Onion Turrets, IvoryTowers, Imperial Cupolas

Please lock me away...... Danae was sent to the tower to protect her virtue;  in an ivory tower intellectuals are supposed to argue over how many angels one can fit on the head of a pin; and those searching for a bit of unworldly peace to write that novel, scan their slides, write a song... Continue Reading →

The Formal Nude

It occurred to me one afternoon in Paris what made some female nudes shocking - it depends on what they are wearing, or, on their hair. The occasion was the Felix Vallatton exhibition in January. The artist was perhaps best known for his curious conversation pieces of couples in which the title added an unsettling... Continue Reading →


" Nature, red in tooth and claw", these lines by Tennyson describe man's primeval fear of nature. The jellyfish has neither tooth nor claw, it is not even a fish, but it is a pretty terrifying beast all the same: all are painful stingers, many are deadly.  Alluding to the creatures' agonising tentacles as well... Continue Reading →

Rare Ribs

There is an exhibition at the British Museum,  Ice Age Art,  Arrival of the Modern Mind. The exhibits, mostly sculpture from the very dawn of art 40,000 years ago fall mainly into two groups:  realistic animals, and female figures. The former would appear to have been closely observed and carved by the hunters themselves; the... Continue Reading →


I have just finished the first biography I have ever read of a photographer, the Canadian Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)*. So well known in the immediate post-war period that to have one's portrait taken by him was referred to as being 'Karshed'. He was an émigrée from Armenia, a survivor of the genocide of 1915. Although... Continue Reading →

Fact and Phantasm

Do artists still work from poetry? In the past it was common for a painter to be inspired by the poets, but is there poetry in Hirst's 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (AKA The Pickled Shark) ? I ask this as I have just finished a biography of Samuel... Continue Reading →


 I was on my annual visit to the Bologna Art Fair  recently and I thought if I see another art work titled "Untitled" then I am going to go on a visual strike and just not pay any more attention to the art work. This diatribe of mine was triggered by seeing a photograph on... Continue Reading →

Musing on the Muse

I am reading about Suzanne Valadon, a fine artist in her own right but unfortunately for her usually best known for being the wayward mother of Maurice Utrillo and  muse (and often lover) to artists more famous than herself: Lautrec, Renoir, Degas and Modigliani and the composer Satie. This  set me musing on the muse.... Continue Reading →

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