Arts & Culture

‘Blue Boy’ (c. 1770)

Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’

Naomi Grant

12 May 2022

Thomas Gainsborough complained that he was ‘sick of portraits’, but he seems, nonetheless, to have valued his fancy pictures – these were the works for which he charged the highest prices. And unlike portraits of aristocratic patrons, they allowed an artist to show off in public exhibitions. 

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Jananne Al-Ani

David Trotter

12 May 2022

Jananne Al-Ani​ is an artist whose recent work has done much to illuminate the ways in which modern media can resemble a process of delineation: a drawing or writing with light (photo-graphy) or with . . .

On Roy DeCarava

Gazelle Mba

7 April 2022

Two walls​ and a lightbulb, that’s all it took. For any other photographer, a subject so simple, seemingly lacking the high-stakes drama and political critique associated with American documentary . . .

Lartigue takes a leap

Julian Barnes

7 April 2022

‘My Cousin Bichonnade’ (1905) When​ the Italian theorist Ricciotto Canudo pronounced cinema the ‘seventh art’ in 1911, photography had the right to sulk: after all, what was this arriviste form . . .

Carlo Crivelli

Nicholas Penny

7 April 2022

It​ takes about ten minutes to walk from Birmingham New Street Station to the Ikon Gallery, which occupies one of the few Victorian buildings to have survived the redevelopment of the city centre. Above . . .

Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark, 17 August 2017

Perhaps, then – though the thought is a grim one – we turn to Guernica with a kind of nostalgia. Suffering and horror were once this large. They were dreadful, but they had a tragic dimension.

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Ian Penman, 2 July 2015

Sinatra’s sexual charge was like his song: underplayed, tinged with unflappable cool picked up second-hand in the shady cloisters of jazz.

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Is Wagner bad for us?

Nicholas Spice, 11 April 2013

Wagner’s work is everywhere preoccupied with boundaries set and overstepped, limits reached and exceeded.

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At the End of My Pencil

Bridget Riley, 8 October 2009

As I drew, things began to change. Quite suddenly something was happening down there on the paper that I had not anticipated. I continued, I went on drawing; I pushed ahead, both intuitively and consciously. The squares began to lose their original form.

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It’s a playground: Kiarostami et Compagnie

Gilberto Perez, 27 June 2002

A photograph of Abbas Kiarostami in Hamid Dabashi’s book shows him crouching over a frying pan that has two eggs in it. Beside him, and like him focused on the eggs, is the original movie camera invented by Lumière.

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That Wooden Leg: Conversations with Don Luis

Michael Wood, 7 September 2000

‘Studio Vingt-Huit – high up a winding street of Montmartre, in the full blasphemy of a freezing Sunday; taxis arriving, friends greeting each other, an excitable afternoon...

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Noovs’ hoovs in the trough

Angela Carter, 24 January 1985

‘Be modern – worship food,’ exhorts the cover of The Official Foodie Handbook. One of the ironies resulting from the North/South dichotomy of our planet is the appearance of this...

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The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

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...

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Dressing and Undressing

Anita Brookner, 15 April 1982

Fashion,​ according to Baudelaire, is a moral affair. It is, more specifically, the obligation laid upon a woman to transform herself, outwardly and visibly, into a work of art, or, at the very...

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Yves Saint Laurent’s​ admirers seemed determined to memorialise him when he was alive and by the end of his career they had largely succeeded. In 1983, he was the first living designer to...

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Ryusuke​ Hamaguchi admits that he worried about his film, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy: ‘I was actually scared that maybe I was writing the same story three times.’ We don’t...

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Serious Mayhem: The McLaren Strand

Simon Reynolds, 10 March 2022

The Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren declared, ‘were anti-music and anti-business’, yet ‘God Save the Queen’ outsold Rod Stewart twice over. This was his knack, and his downfall: to take the uncommercial...

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At the Barnes: Suzanne Valadon

Bridget Alsdorf, 10 March 2022

Suzanne Valadon liked sharp elbows, jutting shoulder blades, knobbly knees and abdominal folds, but her figures are also shaped by her knowledge of the strain of holding a challenging pose. She was once...

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On the one hand, the rubbish deployed by Schwitters affronted traditional ideas of artmaking; on the other, its use pointed to a new aesthetic responsive to the ruinous aftermath of the war. To lose this...

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Investigate the Sock: Garbo’s Equivocation

David Trotter, 24 February 2022

With Garbo, the process of distillation out of which stars are made reached a limit so absolute that hardly anything remains by way of ascertainable mortal residue. To describe her life is to attempt the...

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At the Movies: ‘Nightmare Alley’

Michael Wood, 24 February 2022

The Peruvian poet​ César Vallejo wrote in a famous sonnet that he would die in Paris on a rainy Thursday. He lived in Paris, it rains quite a bit there, especially for poets, and he had a...

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At the Box: Songlines

Emma Gattey, 24 February 2022

First Australian culture is testament to 50,000 years of survival – or as many Indigenous intellectuals refer to it (incorporating a sense of political resistance), ‘survivance’. Songlines reminds...

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Why couldn’t she be fun? Nico gets her own back

Lavinia Greenlaw, 24 February 2022

Nico had the detachment of those who’ve survived by stepping outside themselves and a need for control that spiralled into inertia. She enjoined others to help her and most of the time they did. Her...

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What’s the hook?

Helen Thaventhiran, 27 January 2022

Hooked is most interested in the kinds of aesthetic experience occasioned by works that ‘strike’ us forcibly. Rita Felski describes a writer being ‘hammered by’ Matisse, of Thelma and Louise striking...

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Joel Coen’s​ The Tragedy of Macbeth takes its cue from the witches. Or, rather, its one witch, played by Kathryn Hunter, who multiplies herself when she feels like it. Early in the film...

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At the Courtauld: Hanging Paintings

Nicholas Penny, 27 January 2022

When​ the Courtauld Institute of Art moved in 1989 from a house designed by Robert Adam in Portman Square to a wing of Somerset House, William Chambers’s masterpiece, it seemed a very...

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At the V&A: Fabergé in London

Rosa Lyster, 27 January 2022

They are condensed versions of wealth, in the same way that an actual egg is a condensed version of food. They are objects to be stolen in heist films, fitting easily into a pocket and requiring no exposition,...

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Foulest, Vilest, Obscenest: Smashing Images

Erin Thompson, 27 January 2022

If the museum shapes the viewer’s reaction, censorship and iconoclasm shape the work itself. They try to prevent a socially undesirable or personally intolerable response to an image by damaging or destroying...

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Peachy: LA Rhapsody

David Thomson, 27 January 2022

As if a book as good as this can really be expected to flourish. As if, even in LA, there is a crowd waiting for a meditation on Tuesday Weld, let alone Eleanor Perry, Carole Eastman, Warren Zevon or Renata...

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Just Look at Them: Ears and Fingers

Jonathan Beckman, 27 January 2022

Giovanni Morelli described his method as ‘experimental’, but it might more properly be thought of as comparative. He paid particular attention to ears and fingers, claiming that artists always drew...

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In conventional terms, Solange possesses the ‘weaker’ voice by far – so why is it those passages in ‘Stay Flo’, say, when Solange’s voice is just pure keening vocalese, that completely slay...

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It’s easy to see why St Jerome in His Study was popular – Albrecht Dürer asks us to look into the eyes of the Church Father, close to death, contemplating his life and its labours. But behind it are...

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