sat 13/07/2024

Visual Arts Features

Best of 2015: Art

theartsdesk

From weaselly shyster to spineless drip, the biographies of Goya’s subjects are often superfluous: exactly what he thought of each of his subjects is jaw-droppingly evident in each and every portrait he painted. Quite how Goya got away with it is a question that will continue to exercise his admirers indefinitely, but it is testament to his laser-like insight that he flattered his subjects enough that they either forgave or didn’t notice his damning condemnations in paint.

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Yuletide Scenes: Giotto's Nativity

Jasper Rees

Some time in the late 1280s, the artist Cimabue was wandering in the Tuscan countryside when he chanced upon a boy shepherd.

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Yuletide Scenes: Ben Nicholson's Christmas Night, 1930

Florence Hallett

On this dark, silent night as the world holds its breath in anticipation, everything is still but for the occasional whisper of a breeze ruffling the curtains. It is so quiet that a deer, that most nervous of creatures, has tiptoed all the way up to the window, gazing beyond us to a point further inside the room.

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Yuletide Scenes: David Jones' Nativity with Shepherds and Beasts Rejoicing

Marina Vaizey

David Jones’ black and white drypoint – a drawing made by incising lines on a copper plate with a diamond-tipped needle and then printing from the plate – is a view of the nativity which is fresh, full of wonder and a highly intelligent naïveté. It shows all the sophistication of an artist who has looked at the art of the past but is also fully aware of modernism’s confusions of perspective, able to deploy them even when depicting recognisable scenes.

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Yuletide Scenes: Piero della Francesca's Nativity

Sarah Kent

At first sight Piero della Francesca’s The Nativity appears to be a simple picture, especially when compared with more flamboyant depictions of the scene by artists such as Gentile de Fabriano, Botticelli and Rubens. Like a director staging a play on a limited budget, Piero has been sparing with his cast, props and scenery.

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Collected through Love: The Michael Woodford Bequest

Simon Martin

Art collectors are rarely what one might expect. Everyone has their particular enthusiasms, quirks and foibles, which make their collections unique and reflective of their tastes. In my career as a curator I have learnt never to have preconceptions when visiting collectors. The best pictures can often be found in the most modest of homes. Nothing can beat the buzz of encountering an iconic artwork in the most unlikely of settings.

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An Open Book: Chantal Joffe

Fisun Güner

Huge canvases, bold, expressive brushwork and a full-bodied, vibrant palette. Chantal Joffe’s figurative paintings are certainly striking and seductive. Citing American painter Alice Neel and American photographer Diane Arbus as two abiding influences, Joffe’s portraits are predominantly of women and children who often convey a sense of awkwardness and social unease.

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An Open Book: Bruce McCall

Marianka Swain

Polo played in surplus First World War tanks; zeppelin-shooting as a gentlemanly leisure pursuit; the mighty vessel RMS Tyrannic, proud host of the Grand Ballroom Chariot Race and so safe "that she carries no insurance". These are just some of Canadian satirical writer and artist Bruce McCall’s ingenious retro-futurist creations.

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An Open Book: Conrad Shawcross

Florence Hallett

From complex machines, whirring busily but with no useful function, to structures that allude to the fundamental building blocks of the universe, Conrad Shawcross (born 1977) uses sculpture to explore the big ideas of philosophy and science. A graduate of the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art and the Slade School of Art, he bacame the youngest living Royal Academician in 2013. This year – punctuated by a series of prestigious public sculptures – has been his busiest yet.

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An Open Book: Quentin Blake

Fisun Güner

Quentin Blake, illustrator, cartoonist and children’s author, has, to date, illustrated over 300 books. He is most famously associated with Roald Dahl, but he’s worked with a number of children’s writers, most recently David Walliams, illustrating the actor's debut novel The Boy in the Dress. He is a patron of The Big Draw which aims to get people of all ages drawing throughout the UK, and of The Nightingale Project, a charity that puts art into hospitals.

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