Sebastian Smee

Sebastian Smee is the art critic for the Boston Globe and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. His latest book is The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art.

@SebastianSmee

Articles by this author

Image of Gerhard Richter, September (Ed. 139)
Gerhard Richter’s GOMA exhibition finds beauty in banality, meaning in the arbitrary
Arresting time
The abstract paintings of Gerhard Richter – which make up about a third of an engrossing Richter show at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art (until 4 February 2018) – achieve...
 
Reko Rennie, ‘OA_RR’ (detail), 2017
‘Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial’ at Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia
Wonder, invention, anger and dejection
The dog stops you in your tracks. Ears askew, it sits on the floor in a high-ceilinged room at Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia, and stares up at you with big, doleful,...
 
Jennifer Peedom’s ‘Mountain’ is a meditation on the allure of the climb
Sweeping us up
When Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom set out to make her acclaimed 2015 film Sherpa, she couldn’t have known that she’d be on the scene when a 14,000-tonne hunk of ice...
 
Image of ‘Snow-covered Field with a Harrow (After Millet)’
‘Van Gogh and the Seasons’ at the National Gallery of Victoria
Sensory cycles
You see van Goghs, if you are lucky, here and there. A gauche and gnarled-fingered portrait. A spooked, acidic rendering of a cafe at night. A fragrant explosion of flowers. You...
 
Image by Bill Henson
Bill Henson exhibits recent photographic work at the National Gallery of Victoria
Art walks a tightrope
I remember the day that I first fell in love with Bill Henson’s work almost 30 years ago. Of course, I have no diary entry to prove it. Such experiences are like the shadows cast...
 
Image of PixCell-Double Deer#4 (2010), by Kohei Nawa
‘Sugar Spin’ at GOMA aims to please and to challenge
Sweet celebration
There’s a moment each year, shortly after you’re presented with a birthday cake, when your job is to blow out the candles. The singing and shouting will shortly resume, you know...
 
Puzzling out the singular Degas at the National Gallery of Victoria
Everything else was sacrificed
Whether it was more difficult to be friends with Edgar Degas or simply to be him is impossible to say. But isn’t it often like that with brilliant, prickly people? There is so...
 
'Self Portrait' (1973), Francis Bacon. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW.
Francis Bacon
A room with no view
Danny Boyle declined to mine it in his opening ceremony at the London Olympics – and you can’t really blame him – but we who know and love British culture should never forget the...
 
William Kentridge
No script, no storyboard
“What times are these,” wrote Bertolt Brecht in his poem, ‘To Those Born After’, “when a talk about trees is almost a crime because it implies silence on so many wrongs?” Brecht’s...
 
'What’s in a Face? Aspects of Portrait Photography', Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
What’s in a face? Aspects of portrait photography
What can you read into a photograph of a face? Hurt. Happiness. Confidence. Contempt. There’s no limit. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, you can spend hours staring at family...
 
George Grosz, 'Suicide', 1916. Oil on canvas.© George Grosz/VG Bild-Kunst. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
‘The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910–37’
Republic of art
You can look at French art of the 1870s and momentarily forget about the Franco–Prussian War and the Paris Commune. You can study the paintings of Picasso and Matisse between 1914...
 
Urs Fischer, 'Untitled' – one of the wax sculptures presented by the artist at Venice. © Felix Hörhager/DPA/Corbis
The 54th Venice Biennale
Vanity case
Who would have thought that the first major movement of the twenty-first century would be a revival of trompe l’oeil? I admit, it’s unexpected. But it’s difficult not to notice at...
 
Artemisia Gentileschi, 'Judith and Holofernes', circa 1612. Oil on canvas, 159 x 126 centimetres. Courtesy of the Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy and the Bridgeman Art Library.
Peter Robb’s ‘Street Fight in Naples: A Book of Art and Insurrection’
Shadow play
The first time I read Peter Robb’s Midnight in Sicily was also the first time I travelled around Sicily. The first and only. I remember at the time feeling terribly nervous about...
 
‘Point Omega’ by Don DeLillo
The title of Don DeLillo’s new novel reverses a concept known as the Omega Point, which was coined by the renegade Catholic thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard believed...
 
Janine Burke’s ‘Source: Nature’s Healing Role in Art and Writing’
Animating spirits
Janine Burke’s Source (Allen & Unwin, 400pp; $55.00) is about the inspiration and sanctuary that artists have found in nature. It reads as a collection of eight mini-...
 
Edmund Capon’s ‘I Blame Duchamp’
C'est la vie
No one ever seems surprised by Edmund Capon’s success, for he is charm incarnate. He has led one of Australia’s most visited art galleries, the Art Gallery of New South Wales,...
 
The 53rd Venice Biennale
A matter of taste
Art that indulges anarchic impulses – even if the results are a little fatuous – is almost always preferable to art that signals its conformity to good taste. And yet making art...
 
Murray Bail’s ‘Fairweather’
Castaway
Starting out as an art critic for newspapers, in the early '90s, I remember well the way people talked about Murray Bail's 1981 monograph on Ian Fairweather. Long out of print, it...
 

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