sat 18/01/2020

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2019: Visual Arts

Florence Hallett

Notable anniversaries provided the ballast for this year’s raft of exhibitions; none was dead weight, though, with shows dedicated to Rembrandt, Leonardo and

Caravaggio & Bernini, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna - high emotion in 17th century Rome

Florence Hallett

It doesn’t matter where you stand, whether you crouch, or teeter on tiptoe: looking into the eyes of Bernini’s Medusa, 1638-40, is impossible. The attempt is peculiarly exhilarating, a game of dare made simultaneously tantalising and absurd by the sculpture’s evident stoniness.

Dora Maar, Tate Modern review - how women...

Katherine Waters

In one of Dora Maar’s best known images, a fashion photograph from 1935 (pictured below), a woman wearing a backless, sparkly evening gown appears to...

Eco-Visionaries, Royal Academy review - wakey,...

Sarah Kent

As I write, I’m listening to Clara Rockmore intoning The Swan by Saint-Saëns. Her melancholy humming also welcomes you to Eco-Visionaries along with...

Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre?, Jewish...

Katherine Waters

For a loved one to die by suicide provokes both pain and hurt. Pain, because they are gone. Hurt, because it can feel like an indictment or a...

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Saatchi Gallery review - worth its weight?

Katherine Waters

Blockbuster artefacts in show that cares more about visitor numbers than visitor experience

The Best Exhibitions in London


The capital's best exhibitions now

George Stubbs: 'all done from Nature', MK Gallery review - a glorious menagerie

Katherine Waters

Go see the animals

Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits, Royal Academy review - mesmerising intensity

Sarah Kent

Beady eyes that try to read the soul as well as the body

Bridget Riley, Hayward Gallery review - the thrill of seeing

Florence Hallett

A comprehensive celebration of the artist's 70-year career

Hogarth: Place and Progress, Sir John Soane’s Museum review - state of the nation

Katherine Waters

Magnificent show of Hogarth's despair at his fellow citizens and a divided England

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, National Portrait Gallery review – a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes

Sarah Kent

Spotlight on the women and their role in the Brotherhood

Rembrandt's Light, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a film-maker out of time?

Florence Hallett

A novel collaboration between curators and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky

Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary, Whitechapel Gallery review – a gentle rebellion

Sarah Kent

A career that evolves from silent resistance to celebration

Gauguin Portraits, National Gallery review - me, myself and I

Florence Hallett

The French artist didn't revolutionise portraiture, he was too interested in himself

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art, Barbican review - great theme, disappointing show

Sarah Kent

Artists's clubs - a vibrant topic dryly realised

Kara Walker: Fons Americanus, Tate Modern review – a darkly humorous gift

Sarah Kent

A subversive fountain that flips history on its head

William Blake, Tate Britain - sympathy for the rebel

Katherine Waters

Vast and satisfying show for a visionary and iconic artist

Van Gogh’s Inner Circle, Noordbrabants Museum review - the man behind the art

Katherine Waters

Light on paintings, heavy on the biography

Peter Doig, Michael Werner review - ambiguous and excellent

Katherine Waters

First, second and third-guesses encouraged

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, V&A review - a bracing full-body immersion

Florence Hallett

An exuberant tribute to London's 'palace of dreams'

10 Questions for author Martin Gayford

Marina Vaizey

The prolific writer on his love of art and jazz, and what makes a good writer

Foragers of the Foreshore - London's mudlarks on show

Adrian Evans

The director of Totally Thames introduces this year's festival, including an exhibition of mudlarks and their finds

Artists in Amsterdam, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a slight but evocative sketch

Florence Hallett

Amsterdam was Europe's economic hub in the 17th century, a fact reflected in its art

Edinburgh Festival 2019 reviews: Below the Blanket / Samson Young: Real Music

David Kettle

Two Edinburgh shows meld music, sound and visual art to beguiling effect

Black Sabbath: 50 years, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery review – not heavy going

Guy Oddy

Half a century of metal is celebrated in Sabbath's home city

Helen Schjerfbeck, Royal Academy review - watchful absences and disappearing people

Katherine Waters

Retrospective of Finnish artist turns on mortality and absence

Beuys' Acorns, Bloomberg Arcade London review – not much to look at, but important all the same

Sarah Kent

An installation that could make a difference

Yorkshire Sculpture International review - Hepworth and Moore loom large

Florence Hallett

A new festival seals Yorkshire's bid to be Britain's home of sculpture

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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