mon 08/02/2016

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Bruegel in Black and White: Three Grisailles Reunited, Courtauld Gallery

Florence Hallett

Now that Renaissance altarpieces live for the most part in museums and not churches, our experience of them is, quite literally, flat. Once, the winged altarpieces so popular in northern Europe, comprising a central panel flanked by two moveable “doors”, would have changed appearance according to the Church calendar, the wings left closed during Lent to be opened again at Easter when the glorious colours of its central image would once again be revealed.To create maximum theatrical effect, the...

Painting the Modern Garden, Royal Academy

Marina Vaizey

Painting the Modern Garden explores the interstices between nature and ourselves as revealed in the cultivation of gardens, that most delightful and frustrating of occupations, and an almost obsessive subject for many artists. About 150 paintings from the 1860s to the 1920s, gathered together from private and public collections in North America and Europe are on view, amplified by letters, plans, documents, photographs and illustrated books on horticulture.The exhibition embraces not only...

Saul Leiter, Photographers' Gallery

Sarah Kent

One of the great joys of being a critic is discovering someone remarkable you’ve never heard of before. By the time he died in 2013 aged 90, the...

100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age

Kelly Grovier

The back cover of my book makes a big claim. “This book dares”, it says, “to predict the 100 most significant works of art made since the 1990s.”...

John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea, Arnolfini, Bristol

Clem Hitchcock

Artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah’s multi-screen film installation Vertigo Sea is an epic meditation on mankind’s relationship with the watery world...

Lumiere London 2016

David Nice

Transformed in a festival of light: memorable images of the capital from the past four days

Keep Calm and Knuckle Under

Hugh Pearman

A new book claims that behind our love for all things retro lies a sinister, repressive ideology - but is this fair?

The Story of Scottish Art, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Artist Lachlan Goudie's excellent survey of his country's art takes us to Rome

When Bowie and Boyd hoaxed the art world

Jasper Rees

Nat Tate was a very Modern Painter, invented by William Boyd with the rock star's encouragement

Søren Dahlgaard’s Dough Portraits


Our pick of images from the Danish artist's new book

Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

The mysteries of an artistic life and reputation investigated by curious Python

Best of 2015: Art


We reflect on our favourite exhibitions of the year and look ahead to 2016

Yuletide Scenes: Giotto's Nativity

Jasper Rees

The birth of Christ depicted for the first time as a human drama

Yuletide Scenes: Ben Nicholson's Christmas Night, 1930

Florence Hallett

A modernist masterpiece that weaves personal drama with the mystery of the nativity

Yuletide Scenes: David Jones' Nativity with Shepherds and Beasts Rejoicing

Marina Vaizey

A moment of pure joy, captured in the fluid lines of drypoint

Yuletide Scenes: Piero della Francesca's Nativity

Sarah Kent

For the first of our Christmas scenes, we revisit a Renaissance masterpiece

Another Minimalism, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

Mark Sheerin

Laidback minimalism: the dazzling legacy of California Light and Space

Rose English, Camden Arts Centre

Sarah Kent

The artist who, arguably, made Miranda Hart's success possible

Collected through Love: The Michael Woodford Bequest

Simon Martin

Pallant House Gallery's artistic director introduces an unlikely collector of modern art

Fabio Mauri: Oscuramento, Hauser & Wirth

Sarah Kent

Propelled into the limelight after his death, the Italian that time forgot

Secrets of the Mona Lisa, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Andrew Graham-Dixon digs beneath the surface of Leonardo's inscrutable portrait

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Marina Vaizey

Documentary charts one of modern art's most idiosyncratic champions

The Amazing World of MC Escher, Dulwich Picture Gallery


Where fantasy and illusion collide: our pick of the graphic artist's strange creations

Julia Margaret Cameron, Victoria & Albert Museum / Science Museum

Marina Vaizey

Experimental and unorthodox: the extraordinary life of a pioneer of early photography

Goya: Visions of Flesh and Blood

Marina Vaizey

Behind the artistic life of the great Spanish painter, and the National Gallery exhibition

Artist and Empire, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

An ambitious survey that fails to do justice to a vast and complex subject

Visions of Paradise: Botticini's Palmieri Altarpiece, National Gallery

Florence Hallett

A long-lost Florentine church brought back to life through its altarpieces

Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments, Tate Britain

Sarah Kent

A hauntingly evocative sound installation marking World War One

High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson, The Queen’s Gallery

Marina Vaizey

Skewering the mores of his age, the caricaturist is as much comedian as satirist

Footnote: A brief history of british art

The National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Collection - Britain's art galleries and museums are world-renowned, not only for the finest of British visual arts but core collections of antiquities and artworks from great world civilisations.

Holbein_Ambasssadors_1533The glory of British medieval art lay first in her magnificent cathedrals and manuscripts, but kings, aristocrats, scientists and explorers became the vital forces in British art, commissioning Holbein or Gainsborough portraits, founding museums of science or photography, or building palatial country mansions where architecture, craft and art united in a luxuriously cultured way of life (pictured, Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533 © National Gallery). A rich physician Sir Hans Sloane launched the British Museum with his collection in 1753, and private collections were the basis in the 19th century for the National Gallery, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the original Tate gallery and the Wallace Collections.

British art tendencies have long passionately divided between romantic abstraction and a deep-rooted love of narrative and reality. While 19th-century movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian Gothic architects paid homage to decorative medieval traditions, individualists such as George Stubbs, William Hogarth, John Constable, J M W Turner and William Blake were radicals in their time.

In the 20th century sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, architects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers embody the contrasts between fantasy and observation. More recently another key patron, Charles Saatchi, championed the sensational Britart conceptual art explosion, typified by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The Arts Desk reviews all the major exhibitions of art and photography as well as interviewing leading creative figures in depth about their careers and working practices. Our writers include Fisun Guner, Judith Flanders, Sarah Kent, Mark Hudson, Sue Steward and Josh Spero.

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