Julian Bell is a painter based in Lewes, England. He is the author of What Is Painting? (January 2019)


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 …

The Dream of White Gold

Edmund de Waal in his studio, London, July 2013

The White Road: Journey into an Obsession

by Edmund de Waal
The White Road is a large and singular literary object, a book with no obvious prototype. Edmund de Waal has put forward its 401 pages on the strength of two credentials. The runaway success of The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010), an account of his Jewish ancestors in nineteenth-century Paris …