fri 19/09/2014

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

The Real Tudors, National Portrait Gallery

Florence Hallett

For all the political hurly burly, social change and religious upheaval of the Tudor period and the intriguing personal histories of its monarchs, it is surely the portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I that have done most to secure the Tudors in popular imagination. I first saw a portrait of Elizabeth I (pictured above) while at primary school and was enthralled by the startling contrast of red hair and pale skin, that impossibly tiny waist disappearing into a sharp V, the dress a marvel of...

Jasper Johns: Regrets, Courtauld Gallery

Fisun Güner

In your ninth decade it may not come as a surprise to find death staring you in the face. But it might be unnerving if you’re an artist and a menacing “death's head” skull emerges, quite unexpectedly, in an image you’ve been staring at and working from with close scrutiny for weeks and months. You might even take it, if so inclined, as a sign – if only as a sign that chance works in mysterious ways. Jasper Johns has said he didn’t begin with the intention of a creating a modern memento...

Francesca Woodman: Zigzag, Victoria Miro

Marina Vaizey

Francesca Woodman killed herself at the age of 22, the biographical fact that colours her work and which it is de riguer to mention. She left behind...

British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash,...

Marina Vaizey

At the end of this absorbing documentary about the art – and life – of Paul Nash we visited his tombstone in a Buckinghamshire churchyard,...

Late Turner: Painting Set Free, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

There is early Turner; there is late Turner. Early Turner is very much of his time: a history and landscape painter in the first half of the 19th...

The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Revelation of early Swedish woman artist opened magpie survey of abstract art

Constable: A Country Rebel, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Tradit Tory or true revolutionary? Alastair Sooke ponders John Constable's heritage ahead of major V&A exhibition

Horst: Photographer of Style, Victoria & Albert Museum

Sarah Kent

The man who turned fashion photography into art

Time, Weather, Place: Folkestone Triennial 2014

Fisun Güner

Headless 'terror' chickens, a naff baroque beach hut, and digging for gold

First Person: Disabled artists take on the world

Jo Verrent

Introducing Unlimited, the Southbank's festival of work by deaf and disabled artists

Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale of Three Cities, BBC Four

Fisun Güner

Does James Fox have anything interesting to say? Judging from this series, no

Edinburgh Art Festival: Scotland to outer space

Caroline Boyle

Anticipating the independence referendum, questions of Scottish identity fill the air

The Beauty of Anatomy, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Adam Rutherford's exploration of Leonardo and the dark art of human dissection

Ryoji Ikeda: spectra, Victoria Tower Gardens

Peter Culshaw

It's not a UFO – it's the most extraordinary artwork in London

Art of China, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Andrew Graham-Dixon's series offers so much more than the title suggests

What Lies Beneath: The Secret Life of Paintings

Florence Hallett

From mystery men to missing whales, paintings can reveal unexpected secrets

First World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum

Marina Vaizey

An imaginative refit with 14 new galleries to tell the story of The Great War

First Person: Curating Shelagh Wakely

Sarah Kent

On mounting a show which gives a forgotten artist the recognition she deserves

Malevich, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

An exhilarating exhibition following the arc of the Russian modernist's career

Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, National Portrait Gallery

Marina Vaizey

The Bloomsbury writer's brilliance distilled in a powerful and deeply moving exhibition

Six of the best: Art


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions

Mondrian, Turner Contemporary/ Tate Liverpool

Fisun Güner

Two exhibitions offer an overview of the modernist artist, yet he still eludes us

The Golden Cockerel, Diaghilev Festival, London Coliseum

David Nice

Musical values outstanding, decor and dance not bad in tribute to Diaghilev opera-ballet

Ryan Gander: Make every show like it's your last, Manchester Art Gallery

Mark Sheerin

A mischievous display from the sculptor, painter, photographer, prankster and storyteller

Gallery: International Exchanges, Tate St Ives

Fisun Güner

Connections explored in an exhibition that takes a fresh look at the St Ives group

Digital Revolution, The Curve, Barbican

Sarah Kent

A trip for techies down memory lane, plus a glimpse at the 'interactive' future

Making Colour, National Gallery

Florence Hallett

An exploration of colour brings art and science together, but it's an uneasy relationship

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, Royal Academy

Jasper Rees

Actor's black and white images are a bustling Sixties time capsule

Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, David Zwirner

Fisun Güner

The more one looks the more one can admire rather than love the artist's passionate exactitude

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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