Lucian Freud delighted in shocking his acquaintances with a series of stunts straight from the surrealist handbook. Dead and mounted animals littered his squat in a decaying Regency terrace house. Kenneth Clark’s wife was understandably appalled to find two dead monkeys in the oven.
Big tech sees a future in which ‘applied utopistics’ will monitor, and monetise, every human activity. With their deep pockets and considerable political clout, nothing will stand in their way, not governments or regulators, and certainly not any old-fashioned notions of privacy or human dignity.
John Ruskin may be little known today, but his warnings about the effects of industrial pollution in the Victorian age still read well, while his writings and observations on art on his trips to Italy, and particularly Venice and Padua, have been hugely influential.
Linda Nochlin considers one interpretation after another of Courbet’s ‘The Painter’s Studio’. Teasing her prey, she draws out successive meanings, delivering stylish and brilliant asides on the social, intellectual, political and art-historical context, until finally she moves in for the kill.
Apart from the appeal of beauty and the medicinal or alimentary uses of plants, gardens reflect humanity’s attempt to understand its place in the world and to regain an edenic sense of belonging. As such, gardening is a pursuit that crosses national, cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries.
Religious belief has the power to define, but also to divide peoples. While it can be seen as in some respects a retrogressive force, there is no basis for the secularist view that it is on the way out. As Régis Debray put it, ‘we can no more disinvent religion than we can the atom bomb’.
A US library association has removed a classic children’s author’s name from a prestigious award. The move derives from an ideology that rejects the essential otherness of the past, instead demanding compliance and the burial of ‘outdated attitudes’ so deeply we will never know they existed.
One of the main concerns of Brian O’Doherty’s collected essays is to raise questions about the retreat into subjectivity responsible for the cult of the personality in the art world. In an interview, O’Doherty confessed that he ‘never wished to make art from the degraded slums of my inner life’.