Honor Clerk

Drawing from the deck: superb sketches by sailors

18 May 2019 9:00 am

Working in the Public Record Office some years ago, I ordered up the logbook of the badly damaged HMS Scylla…

Henri-Charles-Ferdinand of Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and his sister Louise-Marie-Therèse of Artois at the Tuileries, by Louis Hersent (1777–1860)

How any mother — or baby — survived childbirth before the 20th century is astonishing

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Between 1300 and 1900 few things were more dangerous than giving birth. For poor and rich, the mortality rate was…

Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet by William Blake, c.1805

A feast for foot fetishists

18 August 2018 9:00 am

It is always interesting to see what art historians get up to when none of the rest of us is…

Pathos and humanity in pictures of abject misery

21 April 2018 9:00 am

In 1971 the late Linda Nochlin burst onto the public scene with her groundbreaking essay, ‘Why Have There Been No…

Who could underestimate the experience of witnessing ‘Inside Australia’ at dawn or dusk?

The subtle magic of Antony Gormley wraps the world

27 January 2018 9:00 am

Martin Caiger-Smith’s huge monograph on Antony Gormley slides out of its slipcase appropriately enough like a block of cast iron.…

Portrait of Gabrielle Renard and Jean Renoir. Gabrielle was an important part of the Renoir household, both as nanny and artist’s model

August Auguste

7 October 2017 9:00 am

In 1959 the formidable interviewer John Freeman took the Face to Face crew to the 81-year-old Augustus John’s studio. The…

What narrative can be teased out of Gustave Caillebotte’s ‘The Bridge of Europe’?

The art critic who loved to provoke the Establishment

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Richard Dorment doesn’t do whimsy. Or Stanley Spencer. He’s a fan of Cy Twombly and Brice Marden, Gilbert and George…

‘Beachy Head’ by Eric Ravilious

Let there be light

2 April 2016 9:00 am

There has been extraordinarily little bright sunlight in the far northwest corner of Britain over the past year. Damp, drizzling…

Self-portrait at the spinet by Lavinia Fontana, 1578 and ‘Birthday’ by Dorothea Tanning, 1942

Sexy selfies through the ages

26 March 2016 9:00 am

At nearly eight foot high and five foot wide, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s portrait of herself with two of her students is…

Velázquez’s portrait of his Moorish assistant Juan de Pareja. The glorious lace collar would surely have fallen foul of Spain’s sumptuary laws

Velázquez’s vanishing act

2 January 2016 9:00 am

This is an extraordinary story. In 1845 John Snare, an unremarkable Reading bookseller, goes to an auction in a defunct…

Rory McEwen: man of many talents — and among the greatest of all flower painters

25 July 2015 9:00 am

It seems odd that a singer, musician, television performer and sculptor who typified the 1960s as vividly as Rory McEwen…

A John Craske painting from the Sylvia Townsend Warner Collection

The self-taught maritime artist who transcends ‘naïve’ cliché

4 April 2015 9:00 am

In the manner of Richard Holmes’s Footsteps, Julia Blackburn’s story of John Craske is as much autobiography as biography, as…

Filippino Lippi’s fresco of St Peter being freed from prison by an angel

The hidden history of one of the greatest treasures of the early Renaissance: Florence’s Brancacci chapel

10 January 2015 9:00 am

In 1439 Abraham of Souzdal, a Russian bishop visiting Florence, was in the audience in Santa Maria del Carmine for…

Ali Smith's How to be Both: warm, funny, subtle, intelligent – and baffling

30 August 2014 9:00 am

Pity the poor art historian writing a survey of painters from Giotto to, say, Poussin. In order to produce a…

Detail of St Christopher, 15th century, Church of St Botolph, Slapton, Northants

Wonders written on the wall

19 April 2014 9:00 am

‘Take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines … pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry…

'Marcia painting her self-portrait’; detail from Boccaccio’s On Famous Women (1402)

The selfie from Akhenaten to Tracey Emin

22 March 2014 9:00 am

If ever there was a time to write a book about self-portraits, this must be it.  ‘Past interest in the…

Weaving Scotland's history

14 December 2013 9:00 am

A couple of years ago, while tracking down paintings for the Public Catalogue Foundation in the far north of Scotland,…

How to avoid bankers in your nativity scene

19 October 2013 9:00 am

In the vast Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore between Siena and Rome, the cycle of frescoes depicting the life…

Seaweeds, by Ole G. Mouritsen - review

13 July 2013 9:00 am

On 14 April each year, nori fishermen gather on a hillside overlooking Ariake Bay on Kyushu in southern Japan to…