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Arts & Culture

Jan Van Eyck, the Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece

Julian Bell

4 April 2020

Arook​ alights on the turret of a four-storey townhouse, wings braking and feet outstretched to land. The blackbird already perched there stands his ground. Two rooks on another turret watch a...

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Léon Spilliaert

John-Paul Stonard

4 April 2020

There is​ something perverse about the imagery of the Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). His neatly made ink drawings and watercolours of objects, rooms and seascapes, until recently . . .

‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

21 March 2020

Portraying Pregnancy​: From Holbein to Social Media (until 26 April; temporarily closed) opens with images of the Visitation, the encounter in St Luke’s Gospel between the expectant Virgin . . .

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

21 March 2020

Nineteenth-century​ French art, and French artists, were fortunate to have the backing of some of the best writers of the day. Stendhal, Baudelaire, Gautier, Goncourt, Zola, Maupassant, Huysmans . . .

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

21 March 2020

Marius Petipa​ not only created ballets but made ‘ballet’ itself into an art. He choreographed the bulk of the 19th-century canon, including La Bayadère, Don Quixote, The Sleeping . . .

Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark, 16 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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Swoonatra

Ian Penman, 1 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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My Lines

Bridget Riley, 8 October 2009

For me, drawing is an inquiry, a way of finding out – the first thing that I discover is that I do not know. This is alarming even to the point of momentary panic. Only experience reassures...

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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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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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In​ Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and in the myth he was staging, the Furies that drove vengeance and justice are appeased, and converted into the so-called Kindly Ones. Pier Paolo Pasolini...

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Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

Like sturgeons and swans in medieval England, public information began as royal property. Today, we understand more vividly than ever before that information is also a commodity: I have it, you don’t;...

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Ubu Jarry

Hal Foster, 19 March 2020

What happens when a travesty of authority becomes a template for power, when Dada sets up in the White House or at 10 Downing Street?

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Françoise Gilot

Lili Owen Rowlands, 19 March 2020

He painted her hair as a green, swooping bun that sat on the side of her head like a leaf. ‘We’re all animals, more or less,’ Picasso explained, but she belonged to the plant kingdom.

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The BBC on the Rack

James Butler, 19 March 2020

A post-broadcast era need not be a post-democratic one; an increasingly plural public sphere could be a resource as much as a threat. The BBC’s hegemony in Britain affords it opportunities to...

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At​ a recent event at the National Gallery in Washington, the painter Oliver Lee Jackson recalled hearing Charlie Parker and Max Roach play at nightclubs in the 1950s. Jackson, who was born in...

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In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard, 20 February 2020

The​ West Bund quarter of Shanghai runs along a bend of the Huangpu river, about eight kilometres south of the city’s downtown. There were once docks here, with a large facility for mixing...

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John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson, 20 February 2020

We’re not​ dealing with an ordinary man, or a conformist. There he is in the abandoned shell of Fort Point in San Francisco, this fierce and frightened man, looking like Lee Marvin. The...

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Alice​ Paalen Rahon was a shape-shifter par excellence, who casually changed her date and place of birth (1904 in Besançon, not 1916 in Brittany), her name and nationality, sexual...

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Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’

Cora Gilroy-Ware, 6 February 2020

Kara​ Walker’s Fons Americanus, currently on display in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (until 5 April), is a towering monument – more than forty feet tall – based loosely on...

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‘Cosmo’ for Capitalists

Stefan Collini, 6 February 2020

It may be satisfying, though it isn’t terribly surprising, to find that the Economist has mostly come down on the side of capital in the major political conflicts of the past. More interesting would...

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‘Parasite’

Michael Wood, 6 February 2020

The theme of social ascent, or social difference as a landscape, could hardly be more obvious, but we are beginning to get the movie’s idea: not to avoid stereotypes but to keep crashing into them.

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Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny, 23 January 2020

It’s​ not hard to think of painters who took up sculpture: Raphael (probably), Guido Reni (at least once), Frederic Leighton, Degas, Renoir (unfortunately), Picasso. But sculptors have...

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The​ problem presented by Troy: Myth and Reality at the British Museum is not so much the myth as the reality (until 8 March). Troy was a tiny city in what is now the northwestern corner of...

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At the Movies: 'Marriage Story'

Michael Wood, 2 January 2020

We​ have seen so many other worlds in movies recently that shabby domestic realism, showing the details of a marriage and its break-up, real streets and familiar furniture, can come as something...

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Did Leonardo paint it?

Charles Hope, 2 January 2020

There is no clear indication from the 16th century of the existence of a picture of the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo himself, and it is rather surprising that he should have made one given that his...

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At the British Museum: Käthe Kollwitz

Anne Wagner, 2 January 2020

The exhibition​ of etchings, lithographs and woodcuts by Käthe Kollwitz at the British Museum (until 12 January) confronts us with her characteristic, and still discomfiting, lack of...

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Pevsner's Hertfordshire

Gillian Darley, 2 January 2020

The volumes​ of the Buildings of England series initiated by Nikolaus Pevsner unsurprisingly confine themselves to buildings and their settings, but it’s tempting to be distracted by what...

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