The best of Tom Lubbock, one of Britain's most intelligent, outspoken and revelatory art critics, is collected here for the first time.
There are electrifying insights - using Hitchcock’s Suspicion to explore the lighting effects in a Zurbarán still life, imagining three short films to tease out the meanings of El Greco’s Boy Lighting a Candle - and cool judgements - how Vuillard's genius is confined to a single decade, when he worked at home, why Ingres is really ‘an exciting wierdo’.
Ranging with passionate perspicacity over eight hundred years of Western art, whether it's Giotto’s raging vices, Guston’s ‘slobbish, squidgy’ pinks, Gericault’s pile of truncated limbs or Gwen John’s Girl in a Blue Dress, Tom Lubbock writes with immediacy and authority about the fifty works which most gripped his imagination.
TOM LUBBOCK, critic and illustrator, was the chief art critic of the Independent from 1997 until his death in 2011. He wrote widely on art, books and radio and produced major catalogue essays on Goya, Thomas Bewick and Ian Hamilton Finlay. His illustrations, mainly done in collage, appeared every Saturday on the editorial page of the Independent between 1999 and 2004. His weekly Great Works column, from which these essays are taken, ran between 2005 and 2010.
LAURA CUMMING is the art critic of the Observer.
El Greco - Boy Lighting a Candle, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
Francesco Zurbarán - Still Life with Jars, Prado, Madrid
Kasimir Malevich - Red House, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Joan Miró - The Hunter, Catalan Landscape, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Johannes Vermeer - View of Delft, Mauritshuis, The Hague
Giovanni Francesco Caroto - Young Boy holding a Child’s Drawing, Verona
Philipp Otto Runge - The Child in the Meadow, Kunsthalle, Hamburg
Vincent van Gogh - Wheatfield with Lark, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Paul Nash - Event on the Downs, Government Art Collection, UK
Eugène Delacroix - Still Life with Lobsters, Louvre, Paris
Jacopo Tintoretto - Paradise, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid
Peter Doig - Concrete Cabin (West Side), Private collection
John Constable - Study of Clouds, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Francis Bacon - Sand Dune, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Basel
Peter Paul Rubens - The Dying Seneca, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Homoré Daumier - The Burden, Private collection
Edgar Degas - Combing the Hair, National Gallery, Oslo
Gustav Klimt - Water Nymphs, Zentralsparkasse der Gemeinde Wien, Vienna
Masaccio - The Expulsion from Paradise, Sta Maria del Carmine, Florence
Luca Signorelli - The Resurrection of the Flesh, Orvieto Cathedral, Umbria
Théodore Géricault - Study of Truncated Limbs, Musée Fabre, Montpellier
Philip Guston – Painter’s Table, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Rembrandt van Rijn - Lucretia, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Vittore Carpaccio - The Apparition of 10,000 Martyrs, Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice
Gerhard Richter - 1024 Colours, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Bernardo Bellotto - The Ruins of the Old Kreuzkirche in Dresden, Kunsthaus, Zürich
Nicolas Poussin - Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion, Walker Gallery, Liverpool
Juan Sánchez-Cotán - Still Life with Quince, Cabbage ... , San Diego Museum of Art
René Magritte - Swift Hope, Kunsthalle, Hamburg
Albrecht Altdorfer - Alexander’s Victory, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Giovanni di Paolo - The Beheading of St John the Baptist, Art Institute of Chicago
Fernand Léger - Holly Leaf on Red Background, Private collection
Winslow Homer - Right and Left, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Francisco de Goya - The Dog, Prado, Madrid
Paulus Potter - The Wolfhound, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Camille Pissarro - Place du Théâtre Française, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Caspar David Friedrich - On the Sailing Boat, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Giovanni Bellini - Madonna with Saints, San Zaccaria, Venice
Edward Hopper - Early Sunday Morning, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Henry Fuseli - Silence, Kunsthaus, Zürich
Gwen John - Girl in a Blue Dress, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Edouard Vuillard - Interior, Mother and Sister of the Artist, MoMA, New York
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres - Madame Moitessier, National Gallery, Washington
James Barry - Jupiter and Juno on Mount Ida, Sheffield City Art Galleries
Giotto di Bondone - Inconstancy, Anger, Despair from Vices, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua
Pietro Longhi - The Presentation, Louvre, Paris
Antonio Pollaiuolo - Apollo and Daphne, National Gallery, London
Jackson Pollock - Stenographic Figure, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Jeremy Moon - Hoop-La, Tate Gallery, London
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - The Bed, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
An endlessly lively and surprising book.
If you want to know why plenty of us thought that Tom was far and away the best art critic of our generation, you should buy and relish Great Works which reprints with handsome reproductions of each image, fifty of his short essays for The Independent… Utterly free of cant, posturing and received ideas, they teem with the kind of insight that only comes from protracted looking and profound lucid thinking. Buy copies for everyone you know who likes art and wants to know how it can be talked about with beautiful sanity and zero guff.
One of Tom Lubbock's nicest habits as an art critic was to observe some quirk in a piece of art and, while distracting you with this magician's cloth and illuminate the whole work. It was a regular trick of the short essays he wrote in his 'Great Works' series: a preparatory manoeuvre priming you for the big picture. Published posthumously as a collection, Great Works deepens a neat journalistic technique into a profound way of seeing.
An outstanding book.