Martin Gayford

‘The Artist’s Wife Reading’ by Albert Bartholomé, 1883. From Books Do Furnish a Painting

Couldn’t artists let one read when sitting for them?

1 December 2018 9:00 am

The 20th-century painter Balthus once suggested that the author of a book about him began with the words: ‘Balthus is…

‘Flip Top’, 1962, by Richard Smith

In the 1960s the brightest star of British art was Richard Smith – and you can see why

24 November 2018 9:00 am

It is easy to assume that the contours of art history are unchanging, its major landmarks fixed for ever. Actually,…

‘Portrait of a Young Man with a Book’, c.1524–6, by Lorenzo Lotto

Lorenzo Lotto’s 16th century portraits come startlingly close to photography

17 November 2018 9:00 am

You can, perhaps, glimpse Lorenzo Lotto himself in the National Gallery’s marvellous exhibition, Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits. At the base of…

‘The Doom Fulfilled’, by Edward Burne-Jones, 1888

Like today’s conceptual artists, Burne-Jones was more interested in ideas than paint

10 November 2018 9:00 am

‘I want big things to do and vast spaces,’ Edward Burne-Jones wrote to his wife Georgiana in the 1870s. ‘And…

‘Children’s Games’,
1560, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Wonderful, overwhelming, once-in-a-lifetime display of Bruegels – get on a plane now

20 October 2018 9:00 am

‘About suffering’, W.H. Auden memorably argued in his poem ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, the old masters ‘were never wrong’. Great…

The ‘soul canoe’ from New Guinea is a sculpture as powerful as any by Brancusi

Full of fabulous, but baffling, things: Oceania reviewed

13 October 2018 9:00 am

At six in the morning of 20 July 1888, Robert Louis Stevenson first set eyes on a Pacific Island. As…

Black mirror: ‘20:50’, 1987, by Richard Wilson at the Hayward Gallery

There’s almost nothing in this Hayward show – and that’s the point

29 September 2018 9:00 am

A reflection on still water was perhaps the first picture that Homo sapiens ever encountered. The importance of mirrors in…

A bloody miracle: ‘Apollo and Marsyas’, 1637, by Jusepe de Ribera

The Spanish artist who is more gruesome even than Caravaggio

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Last year my wife and I were wandering around the backstreets of Salamanca when we were confronted by a minor…

‘The Paston Treasure’, detail of a little girl, unknown artist, Dutch School, c. 1663

A historical whodunnit that lets you into a forgotten world: The Paston Treasure reviewed

1 September 2018 9:00 am

In 1675 Lady Bedingfield wrote to Robert Paston, first Earl of Yarmouth. Never, she exclaimed, had she seen anything so…

‘The Acrobat Schulz V’ (1921), by Albert Birkle

Caricature, satire and over-the-top horror: Magic Realism at Tate Modern reviewed

25 August 2018 9:00 am

‘It is disastrous to name ourselves!’ So Willem de Kooning responded when some of his New York painter buddies elected…

Villa Tugendhat, Brno, Czech Republic

Modernist architecture only worked for the wealthy

4 August 2018 9:00 am

It was Le Corbusier who famously wrote that ‘A house is a machine for living in’ (‘Une maison est une…

Lee Bul’s ‘Monster: Pink’ (foreground) and ‘Crashing’ (background)

If you like monstrosities, head to the Hayward Gallery

21 July 2018 9:00 am

One area of life in which globalism certainly rules is that of contemporary art. Installation, performance, the doctrine of Marcel…

An artist of the floating world: Christo’s ‘Mastaba’ on the Serpentine Lake

Appealingly meaningless and improbable: Christo at the Serpentine Lake reviewed Plus: memorably pointless paintings at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

7 July 2018 9:00 am

It’s not a wrap. This is the first thing to note about the huge trapezoid thing that has appeared, apparently…

‘Self-portrait on the border between Mexico and the United States of America’, 1932, Frida Kahlo

How good a painter was Frida Kahlo?

30 June 2018 9:00 am

In 2004 Mexican art historians made a sensational discovery in Frida Kahlo’s bathroom. Inside this space, sealed since the 1950s,…

‘Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran. Two Victims of Capitalism’, 1923, by Otto Dix

Sorrow and pity are no guarantee of artistic success: Aftermath at Tate Britain reviewed

23 June 2018 9:00 am

Some disasters could not occur in this age of instant communication. The first world war is a case in point:…

Coloured proof from ‘English as She is Spoke’ by Pedro Carolino, 1960, by Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden is deservedly one of Britain’s most popular 20th century artists

9 June 2018 9:00 am

‘When I’m on good form,’ Edward Bawden told me, ‘I get to some point in the design and I laugh…

Extension of credit: the vaults, part of David Chipperfield’s redevelopment of the Royal Academy

How lucky we are to have the Royal Academy

26 May 2018 9:00 am

What is the Royal Academy? This question set me thinking as I wandered through the crowds that celebrated the opening…

What a relief: ‘Descent of the Ganges’ or ‘Arjuna’s Penance’, 7th century

India’s Sistine ceiling

19 May 2018 9:00 am

In Tamil Nadu we found that we were exotic. Although there were some other western tourists around, in most of…

‘The Orange Chair’, 1944, by Cedric Morris

The artist more fond of flowers and vegetables than people – and who can blame him

28 April 2018 9:00 am

I have occasionally mused that there is plenty of scope for a Tate East Anglia — a pendant on the…

‘Massive blue bowl’, 1991, by Gordon Baldwin

Why it’s bad for potters to think of themselves as artists

21 April 2018 9:00 am

A friend of mine once owned a vase by the potter Hans Coper — until, that is, her teenage son…

With Leonardo, improbable speculations are never-ending, The Da Vinci Code enthusiasts see the figure of St John (on the right in this detail of ‘The Last Supper’) as Mary Magdalene, hiding in plain sight

The codes and codswallop surrounding Leonardo da Vinci

14 April 2018 9:00 am

‘If you look at walls soiled with a variety of stains or at stones with variegated patterns,’ Leonardo da Vinci…

The Church at Vétheuil, 1878

The public are quite right to love Monet

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Think of the work of Claude Monet and water lilies come to mind, so do reflections in rippling rivers, and…

Moonlit Ravine, early 1970s, by John Craxton

Once seen as the coming force in British painting, John Craxton deserves another look

7 April 2018 9:00 am

In late April 1992, I was in Crete, interviewing the painter John Craxton. It was the week that Francis Bacon…

‘Majesty’, 2006, by Tacita Dean

Intelligent, poetic and profound: Tacita Dean at the National and National Portrait galleries

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Andy Warhol would probably have been surprised to learn that his 1964 film ‘Empire’ had given rise to an entire…

‘The Appearance’, 2018, by Eric Fischl

Surreal jokes and juicy strokes: Martin Gayford on the power of paint

17 March 2018 9:00 am

René Magritte was fond of jokes. There are several in René Magritte (Or: The Rule of Metaphor), a small but…