For over ten years Peter Campbell has reviewed art exhibitions for the London Review of Books. His writing is distinctive: often closely descriptive, always inquisitive about technique, it is the product of an independent mind and eye. Easy evaluations are resisted: we are invited to consider the work on show in its present place – ‘at’ the museum or gallery to which the critic has travelled on our behalf. This generous selection of reviews covers a wide range of subjects, from Bellini and Titian to Lucian Freud and Louise Bourgeois, from Hawksmoor to Libeskind. Blockbusting shows are noticed, but so too are exhibitions of unfashionable artists, of photographers and applied artists. Reviews of buildings and pieces on the everyday urban scene add another dimension to this book. Campbell is a typographer and book designer, and is also the draftsman of the London Review’s covers. His writing is of a piece with these accomplishments.
Behind King’s Cross / The British Library / In Soho / Artists’ houses / London trees / Parks / Lettering on London buildings / London sculpture / London in maps / The Millennium Bridge / Russell Square / London light / London commercial galleries / Streets / Doors / Why does it take so long to mend an escalator?
Titian / Pisanello / Antonello da Messina / Bellini and the East / Caravaggio / Michelangelo drawings / Roman painting in the seventeenth century / Tiepolo
Kinds and periods
Copies / Hands and feet / Modernism / British art at the V&A / Food / Constable to Delacroix / Unpopular Culture at Bexhill
Holbein / Joshua Reynolds / Thomas Girtin / Turner’s Blue Rigi / Turner watercolours / Samuel Palmer
England (1) and Scotland
Eric Ravilious / Wyndham Lewis / William Nicholson / John, Augustus and Gwen / Prunella Clough / Joan Eardley
Frank Auerbach / Lucian Freud / Howard Hodgkin / Antony Gormley / Paula Rego / Peter Doig / Francis Bacon
Childrens clothes / Clothes at the National Gallery / Art & fashion / Ossie Clark
Out of London
In Auvergne / In Brighton / In Venice / In New Zealand / In Paris
Ingres portraits / Impressionism / Rodin / Henri Rousseau / Vuillard / Matisse textiles / Louise Bourgeois / Bonnard / Delacroix
Mark Rothko / Barnett Newman / Philip Guston / Roy Lichtenstein / Edward Hopper / Bruce Nauman / Sarah Sze
Restoring St George’s / In the Park / Alvar Aalto / Port Sunlight / Daniel Libeskind
Rubens / Van Dyck / Rembrandt’s women / Gerrit Dou / Delft School
Illuminated manuscripts in Cambridge / Indian drawings / Caricature / Gandy / American prints / Penguin covers / Osbert Lancaster / Powell and time / The Materials of Sculpture
Martin Parr / Rodchenko / Photographs of India / Angus McBean / Rodin, Killip, Cartier Bresson
Velázquez / Goya / Lucas Cranach / Adam Elsheimer / Strindberg / Edvard Munch / Klimt / Russian landscapes / Joseph Beuys and Jannis Kounellis / Gerhard Richter / Anselm Kiefer
Science and commerce
Science Museum / Horses At Chantilly / Surveying India / Living and Dying at the British Museum / Weeds / Hearts / Bicycles
I rather enjoyed this volume, as Campbell neither feels the need to bow to current fashion or to engage with trendy critical stances; he prefers to describe what he sees and discuss it, usually in a fairly brief manner (that presumably the magazine column format demands).
The reviews are carefully grouped and this juxtaposition gives a sense of Campbell’s wider take on things, which is also apparent from sections which discuss architecture, escalators, London and doors. This is careful and considered writing, with its focus rightly on the work itself rather than those who make such work. This is a book I shall return to again and again; it is a pleasure to both read and hold.
Rupert Loydell, Stride Magazine