How are you? We’ve not written to you for a while, but we felt, with all that is going on, it was about time. Can you believe it is 119 years since the Tate gallery began life in 1897? Back then you presented 65 paintings and two sculptures to a grateful nation for what was the first National Gallery of British Art. You won’t know it, but you set the benchmark for generous philanthropy that has inspired many generations.
How much has changed since then, dear Henry. When the gallery first opened there were 245 works in eight rooms focusing on British art. Now Tate has over 70,000 in its collection by more than 3,000 artists from across the world. Not just that, you may have noticed that a new Tate Modern is opening, to showcase some of the best works in the collection. It will include some old friends, such as Picasso and Rothko (who you may have met on your travels on the other side), as well as new names such as Sheela Gowda, Cildo Meireles and Magdalena Abakanowicz.
You can find out more about them in our enclosed supplement and in these pages. I think you’ll approve of what else we have, in particular our journey into the world of the extraordinary, single-minded Georgia O’Keeffe – an artist after your time, but whose beautiful work, which always hovered between the figurative and the abstract, I am sure you would like.
And talking of the other side, you might appreciate our piece on artists who made works guided by those in the spirit world, such as Victor Hugo and Georgiana Houghton. They created wondrous abstractions in the days of many of the artists you knew – much to the horror of the latter I imagine. I wonder if you ever met them? If not, then please do get in touch, and pass on our best wishes from all of us here.
Until next time.
Simon Grant, editor
- Sir James Dyson on his art teacher Maurice de Sausmarez
- Rebecca Daniels on Walter Sickert
- Stephen Heppell on the importance of the arts in education
- Judith Wilkinson on Barry Flanagan’s little-known film sand girl
- Hope Kingsley on Peter Henry Emerson and Thomas Frederick Goodall’s ‘epoch-making’ photographic album
- An insight into the extraordinary life of photomontagist John Heartfield
- Gilda Williams on Maria Lassnig
- Etc. essay: Charlie Fox on cages
- Georgia O’Keeffe: In Her Own Words
- Georgia O’Keeffe: Artist’s Views from Yayoi Kusama, Judy Chicago, Elizabeth Peyton, Kaye Donachie and Lucy Stein
- Ali Smith on Mona Hatoum
- Shanay Jhaveri and Howard Hodgkin on Bhuphen Khakhar
- Etc. essay: Marco Pasi on Art and Spiritualism
- In the studio: Sheela Gowda
- Lives of the artists: Sean O’Toole on Ernest Mancoba
- Artist sketchbooks: Adrian Glew on Stanley Spencer
- MicroTate: Olivia Laing, Claire-Louise Bennett, Njideja Akunyili Crosby and Timothy Morton
- Behind the curtain with Holly Pester
In our ongoing series celebrating the value and lasting impact of teachers, James Dyson, inventor of the cyclonic vacuum cleaner and founder and chief engineer of Dyson Ltd, describes how his art teacher at Byam Shaw School of Art, Maurice de Sausmarez (1915–1969), changed the course of his life
Rebecca Daniels on how Walter Sickert deftly combined art history and photography in his paintings
The arts need to be an integral part of the traditional set of subjects taught at schools if we want to have a culturally diverse nation, argues Stephen Heppell
Judith Wilkinson on the artist’s little-known Super 8mm film
In the late 19th century the writer and photographer Peter Henry Emerson collaborated with the artist Thomas Frederick Goodall to create an ‘epoch-making’ photographic album called Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, as Hope Kingsley writes
The Austrian painter Maria Lassnig (1919–2014) spent her life exploring what she called ‘body awareness painting’, much of which was savagely observed self-portraiture. Her paintings, drawings and films reveal an artist who was relentlessly devoted to examining the very human sentiments of being exposed and feeling vulnerable. ‘I want to paint things that are uncomfortable,’ said Lassnig
Cages, cells and small rooms – the notion of the contained space has been used to great effect by artists over the centuries, from Edwin Landseer to Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois, as writer Charlie Fox reveals
Five artists from different generations share their personal reflections on Georgia O’Keeffe
Writer Ali Smith grapples with the wordplay, multiple resonance and multiple meaning – ‘the feeling of not being able to take anything for granted, even doubting the solidity of the ground you walk on’ – that electrifies the work of Mona Hatoum
Bhupen Khakhar (1934–2003) was an acclaimed artist both in India and internationally. Active from the 1960s, he was part of a vibrant new wave of narrative painting and figuration by artists in his home country including Gulam Sheikh and Sudhir Patwardhan that became known as the Baroda School. After early experiments with pop art, Khakhar, who was self-taught, developed a style that combined high and low, popular and painterly aesthetics, much of which was infused with his deep knowledge of art from south Asian and European sources. His themes, which included his homosexuality and his cancer, proved to be provocative and emotionally charged, especially to a conservative Indian audience. To coincide with Tate’s first posthumous survey of his career, which brings together work from across five decades, the critic and curator Shanay Jhaveri hears candidly about the painter’s life and work from one of Khakhar’s friends, the artist Howard Hodgkin
Art is usually made by the ‘hand of the artist’, but for centuries artists, from William Blake and Georgiana Houghton to Matt Mullican, have been ‘guided’ by forces beyond their control
Works in focus
Adrian Glew leafs through one of Stanley Spencer’s sketchbooks in the Tate Archive
Four new perspectives on works in the Tate collection
Documents on the 1960s radical anti-art activist group King Mob spark the interest of one visitor to the Tate Archive