tue 25/06/2019

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a cut above

Katherine Waters

Under a turbulent sky racked with jagged clouds suggesting bolts of lightning, pale figures hurl themselves into a spitting expanse of water. Swathed in white towels, other figures mingle with the pink bodies, seeming to process along the pier as if towards a baptism. Swimmers’ vigorous arms overtop their submerged heads; on land, no individual face is distinguished. As if exuberance could tip at any time into anarchy, a sense of threat pervades the depiction of communal leisure.

The Best Exhibitions in London


 Frank Bowling, Tate Britain ★★★★★ Major retrospective of one of the greatest painters alive today. Until 26 August

Francis Bacon: Couplings, Gagosian Gallery review...

Florence Hallett

Forthright and often disturbing, Francis Bacon’s “male couplings” are also ambiguous, and it is this disjunction that gives them their power. Erotic...

Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery review – a...

Sarah Kent

Kiss My Genders may not claim to be a survey, yet it seems perverse to mount an exhibition of work by LGBTQ artists who address issues of gender...

Edouard Vuillard: The Poetry of the Everyday,...

Marina Vaizey

A beguiling collection of small paintings by Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) forms an exhibition from his early career. It is a vanished world of...

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain review - a marvel

Katherine Waters

Major retrospective of one of the greatest painters alive today

Natalia Goncharova, Tate Modern review - a prodigious talent

Sarah Kent

Russian painter is overwhelming in her range and diversity

Lee Krasner: Living Colour, Barbican review - jaw-droppingly good

Sarah Kent

Eclipsed by her famous husband, a painter finally gets her due

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, The Queen's Gallery review - peerless drawings, rarely seen

Florence Hallett

Drawing was the language of thought for the greatest of Renaissance artists

Manga, British Museum review - stories for outsiders

Katherine Waters

Enormous exhibition on the Japanese art of graphic stories

Anish Kapoor, Lisson Gallery review - naïve vulgarity and otherworldly onyx

Katherine Waters

Duds and gems in mixed show of paintings and sculptures

58th Venice Biennale review - confrontational, controversial, principled

Katherine Waters

Forcefully curated biennale which can overwhelm artists, sometimes purposefully

Cathy Wilkes, British Pavilion, Venice Biennale review - poetic and personal

Katherine Waters

Deeply personal sculptural installation muses on different generations of women and passing time

Fetes and Kermesses in the Time of the Brueghels, Musée de Flandre review - all the fun of the fair

Mark Sheerin

Bruegel's heirs star in a low key but revelatory exhibition in the Flemish countryside

Henry Moore at Houghton Hall: Nature and Inspiration review - big views bring new light

Florence Hallett

Works by the British sculptor find new avenues in a superb Norfolk setting

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to Celebrate Brighton Festival!


An eclectic line-up spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, comedy, literature and spoken word could be yours with boutique hotel and exquisite meals included

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, Design Museum review - immersive detail

Tom Birchenough

Concentrated archive show reveals the prodigious ferment of a film imagination

First Person: Robert Hollingworth on I Fagiolini's 'Leonardo - Shaping the Invisible'

Robert Hollingworth

Images reflected in music 500 years after the ultimate Renaissance man's death

Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light, National Gallery review - a national treasure comes to London

Marina Vaizey

A comprehensive introduction to a little known painter

Who’s Afraid of Drawing? Works on Paper from the Ramo Collection, Estorick Collection review - surprising and rewarding

Katherine Waters

Getting up close to the skin of an artist's thinking

Sea Star: Sean Scully, National Gallery review - analysing past masters

Florence Hallett

The latest encounter between a living artist and the national collection

Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now, Gagosian Gallery review - old master, new ways

Florence Hallett

One of the most mysterious paintings ever made inspires an exploration of the self-portrait

Edvard Munch: Love and Angst, British Museum review - compassion in the age of anxiety

Florence Hallett

Norway's greatest painter revealed as a master printmaker

Mary Quant, Victoria & Albert Museum review - quantities of Quant

Katherine Waters

The triumph of commerce over snobbery

Pitzhanger Manor review - letting the light back in

Katherine Waters

Restoration of Soane’s country house spells out a legacy of success and ruin

At Eternity's Gate review - Willem Dafoe excels in hyperactive biopic

Matt Wolf

Willem Dafoe's Oscar nod as Vincent Van Gogh was well-deserved

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain review - tenuous but still persuasive

Florence Hallett

The artist's London years provide an insight into his inner life

Mike Nelson, The Asset Strippers, Tate Britain review – exhilarating reminder of industrial might

Sarah Kent

A stirring elegy to Britain's industrial past

Only Human: Martin Parr, National Portrait Gallery review - relentlessly feelgood

Marina Vaizey

Passing shadows across Brexit Britain

Footnote: A brief history of british art

The National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Collection - Britain's art galleries and museums are world-renowned, not only for the finest of British visual arts but core collections of antiquities and artworks from great world civilisations.

Holbein_Ambasssadors_1533The glory of British medieval art lay first in her magnificent cathedrals and manuscripts, but kings, aristocrats, scientists and explorers became the vital forces in British art, commissioning Holbein or Gainsborough portraits, founding museums of science or photography, or building palatial country mansions where architecture, craft and art united in a luxuriously cultured way of life (pictured, Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533 © National Gallery). A rich physician Sir Hans Sloane launched the British Museum with his collection in 1753, and private collections were the basis in the 19th century for the National Gallery, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the original Tate gallery and the Wallace Collections.

British art tendencies have long passionately divided between romantic abstraction and a deep-rooted love of narrative and reality. While 19th-century movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian Gothic architects paid homage to decorative medieval traditions, individualists such as George Stubbs, William Hogarth, John Constable, J M W Turner and William Blake were radicals in their time.

In the 20th century sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, architects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers embody the contrasts between fantasy and observation. More recently another key patron, Charles Saatchi, championed the sensational Britart conceptual art explosion, typified by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The Arts Desk reviews all the major exhibitions of art and photography as well as interviewing leading creative figures in depth about their careers and working practices. Our writers include Fisun Guner, Judith Flanders, Sarah Kent, Mark Hudson, Sue Steward and Josh Spero.

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