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Frank Auerbach’s London

T.J. Clark: Frank Auerbach, 10 September 2015

... That marvellous line from Thomas Hardy’s ‘At the Railway Station’: ‘And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang/With grimful glee …’ Frank Auerbach to William Feaver And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang With grimful glee: ‘This life so free Is the thing for me!’ And the constable smiled, and said no word. Thomas Hardy, ‘At the Railway Station, Upway’ I remember​ the first time I saw, or looked repeatedly at, a painting by Frank Auerbach was in the art historian Michael Podro’s living room – it must have been in 1968 ...

Looking at the Ceiling

T.J. Clark: A Savonarolan Bonfire, 22 September 2005

The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art 
by Malcolm Bull.
Allen Lane, 465 pp., £30, April 2005, 9780713992007
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... Malcolm Bull has written a formidable handbook, for which, I predict, many scholars and lovers of Renaissance art will never forgive him. What he has to say in the end about the revival of the ancient gods in early modern Europe amounts to a wholesale (Savonarolan) bonfire of most art historians’ assumptions, or wishes, about the leaven of paganism in the transition to modernity ...

Reinstall the Footlights

T.J. Clark: The Art of the Russian Revolution, 16 November 2017

... Centenaries​ are strange institutions, often with complex purposes, but this year’s commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution – now thankfully nearing their end – have been in the West wonderfully simple-minded. How could it matter, after all, that a failed state calling itself socialist, its last paroxysm almost three decades behind us, began in revolution one hundred years ago? How is the passing of a century meant to alter anything? Most people in the West distrusted and feared the long-gone phenomenon (me too, as a lifetime anti-Leninist ...

Picasso and the Fall of Europe

T.J. Clark, 2 June 2016

... A vision​ of Europe in 1950: Two world wars in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of a third world war between the two remaining world powers. This moment of anticipation is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died ...

A Horse’s Impossible Head

T.J. Clark: Disunity in Delacroix, 10 October 2019

... It must​ have been some time in 1966 that I bought a French travel poster of a detail from Delacroix’s Lion Hunt (1855) – the lion triumphant for a moment, claws ripping a fallen rider’s flesh, and a horse with its back broken, blood welling from one nostril. A year or so later I cut off the poster’s caption – I think it said simply ‘Bordeaux’, which is where the painting still lives – and had the image mounted on board ...

Aboutness

T.J. Clark: Bosch in Paradise, 1 April 2021

... We​ are on our way to Paradise. Some say we are there already; and it is true that the soft green hill the angels are leading us towards, and the fountain perched on top with its retinue of birds, could well be a Garden of Eden. The angels are forbearing: they know we’re likely to make a slow start. Some of us look to have registered the new light in the sky, and are caught between an eagerness to go onwards and fear or perhaps puzzlement ...

Madame Matisse’s Hat

T.J. Clark: On Matisse, 14 August 2008

... Henri Matisse, ‘Woman with a Hat’ Henri Matisse’s portrait of his wife, Amélie Parayre, was first shown at the Salon d’Automne in 1905. The catalogue called it simply La Femme au chapeau. Journalists soon decided (or pretended) that Matisse’s painting was scandalous, and the public turned up in droves to make fun of it. So far so predictable: the script was forty years old ...

Veronese’s ‘Allegories of Love’

T.J. Clark: Veronese, 3 April 2014

... I felt as if I had been plunged into a sea of wine of thought, and must drink to drowning. But the first distinct impression which fixed itself on one was that of the entire superiority of Painting to Literature as a test, expression and record of human intellect, and of the enormously greater quantity of Intellect which might be forced into a picture – and read there – compared with what might be expressed in words ...

Strange Apprentice

T.J. Clark, 8 October 2020

... Lucien Pissarro​ , Camille Pissarro’s eldest son, was barely into his teens in the mid 1870s when Paul Cézanne came to live nearby. Nonetheless he retained strong memories of the time, and many years later his brother Paul-Émile wrote down these sentences at Lucien’s dictation:Cézanne lived in Auvers, and he used to walk three kilometres to come and work with father ...

Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark, 17 August 2017

... There is​ a moment towards the end of King Lear – many readers and playgoers have found it almost unbearable – when the mad king enters, holding his daughter’s corpse in his arms. ‘Lend me a looking glass,’ Lear says, ‘If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,/Why then she lives.’ Two of his subjects respond, with questions that go on resonating down the centuries: Kent: Is this the promised end? Edgar: Or image of that horror? Silent protestors in Calcutta in 2007 ...

Masters and Fools

T.J. Clark: Velázquez’s Distance, 23 September 2021

... Velázquez’s​ Aesop was painted most likely in the late 1630s, as part of the decor of the Torre de la Parada, Philip IV’s hunting lodge outside Madrid. It would be good to know something of its original place in the building, or at least be sure that the Torre was its first destination, but as usual with Velázquez the court records are mute ...

Reservations of the Marvellous

T.J. Clark, 22 June 2000

The Arcades Project 
by Walter Benjamin, translated by Howard Eiland.
Harvard, 1073 pp., £24.95, December 1999, 9780674043268
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... There are the Alps,’ Basil Bunting is supposed to have scribbled on his copy of the Cantos. ‘What is there to say about them?’ Mainly this, in the brief poem that follows: They don’t make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb, jumbled boulder and weed, pasture and boulder, scree ... It takes some getting used to. There are the Alps, fools! Sit down and wait for them to crumble! Well, yes, I guess I shall end up scribbling much the same thing ...

Unseen Eyes

Julian Bell: The Clark Effect, 7 February 2019

Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come 
by T.J. Clark.
Thames & Hudson, 288 pp., £24.95, October 2018, 978 0 500 02138 5
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... People talk​ of painted eyes in portraits that ‘follow you round the room’. T.J. Clark, in the third of the six essays collected in his new book, Heaven on Earth, strangely inverts this. Studying the hall depicted in Poussin’s Sacrament of Marriage (now in Edinburgh), he senses that a painted figure’s eyes – eyes that are out of sight – are moving across the space, their attention straying sideways ...

After the Referendum

LRB Contributors, 9 October 2014

... criterion level’. But these are old-fashioned issues. Onwards to Raqqa and Mosul! T.J. Clark For​ ‘Yes’ voters 19 September was a very dreich day. A 6 per cent swing would have made all the difference; but it didn’t happen. Older voters tended to be the most staunchly Unionist: time may not be on the Union’s side. As yet, despite the ...

Sans Sunflowers

David Solkin, 7 July 1994

Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History 
by Stephen Eisenman, Thomas Crow, Brian Lukacher, Linda Nochlin and Frances Pohl.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 500 23675 5
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... period, and especially on French painting from Courbet to Cézanne. Here the writings of T.J. Clark have been particularly influential: starting with two books on Courbet and the art of the Second Republic – Image of the People and The Absolute Bourgeois (both 1973) – and more recently with The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and ...

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