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
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own