Category Archives: Art Designs


Unknown portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti emerges

The portrait, unknown to scholars for over a hundred years, depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s muse Jane Morris.

A portrait redolent of one of the most famous romances of the Victorian era has surfaced for sale from a private collection in Scotland where it has been, unrecorded and unknown to scholars, for over a hundred years.

Painted in 1869 by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it represents his muse, Jane Morris, who was married to Rossetti’s business partner, the artist and designer William Morris.

Artist and sitter first met and were attracted to each other in 1857, but as Rossetti was already engaged to Elizabeth Siddall, she married Morris instead. However, after Siddall tragically took her life in 1862, and the Morris marriage appeared to flounder, the relationship was rekindled.

Banksy: primed and all set for take-off

imageIs the art market witnessing a Banksy revival? Colin Gleadell investigates.

After a few years in the wilderness, the elusive graffiti artist Banksy was back on form last week with two highly successful auction sales. At Christie’s, a metal panel from the exterior of a sound-system lorry which Banksy had spray-painted with military helicopter images for the 1998 Glastonbury festival, trebled estimates to sell for £103,250.

It had been an image that impressed Damon Albarn, the frontman for Blur, who were performing at the festival, leading to a commission to design the cover for the band’s Think Tank album. But more importantly, it was a rare outdoor work for which Banksy had given permission to be sold. Four years ago, Banksy stopped the trade in his outdoor work because, he said, it was never meant to be sold, so this was an exception.

Art market news: Serge Lifar’s estate sold for 7.3 million

iamageBuyers were on a high at the Geneva sale of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate.

Buyers were on a high at the Geneva sale last week of dancer Serge Lifar’s estate. The sale was estimated to fetch 1.5 million Swiss Francs (£1 million), but realised 7.3 million SFr. Top lot was a set of 48 drawings by Jean Cocteau for his book Opium, which sold for 912,000 SFr – nearly 10 times the estimate – to Paris book dealer Jean-Claude Vrain. The Musée des lettres et manuscrits de Paris was extremely active, spending nearly 1 million SFr on autographed manuscripts and drawings by Cocteau and his friend Raymond Radiguet. One of the most extraordinary results was the 430,000 SFr paid for two inscribed photographs of Lifar with Coco Chanel, and a letter from Chanel. The estimate was 300 SFr.

Mexican Museum

imageThe soul and spirit of the arts and cultures of Mexico and the America are fundamentally linked. The Mexican Museum voices the complexity and richness of Latino art throughout the America, encouraging dialogue among the broadest public.

The Mexican Museum has a permanent collection of various artistic and cultural art crafts which attracts people from the entire world. Mexico City is itself a hub of cultural monuments and artistic architecture.

Subscriptions from £1

The Story of Bauhaus Art

imageBauhaus is a modern day art which started from a German art school and it speaks about the modern day era by combing the history with the daily life trends. It is indeed one of the remarkable art forms in arts and culture as it focuses on the freedom, functionality and practicality of life.

It is said that arts and culture have a close linkage with the history and that is pretty much what Bauhaus art explains too. Bauhaus art has its roots deep down into Germany and it started during the early 1900’s at a German arts and culture school. Later on, the Bauhaus art took many twists and turns in itself with the changing world, wars, and political regimes and became one of the most popular modern era art forms in arts and culture.

Alighiero Boetti, Tate Modern, review

imageA rewarding new show at the Tate Modern reveals that conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti took as his subject the very foundations of reality, says Richard Dorment .

The Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti didn’t do things by halves. Fixating on an idea, he followed it through to its logical conclusion — no matter where it might lead, how long it took to get there, or how absurd the conclusion turned out to be. And ideas just poured out of Boetti. In a life-size bronze self-portrait made at the end of his life, the artist stands under a cascade of water as though trying to cool down a brain literally steaming with them.

When Guernica Came to Town

imageIn 1938, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings was rolled up and taken to places previously untouched by art – even car showrooms

Every day, 11,000 people make the trip to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid to see Picasso’s Guernica. The invisible infra-red wire around the painting is hyper-vigilant — the tiniest of leans (and I speak from experience) has alarms ringing, and guards to their feet, within seconds. Understandable, but a pity since all but the most eagle-eyed will miss the clues to an extraordinary story.

Over its 75-year history, it has been rolled and unrolled, stretched, nailed up, pulled down, driven, shipped and flown, all in the service of a cause. Creases and cracks mark its surface; its four corners are littered with puncture marks tracing the life it’s led.

Johan Zoffany, Royal Academy, review

imageThe Royal Academy’s Johan Zoffany show gives a spectacularly detailed vision of rumbustious 18th century life.

If you wish to understand why the German-born 18th-century painter Johan Zoffany is considered a good artist, then head straight for the sixth section of a new show at the Royal Academy, the first substantial exhibition of his work in Britain since 1977. There, visitors can pore over a staggering picture called The Tribuna of the Uffizi, which is often described as the best painting he ever made.

Trophies and

Portrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte will be auctioned.

A hitherto unknown portrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte is expected to fetch thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer this week.

The oil painting is the latest in a flurry of items relating to the Bronte sisters to be put up for auction in the last few months.

Its sale by JP Humbert’s in Northamptonshire comes after the auction house sold another painting of the reclusive writer for £23,836 in December.

How to Make Japanese Art Designs

imageJapan is an island with varied terrain, including snowy mountaintops, grassy ponds and rocky coastlines. Traditional Japanese art is inspired by religion and geography. Japanese ceramics, textiles, prints, paintings and folk art usually depict symbols of Buddhism or elements of the land. To create art in a Japanese style, incorporate natural elements of Japan such as bamboo, cherry blossoms and Japanese maples into your paper or fabric art design.

Hall of Fame, Watts Gallery, review


GF Watts’s penetrating portraits amounted to a panorama of Victorian society, says Richard Dorment .

It’s like an artistic form of multiple-personality disorder: the minute you think you have a handle on the work of the Victorian painter GF Watts, you find you didn’t know it at all. The painter of myths and allegories we saw in the Tate Gallery’s Symbolist exhibition is unrecognisable as the portrait painter we discovered at the National Portrait Gallery a few years later.

Frieze Art Fair in America: Armory fights British invasion

imageFrieze Week stands a good chance of replacing the Armory Show as America’s biggest art fair when it arrives in New York. Colin Gleadell reports.

Which is the greatest contemporary art fair in America? Is it the Armory Show, the biggest home-grown fair in New York? Is it Art Basel/Miami Beach, the American off-shoot of Europe’s mighty Art Basel, which launched in Florida in 2002? Or will it be Frieze, the London fair, now 10 years old and another foreign brand? Frieze’s announcement that it will launch its first New York edition in May has been sending shivers down the backbones of its competitors.

Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth, review

imageWhat does Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth sculpture say about us, asks Alastair

Glinting in the winter sunlight, unblemished as yet by pigeon droppings, the latest work of art to occupy the Fourth Plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square was unveiled today — and in one sense it is the most old-fashioned yet.

Conceived by the Nordic artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig 101, the eighth contemporary artwork commissioned for the plinth since 1999, is a monumental bronze equestrian statue more than 4m high. Executed in a realistic figurative style, it belongs to a tradition that stretches back to the ancient world, when Rome was awash with colossal gilt-bronze portraits of emperors mounted on horseback.

Emily Brontë portrait goes under the hammer

imagePortrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte will be auctioned.

A hitherto unknown portrait believed to be of author Emily Bronte is expected to fetch thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer this week.

The oil painting is the latest in a flurry of items relating to the Bronte sisters to be put up for auction in the last few months.

Its sale by JP Humbert’s in Northamptonshire comes after the auction house sold another painting of the reclusive writer for £23,836 in December.

Going, going, gone for a song

imageThe salerooms are booming and new records are being set – no wonder Lord Coleridge was aggrieved that his Tudor chain of office was sold for a fraction of its worth.

Two years ago, a couple from Pinner found a Chinese vase in a dusty recess of their parents’ house and took it to an auctioneer in Ruislip. Everyone was astounded when it was knocked down for £53 million. It was, as headline writers noted at the time, the ultimate cash in the attic.

Art sales: records and surprises in London


Art sales: records and surprises in London
Colin Gleadell reports on the latest goings on in the art market, including a Valentine-themed sale and a contemporary homage to Alghiero Boetti.
The Impressionist and Modern art sales in London last week saw an impressive £278 million change hands – one of the highest totals for a winter series of such sales in London. While it was generally Henry Moore’s week, with £33 million of sales, there were also strong prices for Impressionist paintings.

Picasso and Modern British Art, Tate Britain, review

imageRichard Dorment wavers between exultance and despair at the Tate Britain’s exhibition about Picasso’s influence on British art.

When Tate Britain announced plans for an exhibition about Picasso’s influence on British artists such as Duncan Grant and Graham Sutherland, my snorts of disbelief could be heard in Sidcup. Recent exhibitions have pitted him against Titian, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Goya, Delacroix, and Matisse. To hang important works by him in a show full of his British imitators would be an act of cruelty.

Off with his head – how Henry VIII was decapitated from royal painting

imageOne of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, The Field of the Cloth of Gold, contains an unsolved puzzle.

It is one of Tudor England’s most famous paintings, depicting the pomp and splendour of Henry VIII’s reign.

But a key feature of The Field of the Cloth of Gold remains shrouded in mystery – just how Henry lost his head.

The painting portrays the 1520 meeting between Henry and Francis I of France near Calais, an 18-day spectacle arranged by Henry to boost propaganda surrounding his reign and project an image of harmony between the two nations.

eGlobal Central

Art and exhibitions preview of the year 2012

imageAlastair Sooke selects the key dates in the art year 2012 from January to the end of March.
Pick of the exhibitions 2012: Damien Hirst
Tate Modern, London SE1 (020 7887 8888), April 4-Sept 9
Britain’s most famous living artist has never had a retrospective at a major public gallery in this country. Yet Hirst has fashioned an artistic identity that resembles an enduring corporate brand, with currency in auction rooms on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems appropriate, therefore, that the Tate should turn to him during an Olympic year, when Britain is courting the attention of the world, and finally offer to stage one. It should allow us to evaluate his strengths and failings as an artist, not a showman, and whether he deserves a place in the pantheon of artistic greats.

Lowry dominates British sales landscape

imageWill the Tate Britain finally give Lowry the exhibition he so richly deserves, asks Colin Gleadell.

Paintings and drawings by L S Lowry dominated last week’s sales of Modern British art. Of the 485 lots offered, only 33 were by Lowry, but they contributed precisely half of the total £40 million generated by the sales. As whispers begin to circulate that Tate Britain is finally to give Lowry the exhibition he so richly deserves, 14 works from the collection of the late Lord Forte at Christie’s sold for more than £18 million, with a painting of Piccadilly Circus equalling the record for Lowry at £5.6 million. Forte bought most of his Lowrys in the 1960s and 1970s, but added this to his collection in 1983 when the swashbuckling art dealer Roy Miles persuaded him he should have it because he had launched his first “milk bar” within a stone’s throw in Regent Street. Lord Forte, as he became in 1982, also owned the Café Royale in Regent Street, and the Criterion building and Lillywhite’s, from where Lowry’s view may have been painted.

Richard Green: Mayfair’s new temple to modern art

As Richard Green expands his London gallery empire, Colin Gleadell looks back at his remarkable rise to the top.


Tuesday sees the official opening of one of the most talked about art galleries in London. Bang next to Sotheby’s, above which it rises by a single, graceful story, the new Richard Green gallery looks as though it has been there for ever. That’s due to the skill of Young Architect of the Year contender George Saumarez Smith, who has effectively rebuilt two previously unremarkable buildings as one, and cloaked it with a magnificent neo-classical façade replete with a Hellenistic-style frieze that spans the width of the building.

Frank Stella interview: the bigger picture

imageFrank Stella has been at the forefront of abstract art for half a century. Ahead of an extensive retrospective in Britain, he talks about his work

If you are looking for clues to the character of Frank Stella, the Formula One racing car parked inside his vast studio in upstate New York is a giveaway. ‘Ferrari gave that to me,’ the American abstract artist tells me nonchalantly, hooking a Cuban cigar from an ashtray beside him. ‘It did race, but it doesn’t have a motor now, so it’s just for show.’

Stella has been probing the limits of painting for more than five decades. His love of fast cars, though, dates from the mid-1970s, when BMW gave him one in exchange for decorating a racing model that competed at Le Mans. Six years later, in 1982, he was arrested for hurtling at 105mph along a highway in New York State. But the supercar inside his studio in Rock Tavern is testament not only to the artist’s love of speed. Once driven by Michael Schumacher, it also represents the competitive streak that has blazed through Stella’s life.

Take tennis. When he was younger – before, he says, his hip and knees ‘gave way’ – he used to play for hours, several times a week. After a while, though, his friends stopped playing with him. The gallery director Lawrence Rubin, who gave Stella his second solo show, in Paris in 1961, once said, ‘He doesn’t play for the fun of playing. He plays to win. And that’s the way he plays art.’

Ford Madox Brown, Manchester Art Gallery, review

imageA new show captures the brilliance of Ford Madox Brown, says Richard Dorment

Ford Madox Brown is the odd man out among the Pre-Raphaelites. Born in 1821 to English parents in Calais, he learnt to paint in the academies at Antwerp, Ghent and Paris. But from the beginning Brown was a paid-up member of the awkward squad. He rejected the academic systems and conventions he’d been taught at these institutions in favour of the archaic purity of line he found in the work of the German Nazarene painters, and although he shared the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he never felt the need to became a member.

John Martin: Apocalypse, at Tate Britain, Seven magazine review

imageJohn Martin exposed the Victorians’ darkest fears – with devastating effect

To say the art of John Martin divided 19th-century critical opinion would be an understatement. Edward Bulwer Lytton declared him to be “the greatest, the most lofty, the most original genius of the age”. But Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought he was “a poor creature” who “looked at Nature through bits of stained glass, and was never satisfied with any appearance that was not prodigious”.

John Martin: Apocalypse, the most extensive exhibition of the painter’s work since his death in 1854, is an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. On this evidence, his genius is open to question but he was certainly a thunderously entertaining painter of death, destruction and doom.

National Gallery announces first major photography exhibition


The National Gallery have announced their 2012 exhibitions programme, with a photography retrospective among the blockbuster shows.

Will photographers ever truly rank among art history’s great masters? If that old debate has not yet been put to bed, it can be now.

Among the National Gallery’s three major paying exhibitions for next year are shows which will focus on Turner, Titian and photography respectively.

‘Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present’, which is slated to open in October, will showcase “exceptional examples” of early and contemporary photography in a display which will span 150 years of the medium.

Is Damien Hirst trying to influence the art market?

imageDespite his huge wealth, Damien Hirst is still obsessed with making his paintings pay.There is an old joke that the clue to contemporary art is in the name: it is a con, and it is temporary. Even those inured to the industry’s excesses, however, might have been surprised by a report at the weekend about Damien Hirst. Not apparently content with his £215 million fortune, the original Young British Artist has allegedly taken to “bullying” auction houses into refusing to sell prints individually, insisting that they should be sold only as a complete package.

The work in question was In a Spin, the Action of the World on Things, a 4ft by 3ft box covered in one of Hirst’s iconic spin paintings, which are created by a machine pouring paint on to a canvas. Inside each box (Hirst made 68 of them) are 23 signed prints of spin images.

Hay Festival Segovia – Anselm Kiefer: ‘The truth is always gray’

imageNot long ago Germany’s great conceptual artist Anselm Kiefer collided with the Golden Age of Castilian culture for a new series of works, which he named after a line from a sonnet by baroque poet Francisco de Quevedo. ‘I hold all Indias in my hand,’ is the line, taken from an achingly romantic sonnet, in which Quevedo describes holding a ring that bears the portrait of his beloved.

But Kiefer, a habitual forager of imagery and inspiration from great poets of the past, stole the line for some large, weathered and paint-spattered photographs which depict the artist’s tiny head just visible above surface of a choppy sea, as he appears ready to be enveloped by waves at any second.

Rothko in Britain: a timeline



A new show at the Whitechapel Gallery celebrates a landmark exhibition which would seal a special bond between the American painter Mark Rothko and his British contemporaries.


• Rothko sailed to Britain – he never flew – for a holiday with his wife and daughter Kate. It was his third time in Europe.

• He stayed with his close friend and painter William Scott – whom he had met in New York in 1953 – and his family in their cottage in Somerset.

• At lunch with British abstract painters Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost, Rothko expressed his frustration with his work being misunderstood. He said: “You think my paintings are calm, like windows in some cathedral? You should look again. I’m the most violent of all the American painters. Behind those colours there hides the final cataclysm.”

The British Design Awards

Vote for your favourites in this year’s competition, and you could win a £5,000 spree in John Lewis .


As the world stumbles from one economic crisis to another, the effects are felt far and wide. Over the course of the past year some of our favourite shops and designers have been faced with the incredibly difficult task of simply staying in business. Not everyone has been successful, but some have truly flourished.

That’s why the Telegraph Magazine is proud to be working with Elle Decoration to bring you its British Design Awards. Now in their 10th year, the awards are a celebration of the very best of British design over the past 12 months, an acknowledgement of the design industry’s true innovators. These are the people, the shops and the brands whose innovation and creativity has ensured that their appeal to an increasingly demanding consumer has endured.

Degas and the Ballet, review


Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement, Royal Academy of Arts, review
As this brilliant exhibition shows, Degas perfectly captured the whirling yet transient energy of dance, writes Alastair Sooke n February 1874, the French writer Edmond de Goncourt visited “a strange painter called Degas” in his studio. It proved a memorable occasion. Degas performed a kind of jig — a “choreographic sequence”, as Goncourt put it in his journal, based on the movements of ballerinas. The whole incident was “very amusing”, as Goncourt watched Degas “high on his points, his arms rounded, mixing the aesthetics of a dance master with those of a painter”.

Downton Abbey fever fuels bidding frenzy at Cowdray Park House auction

imageFamily heirlooms from Cowdray Park House fetched way over the estimated sale price today thanks to the public’s clamour for a take-away slice of the aristocracy, driven in part by the popularity of the ITV drama.

Christie’s auctioneers had thought the entire three-day sale would raise £5 million, but by the end of the first day today it had already taken £5.7 million.

Viscount Cowdray is putting 1,200 lots under the hammer at the auction of art, furniture and bric-a-brac where members of the public can pick up their own piece of country house history for as little as £50.

Support your local chapel

Our churches are a thrilling link with our past. And 10,000 will open their doors today .


If we have no sense of the past, our sense of the present is diminished. Of the many gateways to our past the churches and chapels of Britain offer the most profound insights. Grand houses and castles may be more impressive but the simple parish church usually outdates them all.

I live in a Sussex hamlet right under the Downs. There are some traces of old houses, but nothing earlier than the 16th century. Our church, on the other hand, dates back to the mid-13th century and probably before that. Our first rector, Gervase, was worshipping here in 1226.

Taking off the Mask

imageIt seems I haven’t written a personal essay in a very long time. My life has changed in subtle ways since my year-long essay-writing binge on this blog. I am consumed more than ever by my activities on the internet, with less time to let my mind “go blank” or empty itself.

Mostly, I am preoccupied with Escape into Life, the online arts journal I founded about a year ago. Working with programmers and designers, attracting writers and readers, and editing submissions on an almost daily basis wears me down. Some days I would just like to disappear from the online world.

Ben Nicholson’s northern period serves up a Middlesbrough treat

The Northerner’s art supremo, Alan Sykes, inspects mima’s latest exhibition with a learned Cumbrian eye


Ben Nicholson one of the pioneers of modernist painting in the UK, is generally associated with London and the St Ives School which he and his friend Kit Wood effectively founded.

However, Nicholson spent a significant part of his early development living with his first wife Winifred Nicholson at a family farm of her’s right on Hadrian’s Wall, not far from Carlisle, where they were visited by many other artists from their circle, including Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens and Jean Hugo.

Market News: Edinburgh Art Festival offers work from Scottish artists

Some of the shows have opened already, but officially the Edinburgh Art Festival – that’s for visual arts as opposed to the more famous one for performing arts, which has separate funding – begins on Thursday.


Richard Ingleby, one of the trustees, particularly welcomes the Scottish Government’s Expo funding this year, which has allowed the commissioning of works that will have a life in Edinburgh beyond the festival itself.

These include permanent works by two Scottish former Turner Prize winners – Martin Creed’s The Scotsman Steps, in which the artist has marbled each step of a historic public stairway in the city, and Richard Wright’s Stairwell Project, in which the artist has painted tiny organic shapes on the walls and ceiling of a stairwell in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Degas: the ascetic with an eye for the ladies

Degas had a unique genius for capturing the female form in motion. On the ever of a major new exhibition, Mark Hudson looks at the most enigmatic of the Impressionists.


Beyond the opulent facade of the Paris Opera, and the marbled entrance halls and salons, there is a warren of bleak corridors connecting the offices, rehearsal rooms and costume-makers’ workshops.

In the centre of this area, right behind the stage itself, lies a gilded chamber quite as splendid as anything in the theatre’s public areas: the so-called Foyer de la Danse. It was here, in the 19th century, that the abonnés, rich and powerful men whose status as “subscribers” gave them access to every area of the theatre, would come after performances to meet the dancers and proposition them.

Art and Design connection

imageAccording to one of its most general definitions, art is the product or the creative process of arranging elements (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the human senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a wide range of activities, creations, and modes of expression, including paintings, music, photography, literature, sculpture, and films. The definitions of art are explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics, and even disciplines such as history and psychology analyze its relationship with humanity.

The Chapman Brothers: Jake or Dinos Chapman at the White Cube, review

The brothers grim, Jake and Dinos Chapman, present the same old familiar shocks at the White Cube. Rating: * *


THE distinguished career of Dinos and Jake Chapman peaked in 2000 with the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Hell, a three- dimensional panoramic sculptural collage in which 10,000 toy Nazis and their skeletal assistants were shown gleefully engaged in mass extermination of their fellow men, women and children for the sheer fun of the thing. Soon after that coup de théâtre they came up with their glorious send-up of ethnographic art and The Chapman Family Collection and then they capped those two bullseyes with their inspired defacement of the 83 etchings in Goya’s Disasters of War.

Art exhibitions of 2011

2011 is going to be another year of unforgettable shows, says Richard Dorment.


As always, it’s at the British Museum we’ll see the kind of shows no other institution in this country does or could do. In March we see what in art amounts to a rare and endangered species — ancient and medieval objects from the National Museum in Kabul. After visitations from the Russians and the Taliban the most amazing thing about ‘Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World’ is that there was anything left to lend (March 30 July 3). In June lovers of bling everywhere should beat a path to the BM’s ‘Treasures of Heaven’, an exhibition of gem studded silver and gold Medieval and Renaissance reliquaries, many still containing a bit of the saint’s bone or splinter from the true cross (October 27- February 2012). Finally in the autumn the British Museum will stage a show of art so old that I wasn’t aware it existed — for the sculpture and drawings we’ll see in ‘Ice Age Art’ were made some 35,000 years ago. Beat that.

Devotion by Design, National Gallery / Treasures of Heaven, British Museum, review

Two new shows at the National Gallery and British Museum highlight the importance of religious paintings and relics, says Richard Dorment . Rating: Devotion by Design: image

Selected entirely from pictures in the permanent collection, the National Gallery’s exhibition of Italian 14th- and 15th-century altarpieces is so beautiful that it would be easy to miss the breathtaking audacity of the installation. Even if you feel you know these images well, to see them dramatically lit against dark walls and at the height they would have been hung in their original architectural setting is to see them as though for the first time.

An altarpiece is a specific kind of religious image because it was made to hang in a church where it served to create or intensify spiritual experience. To transfer an altarpiece to an art gallery is to change its meaning by shifting the viewer’s attention to questions of authorship, date, school and stylistic development.

We need a Toulouse-Lautrec to record our sleazy, hedonistic times

You may not have heard of Jane Avril, but you’ve probably seen her. A dancer at the Moulin Rouge, she was Toulouse-Lautrec’s favourite model; her orange-red hair and long, gangly legs pop up all over the place in his posters and paintings.


There she is, dancing the can-can at the Jardin de Paris, in the audience at the Divan Japonais (pictured) – two other Paris nightclubs – or knocking back absinthe at the Moulin Rouge.

All these pictures and posters have been brought together at a revealing exhibition, which has just opened at the Courtauld Gallery on the Strand (until September 18). Toulouse-Lautrec has been much loved in Britain since his first show here in 1894 – his posters still adorn a million student bedrooms and high street bistro walls – but there hasn’t been a show of his pictures in London for 20 years.

New heights for modern Czech art at landmark London sale

One sculpture of a man on a bicycle by Otakar Svec sold for seven times its higher estimate.

imagePrices for modern Czech art were going through the roof at Sotheby’s on Monday.

The auction of works from the Hascoe collection, which was previewed here last week, had doubled its £5 million pre-sale estimate mid way through the sale after landmark record prices were set for Frantisek Kupka (£1.5 million), Josef Capek (£565,250), Frantisek Foltyn (£433,250), and Bohumil Kubista (£397,250).

Government Art Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, review

A new exhibition gives the public a rare insight into the work – and works – of the Government Art Collection, says Richard Dorment.


In his best-seller Blink, Malcolm Gladwell made the point that human beings make up their minds about people, places and situations based on first impressions – and that these split-second judgments usually turn out to be right. The Government Art Collection (GAC) exists to create those first impressions. Established in 1935, its purpose is to ensure that the art on the walls of buildings the British government owns both at home and abroad is of the highest quality. Art tells the world who we are and the values we share – and anyone who doubts it should visit a foreign embassy or consulate where otherwise bare walls are adorned with the country’s national flag or a photograph of its supreme leader.

Modern art, not rubbish

imageArt is often a refuge for unwanted objects. From German artist H.A. Schult’s Trash People to Gustav Metzger’s waste paper sculptures, the line between art and rubbish is often fine.So much so that Anish Kapoor’s polystyrene, resin and cement sculptures was accidentally thrown out by waste disposal experts last year. Oh, and Damien Hirst who had an installation accidentally put in the rubbish bin in 2001 – though some would say that was justified.Laura White’s artworks are similarly constructed from rubbish.

Great expectations?

imageBig artists often badmouth their arts institutions… but rarely have I heard criticism for the college praising them too much.

But this is exactly what was reported today. Artists, including Royal College of Art success story Gavin Turk and Chelsea School of Art graduate Fiona MacDonald, are criticising art colleges for a ‘celebrity culture’  that they say makes students think they can make it, regardless of the credit crunch.

Does the Royal College of Art suffer from a celebrity culture?

The £30m Turner sale shows how all-powerful the Getty Museum is

imageTurner’s “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” deserves the £29.7m record price that the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles paid for it.
Not only does it show Turner’s soft, hazy, original brush working well. It’s also of a thumpingly familiar, picture postcard scene  – the view down from the Capitoline Hill across the ancient ruins of the Forum, then still called the Campo Vaccino, or cattle field, because of the thick layers of earth and vegetation that covered it after the fall of Rome. It’s still a pleasingly rural spot in Turner’s picture – with goats and peasants roaming the ruins, and very few tourists on mini-breaks.

Most famous and influential people in history

imageA friend sent me the link to this fascinating painting of famous people in history discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante.  It is from 2006, oil on canvas, by Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An.  You have to scroll to the right, and each figure is linked to their Wikipedia entry.

Who do you think is missing from the line-up?  Or who is there who should not be?

The Stubbs that ticks all the billionaire boxes

imageGimcrack on Newmarket Heath, by Stubbs, is about to go on sale at Christie’s, and is bound to go for more than £20m – a buyer has assured the auction house that they’ll pay at least that.

Even without that assurance, it was bound to go for a fortune. Not just because it is a supremely fine, supremely English picture, and an exceptional Stubbs, but also because it is pure modern billionaire art.

The most famous racehorse of the 18th century at the most famous flat racecourse of any century? There are any number of sporting billionaires who’d pay £20m for it. Racing may be called the Sport of Kings; but it is also the Sport of the Superzillionaire with cash to spare, from all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East and America.

Confession: I was in Sweden


I neglected to mention that I’ve been wandering around Stockholm since Saturday. My mum, AKA Grandma G, insists it’s not good practice to tell your thousands of daily readers that you’re not at home. Just in case one of them wants to figure out where you live and tries to steal your cool orange stapler.

But I’ve just returned! Details about my awesome trip to come. In the meantime, enjoy this delightful Stockholm print by Ian Winstanley, available for a mere $17.99 at

Republican art rules OK


The royal wedding will showcase Westminster Abbey, but it is under republics, not monarchies, that artists flourish the most The cultural heritage of the British monarchy is about to go on display all over the world as screens glow with the architectural and sculptural grandeur of Westminster Abbey. Founded in the 10th century, loaded with new marvels down the ages of which the most sublime is surely the chapel of Henry VII with its filigree fan vaulting, this royal abbey church is the best example anyone could ever adduce to support the contention that British culture is profoundly beholden to and involved in the regal tradition.

Art market news


A ceramic stripy cat was the surprise sale of the David Hockney auction last week.

The big surprise of Bonhams’ David Hockney sale last week was the discovery of an early ceramic of a well-fed, stripy cat, dated 1955, when the artist was an 18-year-old student in Bradford (see below). Paintings by Hockney from this period are rare; ceramics are virtually unheard of. So how does this cat add to our understanding of Hockney’s development as an artist? Is it evidence of a brief flirtation with craft over fine art studies? A remnant of his schoolboy facility for cartoons? Perhaps an early example of his fondness for decorative stripes? Bonhams offered no information about it apart from a tentative £5,000 to £7,000 estimate, which was duly hammered as it fetched a goodly £33,600 – enough to tempt more Hockney ceramics out of the woodwork, if there are any.

Vivian Maier: the nanny with a flair for photography


To those who knew her, Vivian Maier was a loving if eccentric nanny. But now this mysterious Mary Poppins figure has been exposed as a photographic great
Vivain Maier self portrait
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Dutch Landscapes in the Palace


The 17th century saw an astonishing upsurge of painting in the Netherlands. Alastair Sooke admires its earthy charm.

An exemplary exhibition: Meyndert Hobbema, A Watermill Beside a Woody Lane, 1665/8

Dutch Landscapes
Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Reading the crisp catalogue that accompanies the Royal Collection’s new exhibition offers a reminder that art from the Netherlands hasn’t always found favour in Britain. Horace Walpole, the 18th-century antiquarian and man of letters, deplored Dutch artists as “drudging Mimics of Nature’s most uncomely coarsenesses”. In a letter of 1779, he complained that they “thought a man vomiting a good joke; and would not have grudged a week on finishing a belch, if mere labour and patience could have compassed it”.

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