Vandal or genius

‘A wall is a very big weapon. It is one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.’ BANKSY is an agitator, and the wall is perfect for his message. Unavoidable, and literally in your face. He is a self-made enigma. His anonymity is a weapon. It protects him from prosecution for criminal damage for ‘defacing’ walls. And from being pestered. He is a contradiction, an anti-establishment artist who despises the art world, yet who uses it when convenient. ‘Art Read More

Toulouse Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) was an artist at ease with the demi-monde he frequented: the world of the night, of prostitutes, absinthe drinkers and can-can dancers. Eventually it would kill him. He died of syphilis and alcoholism. ‘His paintings were almost entirely painted in absinthe,’ remarked his contemporary Gustav Moreau. But he was not at ease with himself. He was mocked for his height. He was a mere four feet, eight inches (through a genetic condition – the result of Read More

Frans Hals

‘Frans Hals is a colourist among the colourists, a colourist like Veronese, like Rubens, like Delacroix, like Velázquez… But – tell me – black and white, may one use them or not? Are they forbidden fruit? I think not. Frans Hals must have had twenty-seven blacks.’  [Van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, 1885] Pure Impressionism shunned black. Van Gogh did not. Black is not uniform. Stand before a portrait by FRANS HALS (1582–1666) of a finely dressed gent and Read More

Rothko

MARK ROTHKO: A deceptive stillness ‘I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom…. there is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.’ MARK ROTHKO (born Marcus Rothkovitch in Latvia, 1903) brought something new to the post-war Abstract Expressionist school – emotion. He spent a lifetime exploring the limitless possibilities of layering expressive coloured rectangles onto fields of compatible colour (the result became known as Colour Field Painting). He took up painting in New York Read More

Renoir

‘To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is, without creating still more of them.’  Pierre-Auguste Renoir To enjoy RENOIR you don’t need to know about the science or artifice behind those dappled scenes of bathers or revellers. They were painted for his pleasure, and yours. Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) is the essence of Renoir. It combines figures – portraits of his Read More

Mondrian

‘Mondrian realizes the importance of line. The line has almost become a work of art in itself… Each superfluous line, each wrongly placed line, any colour placed without veneration or care, can spoil everything – that is, the spiritual.’ Theo van Doesburg (1915) The art of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is precise, austere even. ‘Curves are so emotional,’ he said. He wanted ‘nothing specific, nothing human’ in his art. The compositions of his mature period use only black, white and primary Read More

Cabarets

The Belle Époque in France was the exotic epoch between the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and the Great War of 1914. It witnessed a cultural explosion – Impressionism, Zola, the Ballets Russes, the Eiffel Tower, the Paris métro, the Paris Opéra and the Moulin Rouge. It was here that Toulouse-Lautrec, all four foot of him, drank absinthe (hidden in his cane), talked and loved and sketched the demi-monde – that eclectic classless mix of pimps and pansies, artists and aristos. Read More

Paul Klee

There is no ‘school’ of Klee, he is unique. His art should ‘be read like poems, or listened to like pieces of music’ wrote the critic Georg Schmidt. They can be appreciated for their sound, and for their pure visual appeal; but also for the theory that lies behind. They are based on a ‘perfectly definite melody of colour’ and form. Klee loved Bach and Mozart, and his art mirrored the fusion of these two masters, the fusion of ‘art Read More

Queen Elizabeth II

HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II (1926-2022) The late QUEEN ELIZABETH II was not born to rule. Her father, the stammering, diffident Duke of York was thrust on the throne as George VI when his elder brother Edward VIII chose Wallis Simpson over duty, and abdicated in 1936. It was just as well for the nation. Edward’s sympathy for Hitler was apparent, particularly to the PM Stanley Baldwin, whose subtle machinations speeded Edward’s exit. George was a good king and good Read More

King Charles III

A KING FOR OUR TIME KING CHARLES III did not waste his time as Prince of Wales, as a king in waiting – unlike the Duke of Windsor or Edward VII who both, when heir to the throne, abused their position to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh or racetrack. King Charles is an authority on architecture, horticulture, organic farming and history; he can fly a plane, sail, is an expert rider, climber, fisherman and shot, and a fine Read More