PAUL CÉZANNE (1839-1906): Father of Modern Art ‘I point the way. Others will come after.’ The Post-Impressionist Cézanne was, according to Picasso, ‘the father of us all – my one and only master!’ Braque’s revolutionary Cubist painting Houses at l’Estaque (1908) owes everything to Cézanne. The critic who coined the term ‘Cubism’ was being rude when he wrote that Braque ‘reduced everything, places and figures and houses, to geometric schemes, to cubes.’ But it was essentially what Cézanne invented: the Read More

Mean Streets and Murder

FILM NOIR ‘I have done many pictures which I suppose are film noir. And I can see the roots of that in Citizen Kane… but I couldn’t define it for you, then or now.’ Robert Wise, director of noir classics like Born to Kill (1947) and The Set-Up (1949), was wary of a definition, perhaps because film noir encompasses many genres from private eye thrillers – like perhaps the first noir, Huston’s ‘depraved’ (LA Times) The Maltese Falcon, 1941 –  to erotic Read More


ALFRED HITCHCOCK (1899-1980), Master of Suspense Hitchcock knew how to manipulate: ‘I enjoy playing the audience like a piano,’ he admitted. ‘There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it…’ He recognised that ‘everybody likes to be scared. Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the Big Bad Wolf.’ And he knew how to scare. Through anticipation, tension. And through the unexpected, as in Psycho (1960), perhaps his most original film. Rope (1948), made Read More

Sherlock Holmes

WHAT SORT OF MAN WAS HOLMES? SHERLOCK HOLMES (b. 1854), a consulting detective, first appeared in A Study in Scarlet (1887), for which its author received £25. Holmes’s fame spread through short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia in 1891. The oeuvre continued until 1927, spanning four books and 56 short stories, most narrated by Holmes’s friend and biographer Dr John H Watson, who shared lodgings with him at 221B Baker Street in London, where Read More

New York

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, it’s a helluva town! I thought so too when I arrived in 1964 on the Queen Mary to see the World’s Fair. First impressions were of size. Steaks, cars, skyscrapers… all huge. The World’s Fair, a paean to consumerism, was no different. The Illinois pavilion had a huge robotic Abraham Lincoln who sat in an armchair and then actually rose and spoke – a five-minute medley of his speeches. Disney created it. There was stirring music. Read More

Propaganda – Campaign Posters

THE ART OF PERSUASION How far can ELECTION POSTERS go in demonising the opposition? In 1999, a UK poster featured Tony Blair with the caption BLIAR in lurid yellow. Strong meat in decorous Britain. Yet pallid compared to US politics. In 1856 the (newly formed) Republicans depicted the Democrats’ candidate, James Buchanan, as a jackass. ‘A true likeness’ the text said and added ‘P.S. Jimmy, you cannot win!’ Wrong. In the US 1828 election, handbills accused the Democrat Andrew Jackson, the hero Read More

Austria – Classic Travel Art

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF AUSTRIA Austria’s history is rich and complex. Tiny (the size of Maine, with a population of 9 million) compared to her powerful neighbours, she has inevitably looked warily east towards Russia and west towards Germany. The Anschluss of 1938, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, though popular with most Austrians at the time, was a calamity. The union of German speaking peoples had been a utopian dream but Hitler, albeit Austrian, brought merely destruction. Read More

Women Artists

WOMEN AND ART ‘In the past a father would have died rather than let his daughter look upon a naked man’. So wrote Virginia Woolf in an introduction to her sister Vanessa Bell’s (1879-1961) paintings. In 1860, Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916), a student in Ingres’ studio, noted: ‘The severity of Monsieur Ingres frightened me… He would assign to [women] only the painting of flowers, of fruits, of still lifes…’ Bracquemond was fortunate – most women were excluded from academic training. The Read More

Ski Art

EARLY SKIING The British thirst for desolate places. They fell in love with Arabia. And at the other end of the climatic scale they fell in love with the Alps. It was like the Lake District but more dramatic, and with more snow. The British invented climbing the Alps for fun in the late 19C, and skiing as a sport after WWI, although the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes started the business by inventing ski troops, zooming down mountains with guns. Read More

Beautiful National Parks

FOREVER WILD The National Parks of America ‘Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals…we are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.’ TEDDY ROOSEVELT The great hero of American conservationism is Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in 1901, following the shooting and death of President McKinley. President Roosevelt extended protection of Read More