Doing what it says on the tin

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.


Built for eternity

The Escorial, as a monastery and a royal palace, was the brain child of Philip II of Spain.

A flammable individual

On the night of 18 October 1969, thieves broke into the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, and removed Caravaggio’s Nativity.


More than a painter of Queens

The last words of Hungarian-born portraitist Philip de László, spoken to his nurse, were apparently, ‘It is a pity, because there is so much still to do.’ As Duff Hart-Davis’s biography amply demonstrates, for de László, art — which he regarded as ‘work’ as much as an aesthetic vocation — was both the purpose and the substance of his life.


A man after his time

Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905-1990) illustrated dozens of books under his double-barrel and wrote at least 60 of his own under the two initials ‘BB’.


Small but perfectly formed

Some years ago, Edmund de Waal inherited a remarkable collection of 264 netsuke from his great-uncle Iggie, whom he had got to know 20 years previously while studying pottery and Japanese in Tokyo.


Painting the town together

This book recounts a terrible story of self-destruction by two painters who, in their heyday, achieved considerable renown in Britain and abroad.


Red faces in the galleries

Art fraudsters, especially forgers, have a popular appeal akin to Robin Hood.


Our squandered national treasure

Torn with grief, Melvyn Bragg has produced a condolence book for the South Bank Show (born 1978, died of neglect, 2010).


Thoroughly hooked

On the southern edge of Kensal Green cemetery, beneath the wall that separates the graves from the Grand Union Canal, is a memorial inscription that would stop a Duns Scotus in his tracks.


Fine artist, but a dirty old man

I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended with a more temperate strain from the Mudge family of Basingstoke.


Life beyond the canvas

Angela Thirlwell’s previous book was a double biography of William Rossetti (brother to the more famous Dante Gabriel) and his wife Lucy (daughter of the more famous Ford Madox Brown).


A dramatic streak

Late in the 19th century, archaeologists digging in the Roman Forum discovered a lime kiln.


A dream made concrete

You are celebrated as the architect of one of the most famous buildings in the world, now in your late eighties and living quietly in your home outside Copenhagen.

Master of accretion

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) is one of the most interesting artists working in Europe today, a philosophical painter of reality who works and re-works his pictures before he discovers something new, something worth saving.

The king of chiaroscuro

These days, it is easy to take it for granted that Caravaggio (1571-1610) is the most popular of the old masters, yet it was not ever thus.

Repeat that, repeat

The Infinity of Lists by Umberto Eco, translated by Alastair McEwen

The optimism of a suicide

A postal strike would have been a disaster for Van Gogh.

Romantic approaches

Spectator readers will know that Andrew Lambirth is a romantic, a force for the literary and poetic approach to art criticism, so he is an admirably empathetic guide to Hoyland

Surprising literary ventures

Miranda the Panda is on the Veranda (1958) by Doris Sanders and Patricia Highsmith

Dilly-dallying romance

Constable in Love, by Martin Gayford

From worthless to priceless

The Ultimate Trophy: How Impressionist Painting Conquered the World, by Philip Hook

Shrine of a connoisseur

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, by Tim Knox, photographs by Derry Moore


Red Star Over Russia

Red Star Over Russia, by David King

Horses decline, dogs advance

The Dog: 5000 Years of the Dog in Art, by Tamsin Pickeral
Dogs: History, Myth, Art, by Catherine Johns
The Horse: A Celebration of Horses in Art, by Rachel and Simon Barnes