Colm Tóibín is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia. His tenth novel, The Magician, will be published next year. (August 2020)


Nasty, Brutish, and Long

Students from a boys’ school with a priest, Rome, 1953

The Catholic School

by Edoardo Albinati, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar
After almost half a century, I still dream that I am back at St. Peter’s, the Catholic boarding school in Wexford, Ireland, where I spent two years before I went to university. What is strange is how oddly comforting some of the images are. Even the dormitory, with its narrow …

Tintoretto’s Wildness

Jacopo Tintoretto: The Last Supper, 87 x 162 5/8 inches, circa 1563–1564

Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice

an exhibition at the Fondazione Musei Civici, Palazzo Ducale, Venice, September 7, 2018–January 6, 2019; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., March 10–July 7, 2019
While the exhibition at the National Gallery attempts to reimagine Tintoretto as a painter who comes in many guises, it does not seek merely to present him in a new and narrow light as a portrait painter and a religious painter of neatly imagined dramatic scenes. These are merely aspects of a talent that cannot be easily confined. The exhibition also reminds us that Ruskin was right about Tintoretto’s wildness, apparent in a number of paintings filled with the fierce absence of any sense of repose, paintings whose pattern is not easy to discern but whose impact is forceful and shocking because the eye does not know where to settle. Each shade and color, each face and object call out for attention without our losing the sense that every painting is of a single place at one single moment.

The Aristocracy’s Swann Song

Élisabeth Greffulhe in her ‘swan’ persona; photograph by Otto Wegener, circa 1887

Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris

by Caroline Weber
In June 1885 Henry James received a letter from John Singer Sargent in Paris asking him to see two friends of his who were coming to London. One was Dr. Samuel Pozzi, whom Sargent had painted in a red dressing gown in 1881, “a very brilliant creature”; the other, Sargent …


The Flow of Chance: Pat Steir’s ‘Waterfall’ Paintings

Pat Steir: The Barnes Series III, 2018

In much of her work, Steir—whose latest paintings are on view in the exhibition “Pat Steir Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series,” at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia until mid-November—applies a mass of oil paint to the upper part of her canvases, many of which are taller than herself, then lets it drip. Or she throws paint at the surface, letting the marks happen by accident or by a process we might call random design. “My idea,” she says in a new documentary by Veronica Gonzalez Peña, “was not to touch the canvas, not to paint, but to pour the paint and let the paint itself make a picture. I set the limitations. The limitations, of course, are the color, the size, the wind in the room, and how I put the paint on. And then everything outside of me controls how that paint falls. It’s a joy to let the painting make itself. It takes away all kinds of responsibility.” 

Concentration Camps for Kids: An Open Letter

Children and staff at the Trump administration’s tent facility for detaining migrant children separated from their parents, Tornillo, Texas, June 19, 2018

The US government is detaining more than 13,000 migrant children, the highest number ever; as of last month, some 250 “tender age” children aged twelve or under had not yet been reunited with their parents. Recently, the president has vowed to “put tents up all over the place” for migrants. This generation will be remembered for having allowed for concentration camps for children to be built on “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Gawking at Quixote

François de Poilly the Younger after Charles Coypel: Don Quixote Mistakes Puppets for Moors and Believes He Is Rescuing Two Runaway Lovers, 1723 (click images to enlarge)

The artist Charles Coypel’s images of Don Quixote are so dramatic in their visual scope and use of space and color and contrast that they must have been a gift to both engravers and tapestry-makers. As much as Cervantes, he could work wonders with chance, mayhem, indignity, happenstance, and misadventure, and there is a sense of him as being a genuine kindred spirit with the novelist.

Goya: Order and Disorder

Francisco Goya: Self-Portrait While Painting, circa 1795

“There are two ways, perhaps, of looking at Francisco Goya,” writes Colm Tóibín in the Review’s December 18, 2014 issue. In the first version, Goya, who was born near Zaragoza in 1746 and died in exile in France in 1828, “was almost innocent, a serious and ambitious artist interested in mortality and beauty, but also playful and mischievous, until politics and history darkened his imagination…. In the second version, it is as though a war was going on within Goya’s psyche from the very start…. His imagination was ripe for horror.” Here we present a series of prints and paintings from the show under review—the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s “Goya: Order and Disorder,” now closed—along with commentary on the images drawn from Tóibín’s piece.