigo (blue), gamboge (yellow) and brown lake (purple). Thomas Girtin was born in 1775 and died at 27, perhaps of asthma, although nameless dissipation and even sitting sketching on cold ground have been given as possible causes of death. What he achieved in his short life shows how various the tasks ...

At the Whitechapel

Peter Campbell: Mies van der Rohe, 23 January 2003

... to say, Mies’s American work: the Illinois Institute of Technology buildings, the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago, the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, the Seagram Building) could later rise. What America could not supply were patrons to match Fritz and Grete Tugendhat. The Farnsworth House led to recriminations from the client, and ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Adam Elsheimer, 2 November 2006

... people think he is a god. Latona, travelling with her twins, Apollo and Diana, stops to drink at a lake in Lycia. Peasants on the shore prevent her getting to the water and mock her. She turns them into frogs. Tobias, travelling with his dog and his guardian, the archangel Raphael, is attacked by a great fish while washing in the Tigris. The angel tells him to ...

At the Courtauld

Peter Campbell: Cranach’s Nudes, 19 July 2007

... from vibrant blue to pale yellow; three have a rocky hill, distant buildings and a reflecting lake; all include dark evergreen foliage against which naked figures stand out. And the figures – above all the pale young women, sometimes Eve, sometimes Venus, sometimes another deity – are standard too. Cranach Girl is an ideal female type, more ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Moctezuma, 5 November 2009

... and to inherent instability. Moctezuma’s city, Tenochtitlan, occupied an island in the shallow lake that once spread across the basin of Mexico on the site of what is now Mexico City. When Cortés arrived in November 1519 the island population may have numbered as many as 200,000. The city was rich, supplied with staples from surrounding territories and ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Russian landscapes, 5 August 2004

... the negative sense, such as Nesterov’s excursions into myth (Dual Harmony – a couple by a swan lake) and religion (St Sergius of Radonezh). These are boring because they are too far from the spirit of what they try to evoke. The easiest pictures to enjoy are examples of fresh, direct observation, works which if not actually painted in the open air must ...

A Visit to Reichenau

John Barton, 14 June 1990

The Formation of Christendom 
by Judith Herrin.
Fontana, 533 pp., £9.99, September 1989, 0 00 686182 2
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... will ring bells for anyone who has visited the great monastic centres there and elsewhere around Lake Constance. In this small, quiet, sunny spot in the foothills of the Alps all the sources of Carolingian culture, both literary and artistic, had been concentrated by the mid-ninth century. ‘As a symbol of the monastic refuge, which sheltered this culture ...

Green Minna

Peter Campbell, 7 October 1982

The Autobiography of George Grosz: A Small Yes and a Big No 
translated by Arnold Pomerans.
Allison and Busby, 246 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 85031 455 0
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... on the road, and ‘the asparagus-like stench’ of a run-over skunk. On a holiday at Garnet Lake near New York the food goes mysteriously bad, bloated horseflies and red ants share the bedroom, and the nearest farm breeds vermin –‘a whole mess of crawling, flying, stinging filth’. The division between desire and talent colours so much of the book ...

Bang, Bang, Smash, Smash

Rosemary Hill: Beatrix Potter, 22 February 2007

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 584 pp., £25, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9560 2
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... that was so tight it gave her a headache. Difficulties with clothes occur in many of her books. Peter Rabbit’s expression of resigned discomfort as his mother buttons his coat up too tightly under his chin, Tom Kitten’s wide-eyed dismay as the buttons fly off his Sunday suit, and numerous accidents to pinafores are among the details that give the tales ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’, 15 June 2017

Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... by Michael Fassbender, one as a stiff, friendly American guy and the other as the imitation of Peter O’Toole he had already perfected in Prometheus, adds to the riddle. And here, as in so many science-fiction movies, the decision to have the character of a robot acted rather than animated complicates the issue of what it means to be human to an extent ...

Tortoises with Zips

David Craig: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, 4 April 2002

The Snow Geese 
by William Fiennes.
Picador, 250 pp., £14.99, March 2002, 0 330 37578 4
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... the author as he grapples with new and alien surroundings. The Sportsman’s Restaurant in Eagle Lake, Texas, with ducks dangling from the ceiling fans and a stained-glass angel carrying a lamb. The horde of model tortoises collected by Eleanor, his hostess, made from wood and glass and brass and steel and bean-bags, tortoises with zips and tortoise ...

Love in the Ruins

Nicolas Tredell, 8 October 1992

Out of the Rain 
by Glyn Maxwell.
Bloodaxe, 112 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 1 85224 193 4
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Body Politic 
by Tony Flynn.
Bloodaxe, 60 pp., £5.95, June 1992, 1 85224 129 2
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by Linda France.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £5.95, June 1992, 1 85224 178 0
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Red-Haired Android 
by Jeremy Reed.
Grafton, 280 pp., £7.99, July 1992, 9780586091845
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by Peter Robinson, with an essay by Peter Swaab.
Robert Jones, 36 pp., £9.95, July 1992, 0 9514240 2 5
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... marked by suffering and loss, there are moments of imagined tranquillity, as when two rowers on a lake wish, for the two swans they have disturbed – and perhaps, implicitly, for themselves – a quiet lake, where only their own reflections glide between them on the water. And there are epiphanies of grace, of ...

Who’s to blame?

Kathryn Tidrick, 25 February 1993

The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State 
by Basil Davidson.
James Currey, 372 pp., £9.95, September 1992, 0 85255 700 0
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Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa 
by Frank McLynn.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £18.99, August 1992, 0 09 177082 3
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African Silences 
by Peter Matthiessen.
Harvill, 225 pp., £7.99, September 1992, 0 00 271186 9
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... speaking his mind, getting it wrong sometimes, looking on the bright side, and staying involved. Peter Matthiessen, the accomplished author of numerous books of travel and of wry and terrible tales of violence on remote frontiers, perhaps also considers himself a friend of Africa. He loves to be there and incessantly returns: there are many things in Africa ...

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