Painting

Dark masterpiece: ‘Two Figures’, 1953, by Francis Bacon

There is a jewel of a painting at Gagosian’s Francis Bacon show

15 June 2019 9:00 am

‘It is no easier to make a good painting,’ wrote Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, than it is…

Virtuosic exploration of paint: Frank Bowling at Tate Britain reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

‘The possibilities of paint,’ Frank Bowling has observed, ‘are endless.’ The superb career retrospective of his work at Tate Britain…

The stuff of nightmares: ‘The Five Firemen’, 1938, by Grace Pailthorpe

British surrealism at its most remarkable and nightmarish

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Holding the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936 was a coup for the British avant-garde, putting newbie surrealists such…

A mesmerising retrospective: Victoria Crowe at City Art Centre, Edinburgh, reviewed

25 May 2019 9:00 am

This mesmerising retrospective takes up three floors of the City Art Centre, moving in distinct stages from the reedy flanks…

The eyes have it: ‘The Zebra’, 1763, by George Stubbs

What makes British art British?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

There’s no avoiding the Britishness of British art. It hits me every time I walk outside and see dappled trees…

‘Landline Star’, 2017, Sean Scully

A beautiful exhibition of a magnificent painter: Sean Scully at the National Gallery reviewed

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Sean Scully once told me about his early days as a plasterer’s mate. At the age of 17 he was…

‘Head by Head’, 1905, by Edvard Munch

Absorbing – a masterclass in print-making: Edvard Munch at the British Museum reviewed

13 April 2019 9:00 am

An eyewitness described Edvard Munch supervising the print of a colour lithograph in 1896. He stood in front of the…

Why were the Victorians so obsessed with the moon?

6 April 2019 9:00 am

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a group of slightly ramshackle workmen decide to put on a play. The play…

‘Scenes from the Passion: The Hawthorne Tree’, 2001, by George Shaw

The joy of George Shaw’s miserable paintings of a Coventry council estate

30 March 2019 9:00 am

All good narrative painting contains an element of allegory, but most artists don’t go looking for it on a Coventry…

Full of lovely paintings that might lead you astray: The Renaissance Nude reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Early in the 16th century, Fra Bartolomeo painted an altarpiece of St Sebastian for the church of San Marco in…

Soft cell: ‘Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202’, 1970–73, by Dorothea Tanning

Wicked, humorous and high-spirited: Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern reviewed

16 March 2019 9:00 am

Art movements come and go but surrealism, in one form or another, has always been with us. Centuries before Freud’s…

‘Afternoon at the Beach in Valencia’, 1904, by Joaquin Sorolla

Enjoy a blast of Spanish sun from Joaquin Sorolla

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Artists can be trained, but they are formed by their earliest impressions: a child of five may not be able…

A great example of how Radio 4 is using new technologies to enhance audio

9 March 2019 9:00 am

‘It’s too familiar, too obvious,’ says Cathy FitzGerald at the beginning of her new interactive series for Radio 4, Moving…

The first great English artist – the life and art of Nicholas Hilliard

23 February 2019 9:00 am

When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left a religiously divided country to a young iconoclast who erased a large…

‘The Fisherman’s Cottage’, 1906, by Harald Sohlberg

If you’re tired of hygge then you’ll like Harald Sohlberg

23 February 2019 9:00 am

If you’re tired of hygge then you’ll like Harald Sohlberg. The Norwegian painter  eschewed the cosy fireside for the great…

‘St Paul from Bevin Court’, 1961, by Cyril Mann

The exceptional romantic cityscapes of Cyril Mann

9 February 2019 9:00 am

The little-known painter Cyril Mann (1911-80) saw a lot from his council-flat window. Beyond the parks and trees and red-brick…

‘Tristan’s Ascension’, 2005, by Bill Viola

The odd couple: Bill Viola / Michelangelo at the RA reviewed

2 February 2019 9:00 am

The joint exhibition of Michelangelo Buonarroti and Bill Viola at the Royal Academy is, at first glance, an extremely improbable…

Immaterial world: ‘The Table’, 1925, by Pierre Bonnard

Was Pierre Bonnard any good?

26 January 2019 9:00 am

An attendant at an art gallery in France once apprehended a little old vandal, or so the story goes. He…

‘March’, 1939, by Grant Wood

The joy of prints

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Artists’ prints have been around for almost as long as the printed book. Indeed, they have similar origins in Gutenberg’s…

‘The Artist with his Wife Margaret and Eldest Daughter Mary’, c.1748, by Thomas Gainsborough

It’s hard to think of finer images of children than Gainsborough’s

12 January 2019 9:00 am

When he knew that he was dying, Thomas Gainsborough selected an unfinished painting from some years before and set it…

‘The Nativity’, 1470–75, by Piero della Francesca

The fascinating story behind one of the best-loved depictions of the Nativity

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In the early 1370s an elderly Scandinavian woman living in Rome had a vision of the Nativity. Her name was…

Charles J. Tebbutt at Littleport, January 1893, unknown photographer

A short history of ice skating

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In landscape terms, the Fens don’t have much going for them. What you can say for them, though, is that…

Apollo 8 on its launch pad in December 1968. Photo: AP / REX / Shutterstock

Remembering the 1968 Apollo mission – when the world was reaching to the future rather than drawing in

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Take yourself back to (or try to imagine) Christmas 1968; a year full of disturbances, dashed hopes and extreme violence…

It’s Christmas. You don’t want Götterdämmerung. You want a waltz-operetta

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Grade: A– 1898: two Parisiennes and a housemaid secretly invite each other’s partners to the Paris Opera ball and… c’mon,…

‘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,…