Julian Bell is a painter based in Lewes, England. He is the author of What Is Painting?
 (October 2020)


‘Teeming with Things Unknown’

Francisco Goya: The Pilgrimage to San Isidro, 1820–1823

Goya: A Portrait of the Artist

by Janis A. Tomlinson
The art of Francisco Goya has stood as a beacon over the cultural landscape during the nearly two centuries since his death, at age eighty-two, in 1828. It is a source of light that glares. We think of the terrible dazzle on the shirt of the laborer in Goya’s vast …

The Painter of Souls

Lorenzo Lotto: Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia, circa 1530–1533

Lorenzo Lotto Portraits

an exhibition at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, June 19–September 30, 2018; and the National Gallery, London, November 5, 2018–February 10, 2019
“No fee was given, but I rely on the honesty of the gentleman, finished the painting is worth a fair price of 20 ducats.” Lorenzo Lotto entered this note about a portrait in his account book in February 1542; similar arrangements—or lack of them—are recorded in many other entries. Lotto …

More Light!

David Hockney

an exhibition at Tate Britain, London, February 9–May 29, 2017; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, June 19–October 23, 2017; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, November 20, 2017–February 25, 2018

A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen

by David Hockney and Martin Gayford
The current retrospective of over sixty years of David Hockney’s work—reaching back to a teenager drawing what he saw in the mirror in 1954—brings together portraiture, landscape, and still life in every kind of combination. It reveals a wonderfully resourceful artist, but one whose working moods have seemed to veer between studious and strident.

The Perennial Student

Camille Pissarro: Hoar Frost (Gelée blanche à Ennery), 1873

Camille Pissarro: Le premier des impressionnistes

an exhibition at the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, February 23–July 16, 2017

Pissarro à Éragny: La nature retrouvée

an exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, March 16–July 9, 2017
What is a shadow? Nothing in itself, you might say: a mere local lack of light, in a space that is otherwise lit up. Light, which allows us to see and know the world, is the normal precondition for picturing things. Cast shadows may help us interpret a picture by indicating where light comes from and where objects stand, but if you survey art history, you find the majority of painters giving them minor parts at most. A minority, however, turns these assumptions upside down, treating shadow as the preexistent condition and light as its shock interruption.

The Flash of the Blade

Théodore Géricault: The Raft of the Medusa, 1818–1819

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art

by Julian Barnes
I enjoyed an essay about Lucian Freud that Julian Barnes published in 2013—a piece brought together with sixteen others on art and artists in his collection Keeping an Eye Open. I confess that one reason I kept muttering “Well judged!” as I read it was that its comments about Freud’s …

Looking for ‘Life Itself’

Georges Seurat: Bathers at Asnières, 1884

Exhibitionist: Writing About Art in a Daily Newspaper

by Richard Dorment
Richard Dorment studied art history at Princeton in the 1960s, becoming a specialist in late-nineteenth-century British art. Curatorial work in this field later took him to London. In 1986 he was hired as art critic for that city’s Daily Telegraph, a post from which he retired in 2015. He has …

Turner: High Ambition for Deep Truth

J.M.W. Turner: The Fighting Temeraire, 1839

Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner

by Franny Moyle

J.M.W. Turner: A Life in Art, Vol. 1: Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years, 1775–1815

by Eric Shanes
Here are two books of great value on the painter whose likeness has been chosen, after a recent public consultation, to appear on the Bank of England’s £20 notes. Nominations for J.M.W. Turner as a national figurehead for the visual arts were no doubt boosted by the success of Mike …