Category Archives: The Spectator

The Capability controversy

Three hundred years after the gardener’s birth, debates still rage over whether his ruthless landscaping led to something beautifully harmonious or just a bit dull   The Capability Brown-landscaped garden at Prior Park, near Bath, and the first know image … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

The over-exposure of Georgia O’Keeffe

‘New York Street with Moon’, 1925, by Georgia O’Keeffe   In 1927, Georgia O’Keeffe announced that she would like her next exhibition to be ‘so magnificently vulgar that all the people who have liked what I have been doing would … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

Bologna with Gilbert & George

Bologna’s core: grand in the renaissance manner   Sooner or later, no matter where you are travelling on Italian railways, you are likely to pass through Bologna Centrale. The city is the main junction between the north and south of … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

It’s time to split the Tate again

‘Babel’, 2001, by Cildo Meireles   In 1992 I wrote a column that was published under the headline ‘It’s Time to Split the Tate’. To my absolute astonishment, shortly afterwards it was announced that this would actually happen (no doubt … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

My pilgrimage to see the world’s greatest male nudes

One of the two bronze statues of Greek warriors found in the sea off Riace, on display for the first time at the presidential palace in Rome, 1981 Initially it must have been a nasty surprise. On 16 August 1972 … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

Poetic or pretentious? ‘Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust’ at the Royal Academy

‘Untitled (Tilly Losch)’, c.1935–38, by Joseph Cornell   Someone once asked Joseph Cornell who was his favourite abstract artist of his time. It was a perfectly reasonable question to put to a man who numbered Piet Mondrian, as well as … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

Forget Vienna – Britain now has its own chamber of curiosities at the British Museum

Detail of a maiolica vase, c.1565–1571, a star piece for both Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill and later for Baron Ferdinand at Waddesdon Manor   Art is not jewellery. Its value does not reside in the price of the materials … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

The artist who only turned into a major painter once he became a homicidal maniac

Portrait photograph of Richard Dadd painting Contradiction (c.1857) in Bedlem Charles Dickens’s description of Cobham Park, Kent, in The Pickwick Papers makes it seem a perfect English landscape. Among its ‘long vistas of stately oaks and elms’, he wrote, ‘occasionally … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

Whole worlds conjured up in a few strokes: ‘Watercolour’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum reviewed

Turner’s ‘Shakespeare Cliff, Dover’ (c.1825) I learnt to splash about in watercolour at my grandmother’s knee. Or rather, sitting beside her crouched over a pad of thickly ‘toothed’ paper and a Winsor & Newton paintbox on a wind-swept East Anglian … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment

‘Unfinished’ at the Courtauld Gallery

‘Turning Road (Route Tournante)’, c.1905, by Paul Cézanne   A while ago, David Hockney mused on a proposal to tax the works of art stored in artists’ studios. ‘You’d only have to say they weren’t finished, and you are the … Continue reading

Posted in The Spectator | Leave a comment