The Ghent Altarpiece

Julian Bell, 16 April 2020

The lush heaviness into which your eyes sink suggests that whatever breathes or glistens or crinkles – clouds, foliage, faces, cloaks, jewels, metalware and stone – has been stroked and befriended...

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In​ Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and in the myth he was staging, the Furies that drove vengeance and justice are appeased, and converted into the so-called Kindly Ones. Pier Paolo Pasolini...

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Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

Like sturgeons and swans in medieval England, public information began as royal property. Today, we understand more vividly than ever before that information is also a commodity: I have it, you don’t;...

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What did Lucian Freud know about pregnancy? Not very much, perhaps. But he did know about sex. The expression on Kitty’s face is not dissimilar to that of an animal before mating.

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Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison, 2 April 2020

In Petipa’s works, the ballerina is as abstract as Goethe’s Eternal Feminine. His heroines, as Alastair Macaulay writes, are advocates of traditional values who ‘live only for marriage...

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Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes, 2 April 2020

For one so sensitive and so irritable, reviewing the Salon must have been a secular martyrdom. The 1879 Salon was ‘a heap of crackbrained nonsense’: of its 3040 pictures ‘not a hundred...

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Françoise Gilot

Lili Owen Rowlands, 19 March 2020

He painted her hair as a green, swooping bun that sat on the side of her head like a leaf. ‘We’re all animals, more or less,’ Picasso explained, but she belonged to the plant kingdom.

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The BBC on the Rack

James Butler, 19 March 2020

A post-broadcast era need not be a post-democratic one; an increasingly plural public sphere could be a resource as much as a threat. The BBC’s hegemony in Britain affords it opportunities to...

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Ubu Jarry

Hal Foster, 19 March 2020

What happens when a travesty of authority becomes a template for power, when Dada sets up in the White House or at 10 Downing Street?

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At​ a recent event at the National Gallery in Washington, the painter Oliver Lee Jackson recalled hearing Charlie Parker and Max Roach play at nightclubs in the 1950s. Jackson, who was born in...

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John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson, 20 February 2020

We’re not​ dealing with an ordinary man, or a conformist. There he is in the abandoned shell of Fort Point in San Francisco, this fierce and frightened man, looking like Lee Marvin. The...

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Alice​ Paalen Rahon was a shape-shifter par excellence, who casually changed her date and place of birth (1904 in Besançon, not 1916 in Brittany), her name and nationality, sexual...

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In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard, 20 February 2020

The​ West Bund quarter of Shanghai runs along a bend of the Huangpu river, about eight kilometres south of the city’s downtown. There were once docks here, with a large facility for mixing...

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‘Cosmo’ for Capitalists

Stefan Collini, 6 February 2020

It may be satisfying, though it isn’t terribly surprising, to find that the Economist has mostly come down on the side of capital in the major political conflicts of the past. More interesting would...

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Michael Wood, 6 February 2020

The theme of social ascent, or social difference as a landscape, could hardly be more obvious, but we are beginning to get the movie’s idea: not to avoid stereotypes but to keep crashing into them.

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Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’

Cora Gilroy-Ware, 6 February 2020

Kara​ Walker’s Fons Americanus, currently on display in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (until 5 April), is a towering monument – more than forty feet tall – based loosely on...

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Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny, 23 January 2020

It’s​ not hard to think of painters who took up sculpture: Raphael (probably), Guido Reni (at least once), Frederic Leighton, Degas, Renoir (unfortunately), Picasso. But sculptors have...

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The​ problem presented by Troy: Myth and Reality at the British Museum is not so much the myth as the reality (until 8 March). Troy was a tiny city in what is now the northwestern corner of...

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