Misère by Linda Nochlin review – the visual representation of misery

The critic best known for her essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ returns in this posthumous book to her core subject, 19th-century realism

“There are no ‘cute’ revolutions.” This cutting remark is aimed at the tactics used in most film or musical versions of Les Misérables to make poverty and oppression sympathetic to middle-class audiences. It personifies the voice – straight-talking, stringent, searching – of the influential art historian Linda Nochlin, who died in October last year. This posthumous publication continues her habit of asking questions, if not with the same impact as her groundbreaking essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” That work exposed the double standard often applied by art critics to male and female art, and opened the way for a remaking of the canon.

Continue reading...

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain by Lynda Nead – review

A vivid assessment of Britain’s search for modernity after the second world war

This is a luminous book about the greyness that delayed Britain’s search for modernity in the postwar era. It evokes the physical and psychic fabric of this country after six years of war damage. Much was dismal – the slums, poverty and dirt in Victorian cities. Change was desired and imminent when in December 1952 a horrendous fog descended; for five days it kept 8 million Londoners indoors, huddled beside coal fires. The smoke, trapped by a canopy of cold air, made the fog worse. Postwar Britain was still inextricably connected with its 19th-century past.

Another witness to the state of London at this time was Doris Lessing. Having arrived from South Africa in 1949, she went house-hunting and found “interminable streets of tall, grey, narrow houses that became half-effaced with fog at a distance of a ...

Piet Mondrian: The Studios edited by Cees W de Jong review – Mondrian’s modernist meccas

From a damp hut in the Netherlands to a quiet haven in Paris, the great painter’s many studios were laboratories for his artistic ideas

“It breathes your ideas”, Mondrian once said of the artist’s studio, with his own very much in mind. Visits to these private dens, which can range from the creatively cluttered to the bleakly austere, are always instructive. The popularity of “Open Studios” attests to the excitement experienced by non-artists at being allowed inside. Very few are ever preserved. Scant hint of a studio can be found in Hogarth’s summer retreat at Chiswick or Gainsborough’s house in Sudbury. Lord Leighton’s studio, in his Holland Park house, has lost out to the commercial need to let out rooms for functions. More authentic is Sir Alfred Munnings’s studio in the garden of his house at Dedham, in Essex, and still better is the studio at Charleston, the ...