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Sydney Morning Herald Column

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Flattery & Kitsch

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

“Only art and science can raise men to the level of gods,” wrote Ludwig van Beethoven, in a typically grand pronouncement. For music lovers of the late 19thcentury there was no greater Divinity than Beethoven himself. Wagner may have had a cult following, but Beethoven (1770-1827) was the centre of a full-blown religion. One true […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

The Met: Art Museums in a Changing World

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

While New South Wales lockdowns roll on, Queenslanders can go to Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art and view the blockbuster exhibition, European Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It’s almost certainly the most impressive show to reach our heavily barricaded shores this year but the pandemic has made it hard to imagine […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

The Real Thing

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

In the 1970s Coca-Cola had tremendous success with the advertising slogan, ‘It’s the Real Thing’. The idea behind the campaign may have been to distinguish Coke from its chief competitor, Pepsi, but the company was also responding to research that found “young people seek the real, the original and the natural as an escape from […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Hilma af Klint

Friday, August 27th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) may be the biggest thing to come from Sweden since Abba but she was anything but an overnight success. Originally known as a painter of relatively conventional landscapes, portraits and botanical pictures, af Klint led a double life. Her posthumous claim to fame rests on a remarkable series of spiritualist works […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Cool and Hot Artists: The Case of Poussin

Thursday, August 26th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Every era of art is defined by its divisions and contrasts and we each have our preferences. Is it possible to love Beethoven and Mozart equally? Can one feel the same admiration for Tolstoy and for Dostoevsky? What about Picasso and Matisse? In the visual arts the age-old distinction is between line and colour. Commentators […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Art and Sport

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

After the Tokyo Olympics the boredom of the lockdown is set to move onto a whole new plane. Even without spectators the Olympics has confirmed its status as the world’s supreme global spectacle, with the power to keep millions of people glued to the box day after day. What do we do now that it’s […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

The Unknown Masterpiece

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

In Honoré de Balzac’s story, The Unknown Masterpiece (Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu), the painter, Frenhofer, tells us: “the aim of art is not to copy nature, but to express it. You are not a servile copyist, but a poet!” This brief tale, first published in 1831, has remained a favourite of artists down the ages. The […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Art is long but lockdowns are short – even if they seem interminable. With museums and galleries closed, or open by appointment only, this presents a rare opportunity to trawl back over the history of art looking for subjects that illuminate the present. We often hear that a great work of art is “timeless”, meaning […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Artemisia Gentileschi

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

History tells us any socially progressive idea that at first seems unthinkable has a good chance of becoming an orthodoxy. Look, for instance, at Feminism, which no longer attracts the overtly misogynist comments directed at ‘women’s libbers’ in the 1970s. There may be plenty of battles still to be won but few males today would […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Archie 100

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Over the past few years there have been times when the Art Gallery of NSW was so empty of visitors it gave the impression someone had just shouted “Fire!”. Right now the opposite applies: the joint is packed to the rafters, with people waiting patiently in queues to see the Archibald Prize. For many this […]