Tom Lubbock, artist, critic and 'Independent' great, dies at 53

Tom Lubbock, the chief art critic of The Independent for the last 13 years and a respected illustrator in his own right, has died after a battle with cancer which he chronicled with characteristic candour. He was 53.

The Cambridge-educated writer, who was admired by his peers and his subjects for his vast knowledge and unaffected insight into artists from Francis Bacon to Pieter Bruegel, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour two years ago and continued to work virtually throughout his illness, submitting articles even as he incrementally lost control over his speech.

His last piece, written while staying in the south London hospice where he died yesterday afternoon, appeared in November, shortly before the opening of the first solo exhibition of his collages which appeared every Saturday between 1999 and 2004 in pages of The Independent. In a review of the exhibition, Mark Wallinger, the Turner Prize-winning artist who was a close friend, said: " He addressed the world in many different registers – sardonic, caustic, erudite and celebratory, with instinct, intelligence and wit."

Renowned for the precision and occasional terseness of his commentary, Lubbock, who went to Eton and read philosophy at university, was regarded as a particular authority on contemporary art, unafraid of putting noses out of joint.

Fellow critic Brian Sewell, who described Lubbock's death as a "wretched loss", said: "He really is amongst a very small body of English art critics – he was an outspoken and honest writer. He could tackle intelligently both Old Masters and contemporary art. I don't think he cared about offending or not offending and that's where the honesty came in."

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said: "Tom Lubbock was an original thinker who could always be relied upon to come up with a fresh and independent view. He will be much missed as a writer who could make plain the meaning behind even the most complicated art."

As his illness progressed, Lubbock wrote a memoir describing the slow loss of the grip on language that defined his life. "This life is unbelievable," he wrote. "At moments it is terrible and outrageous. But in other ways I accept what it brings, in its strangeness and newness. This mortality makes its own world... And then again, I try to live as normally as I can."

Lubbock leaves his wife, the artist Marion Coutts, whom he married in 2001, and their three-year-old son, Eugene.

'Unfulfilled dreams don't go away': Tom Lubbock, master of the review

In March 2006, Tom Lubbock reviewed the Dada and Bauhaus exhibition at Tate Modern for 'The Independent'. Here is an extract from his piece:



unfulfilled dreams don't go away, and the dreams of art are especially persistent, because art is always bringing up its past, even when it doesn't know what to do with it. Political systems that are founded on a revolution tend to commemorate the event, once a year, with speeches, gymnastic displays, a military parade. It can be an awkward occasion. It may only remind people of how far things have strayed from the original ideals being honoured.

It's not so different with art. In some ways, it's more awkward. Art is continually looking back upon its forebears, and trying to celebrate them. But those forebears, quite recent ones, too, can turn out to have ideas and ideals remote from our own. The things they wanted from art, or hoped that art would do, we don't believe in now. Still, we can't quite put them behind us.

Take two modern-art movements that emerged from the wreckage of the First World War: Dada and the Bauhaus. They make a complementary pair. Dada was a sporadic series of anarchic performances, declarations, exhibitions, staged across Europe and the USA. The Bauhaus was an innovative school of art and design founded in Weimar Germany. One was devoted to an art that would break everything up, the other to an art that would make the world anew. Destructive: constructive. In both cases, their desires leave us rubbing our eyes.

If anything, the Bauhaus looks the more lost cause. If you're an artist today, you can just about pretend you're a Dadaist. The art world will offer you a playground for disruptive acts, and pat you on the back for being transgressive, and beyond that, Dada was never very clear what was supposed to happen anyway. But in the Bauhaus game plan, the big world has to collaborate. The visual arts are to be integrated with industrial manufacture. The creative values of the school will spread throughout society. Every home will have them. The project has definable goals. You can't play at Bauhaus.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering