Julian Bell

Julian Bell’s Natural Light: Adam Elsheimer and the Dawn of Modern Science was published in May.

At the National Gallery: On Frans Hals

Julian Bell, 30 November 2023

Whatever​ the Laughing Cavalier is so pleased about, I’ve no wish to know. That bumptious bar-room menace from the Wallace Collection has me taking to my heels. I gravitate instead towards a black-hatted roué from the Fitzwilliam, more at ease with his slouch and sad wry smile. Elsewhere in the National Gallery’s Frans Hals exhibition (until 21 January), a debonair...

In London​, I had taken A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal for a dependable rest point on strolls around the National Gallery. In Amsterdam, relocated to join 27 other Vermeers in the Rijksmuseum exhibition, its strangeness re-emerged. This canvas, executed towards the end of Vermeer’s relatively brief career (some four years, perhaps, before he died aged 43 in 1675), commits to a...

Mass equals pigment: Cezanne’s Puzzles

Julian Bell, 16 February 2023

‘Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry’ (c.1895-99).

The pigments​ in paintings of Cezanne’s middle age cluster like gangs in a schoolyard. Cobalt, ultramarine and Prussian blue cleave to a bay or bolt of fabric. Emerald and viridian occupy pears, jars and foliage. The biggest grouping, the ochres and terracottas, huddle around roofs or rocks or...

There​ are the known unknowns: the 52 sarsens – ‘Saracen’ stones, accessories to un-Christian religion – clustered on the bare Wiltshire upland. It is now agreed that the boulders of quartzite, weighing on average 25 tons, arrived at the site around 2500 BCE after a twenty-mile journey from the slopes south of Marlborough, and that the 44 bluestones nestled among...

So Much for Caligula: Caesarishness

Julian Bell, 24 March 2022

GaiusSuetonius Tranquillus was a scholar and man of letters on the imperial payroll in early second-century Rome. Around 120 ce he completed his Lives of the Caesars, a set of biographies informed by his access to official libraries and his longstanding insider status at court. Suetonius began with the career of Julius Caesar, whose rise to political supremacy 170 years earlier had marked...

Divinity Incognito: Elsheimer by Night

Nicholas Penny, 7 September 2023

Although Adam Elsheimer provided miniatures for private and privileged delectation, his work enjoyed an enormous influence, partly because of his close association with a great engraver, Hendrick Goudt,...

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Selfie with ‘Sunflowers’

Julian Barnes, 30 July 2015

No one did colour more blatantly and more unexpectedly than Van Gogh.

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Global Moods: Art, Past and Present

Peter Campbell, 29 November 2007

Julian Bell has written a tremendous history of world art, one that will inevitably be compared with Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published nearly sixty years ago. Since then image-making...

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Look me in the eye: self-portraiture

James Hall, 25 January 2001

According to the catalogue for the National Gallery exhibition of Rembrandt self-portraits, the artist’s portrayal of himself is ‘unique in art history, not only in its scale and the...

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