Patrick McCaughey

Picasso at twenty-five was famous in Paris, comfortably off by 1914, wealthy and internationally recognised six years later. He married a leading ballerina, Olga Khokhlova, in Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. It turned out badly. Two of his mistresses, Fernande Olivier and FranÇoise Gilot, wrote tell-all memoirs, which he did his best, unsuccessfull ...

Roy Strong was appointed director of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in 1967 at the age of thirty-two. Today it would be astonishing to head one of the United Kingdom’s national collections at that age; five decades ago it was outrageous. Only Kenneth Clark at thirty was younger when he became director of the National Gallery. Strong’s ascent to the NP ...

The lives of artists have formed a staple of art history from Vasari in the sixteenth century to Alex Danchev in the twenty-first. Current styles of art history may frown on biographies of artists. They smack too much of the hero artist and side-step the social construction of art. Yet the genre shows no sign of wilting. In our time we have such masterly works ...

From musty Merion to a new home in Philadelphia

by Patrick McCaughey


In mid-May the Barnes Foundation opened at its new location in the cultural corridor of downtown Philadelphia. A cloud of controversy followed it to the end. The new building, handsome if flawed, from the gifted New York studio of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, ha ...

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde edited by Janet Bishop, Cécile Debray, and Rebecca Rabinow

June 2012, no. 342

Despite its unrewarding title, The Steins Collect, both exhibition and catalogue, tells the most captivating story of early modern art and its patronage. The cast of characters ranges from the downright difficult (Leo) and the overweeningly self-important (Gertrude) to sunny Californian idealists (Sarah and Michael). Gertrude and her brother Leo set up their joint ménage at 27 rue de Fleurus, close to the Luxembourg Gardens, in 1903. A year later, Michael, their elder brother, and his wife, Sarah, settled in Paris and lived close by at 58 rue Madame. By 1909 the two households had assembled the largest and finest collection of Matisse and Picasso anywhere. Though comfortably off, the Steins were not remotely among the super-rich, yet only the Russian collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, at the end of the decade, would challenge their supremacy.

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For some sixty years Donald Friend kept a diary, making his final entry just days before his death in 1989 at the age of seventy-four. The National Library of Australia published them in four massive volumes between 2001 and 2006. They were intractable. You needed an axe to cut through the stream of consciousness which flowed from an uncensoring pen ...

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Paradoxical neglect

Dear Editor,

Patrick McCaughey’s article ‘NativeGrounds and Foreign Fields: The Paradoxical Neglect of Australian Art Abroad’ (June 2011) caught my attention because of its title, then its content. The ...

Twenty years ago, when I was at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, I heard of an Arthur Boyd exhibition in SoHo. Recklessly, without seeing the show, I urged my American friends to see one of Australia’s foremost contemporary painters. The gallery, unknown to me, turned out to be small and unimpressive. There were five or six late paintings, including one of those large, multi-figured bathers, with that disconcerting quality of Boyd at the end of his career, both slapdash and commercial at the same moment. ‘So this is what contemporary Australian painting looks like?’ my companion asked ironically, just within the bounds of good manners.

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Encounters with Australian Modern Art by Christopher Heathcote, Patrick McCaughey and Sarah Thomas

February 2009, no. 308

Eva Gandel and Marc Besen Married in Melbourne in 1950 and soon began collecting current art. After the closure of John Reed’s privately established but short-lived ‘Museum of Modern Art & Design of Australia’, they bought a few of its de-accessioned possessions, paintings by John Perceval and Sidney Nolan. In the 1970s they added works by recentlydeceased Sydney artists William Dobell, Ralph Balson, and Tony Tuckson. These were perceived ‘gaps’ in a collection of recent Australian art. Perhaps the systematic history of Australian art then profusely displayed in the private collection formed by their relative Joseph Brown, and first published in 1974 as Outlines of Australian Art, had inspired the Besens to be more systematic. Hitherto, they had mostly encountered local work by living artists.

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Never far from one’s mind these days, the events of September 11, 2001, and their direct aftermath in Afghanistan and elsewhere, had to be prominent in this month’s issue of ABR, such is their complex resonance and ubiquitous iconography. To complement Morag Fraser’s essay in this issue on the consequences of ‘September 11’ for civic ...

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