visual art

‘Regent’s Park Zoo’, 1930, by Arnrid Banniza Johnston

The forgotten history of the Tube’s ‘poster girls’

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Every weekday, I travel by Tube to The Spectator’s office, staring at the posters plastered all over the walls. I…

The old ways

28 October 2017 9:00 am

I’m sitting across a café table from a young man with a sheaf of drawings that have an archive look…

‘The First Days of Spring’, 1929, by Salvador Dalí

It’s the thought that counts

21 October 2017 9:00 am

During a panel discussion in 1949, Frank Lloyd Wright made an undiplomatic comment about Marcel Duchamp’s celebrated picture of 1912,…

The Factory (image: OMA/Factory)

The Bilbao effect

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Twenty years ago I wrote of the otherwise slaveringly praised Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao: I’m in a minority of, apparently,…

Moving pictures: ‘Achaean’, 1981, by Bridget Riley

Snap, crackle and op

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Stand in front of ‘Fall’, a painting by Bridget Riley from 1963, and the world begins to quiver and dissolve.…

Matisse’s ‘Still Life with Shell’ (1940) with his beloved chocolate pot, top left

Object lesson

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Why did Henri Matisse not play chess? It’s a question, perhaps, that few have ever pondered. Yet the great artist…

True or false? The Temple of Bel, Palmyra, before and after its destruction at the hands of Islamic State

Why confront the ugly lie of Islamic State with a tacky fake?

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Can the beauty of Palmyra be reproduced by data-driven robots? Stephen Bayley on copies, fakes and forgeries

‘Oh god, ma tutto occupato’ (Ach herrje, ma tutto occupato), 2016, by Georg Baselitz

As he approaches 80, the German master Georg Baselitz contemplates the end

21 May 2016 9:00 am

‘In many ways,’ Georg Baselitz muses, ‘I behaved against the grain of the times I grew up in.’ The era…

Cartoon for St Luke, Chichester Cathedral Tapestry, 1965, by John Piper

The shimmering, restless, groovy fabrics of John Piper

21 May 2016 9:00 am

A story John Piper liked to tell — and the one most told about him — is of a morning…

Satirical diptych, 1520–1530, anonymous Flemish artist

This Parisian exhibition has rewritten the story of art

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Why do we put one work of art beside another? For the most part museums and galleries tend to stick…

Wooden model of a brewing and baking workshop, Egypt, c.2000 bc, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Ancient Egypt’s obsession with death was in fact a preoccupation with life

2 April 2016 9:00 am

The Fitzwilliam Museum is marking its bicentenary with an exhibition that takes its title from Agatha Christie: Death on the…

‘Venus’, 1490s, by Sandro Botticelli

V&A's Botticelli Reimagined has too many desperate pretenders

5 March 2016 9:00 am

When Tom Birkin, hero of J.L. Carr’s novel A Month in the Country, wakes from sleeping in the sun, it…

‘Portrait of a Young Man’ by Giorgione

Renaissance master? Rascal? Thief? In search of Giorgione

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Question-marks over attribution are at the heart of a forthcoming Giorgione exhibition. Martin Gayford sifts through the evidence

‘Untitled (Oxidation Painting)’, 1978, by Andy Warhol

Warhol the traditionalist: the Ashmolean Museum show reviewed

6 February 2016 9:00 am

When asked the question ‘What is art?’, Andy Warhol gave a characteristically flip answer (‘Isn’t that a guy’s name?’). On…

About strange lands and people: ‘Midsummer Eve Bonfire’, after c.1917, by Nikolai Astrup

Nikolai Astrup - Norway’s other great painter

30 January 2016 9:00 am

The Norwegian artist Nikolai Astrup has been unjustly overshadowed by Edvard Munch. But that is about to change, says Claudia Massie

‘Nympheas (Waterlilies)’, 1914–15, by Claude Monet

The link between herbaceous borders and the avant-garde

30 January 2016 9:00 am

Philip Larkin once remarked that Art Tatum, a jazz musician given to ornate, multi-noted flourishes on the keyboard, reminded him…

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

Her best illustrations — limpid, ethereal, carefully observed — are masterly works of art in their own right, argues Matthew Dennison

‘Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman’ or ‘The Music Lesson’, 1662–5, by Vermeer

Artistic taste is inversely proportional to political nous

28 November 2015 9:00 am

‘Wherever the British settle, wherever they colonize,’ observed the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, ‘they carry and will ever carry trial…

Power tool: Elisabeth Frink carving ‘Dorset Martyrs’, c.1985

The work of Elisabeth Frink is ripe for a renaissance

21 November 2015 9:00 am

In a converted barn in Dorset, not far from the rural studio where she made many of her greatest sculptures,…

Alexander Calder: the man who made abstract art fly

14 November 2015 9:00 am

One day, in October 1930, Alexander Calder visited the great abstract painter Piet Mondrian in his apartment in Paris. The…

Why I find women-only exhibitions depressing

29 October 2015 9:00 am

Modern Scottish Men, a new exhibition celebrating the achievements of male artists in the 20th century, opens next month in…

Repetitive but compelling: Giacometti at the National Portrait Gallery reviewed

24 October 2015 9:00 am

One day in 1938 Alberto Giacometti saw a marvellous sight on his bedroom ceiling. It was ‘a thread like a…

What is it about Bill Viola’s films that reduce grown-ups to tears?

17 October 2015 8:00 am

What is it about Bill Viola's films that reduce grown-ups to tears? William Cook dries his eyes and talks to the video artist about Zen, loss and nearly drowning

Why did Goya’s sitters put up with his brutal honesty?

10 October 2015 9:00 am

Sometimes, contrary to a widespread suspicion, critics do get it right. On 17 August, 1798 an anonymous contributor to the…

‘Dead Rabbit’, 1962, by Dennis Creffield

On the frontiers of figuration, abstraction and total immateriality

3 October 2015 8:00 am

The artist, according to Walter Sickert, ‘is he who can take a piece of flint and wring out of it…