Matthew Dennison

‘Cassava with White Peacock Butterfly and young Golden Tegu’, 1702–3, by Maria Merian

The 17th century painter who hacked her way through Suriname in search of insects

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Maria Sibylla Merian was a game old bird of entrepreneurial bent, with an overwhelming obsession with insects. Born in Frankfurt…

Cecily Parsley makes cowslip wine, illustration from‘Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes’ by Beatrix Potter

The art of Beatrix Potter

12 December 2015 9:00 am

‘I will do something sooner or later,’ wrote Beatrix Potter in the secret diary she kept in a private code.…

‘Second Empire Renaissance’ (from Pillar to Post). ‘Its most notable feature was the mansard roof. However suitable this device may be on top of the Louvre, it altogether fails to produce an effect of inevitable rightness amid the less exalted surroundings of Victoria Station.’

Osbert Lancaster: a national treasure rediscovered

12 December 2015 9:00 am

True to his saw that ours is ‘a land of rugged individualists’, Osbert Lancaster, in his self-appointed role of popular…

‘The Wilderness, Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire’ by Balthasar Nebot

Why is the garden absent in English painting?

8 August 2015 9:00 am

One of the default settings of garden journalists is the adjective ‘painterly’ — applied to careful colour harmonies within a…

Colonel Blood: thief turned spy and Royal pensioner

23 May 2015 9:00 am

In the words of one of his contemporaries ‘a man of down look, lean-faced and full of pock holes’, the…

‘Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington’, 1829, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Wellington's PR machine

28 March 2015 9:00 am

The history of portraiture is festooned with images of sitters overwhelmed by dress, setting and the accoutrements of worldly success.…

Virtually identical in their languorous loucheness. Clockwise from top left: Louise de Kérouaille Barbara Palmer, Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn

The merry monarch and his mistresses; was sex for Charles II a dangerous distraction?

31 January 2015 9:00 am

In a tone of breezy bravado in keeping with their concept of their subject’s character, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh…

Elizabeth is about to become Britain’s longest-reigning queen. Here’s how she’s changed monarchy

3 January 2015 9:00 am

On 24 September 1896 Queen Victoria was given a present of a paper knife, and expressed herself ‘much delighted’. The…

‘Melting Snow at Wormingford’, 1962, by John Nash

Snow - art’s biggest challenge

13 December 2014 9:00 am

In owning a flock of artificial sheep, Joseph Farquharson must have been unusual among Highland lairds a century ago. His…

Fifty years of Inspector Wexford – and a new detective on the block

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Early on in The Girl Next Door, Ruth Rendell gives the reader a sharp nudge. ‘Colin Quell had very little…

You’ll never look at dried pasta in the same way again

12 July 2014 9:00 am

A calculated ordinariness unites the protagonists in Graham Swift’s new collection of short stories. In each of these mini fictions,…

Not quite romantic fiction, or literary fiction, or commercial fiction – but still quite good

14 June 2014 8:00 am

Elements of Raffaella Barker’s new novel, her eighth for adults, suggest commercial fiction: a narrative that oscillates between the aftermath…

Margaret Drabble tries to lose the plot

30 November 2013 9:00 am

Halfway through her new novel, Margaret Drabble tells us of Anna, the pure gold baby of the title, ‘There was…

The imitable Jeeves

2 November 2013 9:00 am

For as long as I can remember — I take neither pleasure nor pride in the admission — I have…