You ask the questions: Brian Sewell

(Such as: are you a snob, and does it worry you that you're completely out of touch with contemporary culture?)

Brian Sewell, 67, is a broadcaster and art critic for the Evening Standard. Born in London, he studied at the Courtauld Institute. His controversial brand of criticism (he once described Whistler's Portrait of the Painter's Mother as "a wretched picture, ill-balanced, haphazard and clumsy") regularly infuriates sections of the art establishment. Sewell lives in west London.

I would tune into any programme in which you feature but would never buy the tabloid you write. Who understands you among the paper's readers?

Hilda Peach, Skegness

From my correspondence I gather that readers make considerable efforts, dictionary in hand, to understand what I write. I learned from teaching for a decade in Brixton Gaol that one should never patronise, never talk down, never adjust one's standards on the assumption that the men there were too ignorant and stupid to comprehend the general drift, and too lazy to follow it through afterwards: they were none of these.

Would you rather be preserved for posterity by a portrait in oils, or in a tank of formaldehyde?


I'd prefer to be a desiccated corpse in a Sicilian crypt.

I've heard you are a painter as well as a critic - is this true? Do you ever exhibit your work and, if not, why not?

Johanna Melvin, East London

Yes. No. It would be unfitting to take the bread out of the mouths of painters by selling my pictures, and boastful to exhibit them in the hope of adulation. The pictures are useful exercises in understanding the work of other painters - no more than that.

Does it ever worry you that you're completely out of touch with 20th- century contemporary culture?

Felix Woolf, Camberwell, London

No. And I am not.

Do you consider yourself a snob? Also, what's your idea of fun?

Zeren Wilson, Chingford

No. I am more at ease with the dustman than my fellow critics. Fun? Walking dogs, opera, the fine flow of conversation with close friends.

Which 20th-century artists or movements do you suspect will be deemed significant or relevant 200 years from now?

Colin Ankerson, Greenwich, London

I don't understand the word relevant in this context. Almost everything that has happened in art in the course of this century will be in some sense significant. Whether that significance will be a match for Michelangelo and Bernini is another argument.

Like many of my friends I consider football to be art. Do you agree and who do you think will win the league this year?

Richard Radisson, London SE20

No. Don't know. Don't care.

Whose portrait would you like yours to hand alongside in the National Portrait Gallery?


Painted portraiture in the late 20th century is outmoded and inefficient: a photograph of me and my dogs next to that pompous ass Germaine Greer might amuse the odd visitor who got the point.

So little in arts seems to please you. Will you name some artists whose works you really enjoy?

Robert Cook, London

Titian, Michelangelo, Bernini, Poussin, Gainsborough, Caspar David Friedrich, early Kandinsky, late Mondrian...

Do you revel in your role as the clown of art criticism who bravely exposes the pretentiousness that is so insufferably pervasive in the art world?

Hemant Solanki, Birmingham


Do you think your hysterical anti-gay ranting convinces anyone you are a heterosexual?

T Bird, London

I don't understand the question: it seems to be based on at least three misapprehensions.

What do you understand by the phrase "Post-Modernism"?

Phred Farret, Salford

Very little.

Have you always appreciated beauty or were you "taught" to do so?


I was exposed to it as a very small boy and gradually grew to understand that it is neither absolute nor permanent.

You seem to be "mellowing" these days, would you argue?


I have several times in recent years looked over the edge at death: I suspect that it has had some mellowing effect on my behaviour, but not on my aesthetic and political/social views.

Do you feel sorry for the aesthetically impoverished?

Julie Ramsden


You do not understand whole movements of painting such as Abstract Expressionism yet you earn a living as an art critic. If I was a literary critic whose appreciation of literature ended with Dickens I wouldn't be in great demand, so what's your secret?

David Godfrey, London

Your assertion is in error. Your question is thus unanswerable.

Can you recommend anywhere in the London area to buy and support art without encountering the snobby hangers-on that seem to frequent most galleries?

Neil Tyson

No. Open your own gallery.

Why do you object to people with academic PhDs calling themselves "doctor"?

Graham Lewis, London

The academic doctorate is an academic achievement within a very small compass. Within those academic purlieus it has relevance, but nowhere else. Its use by politicians is boastful self-aggrandisement and misleads a non-academic public accustomed to the title only in a medical sense. Call a doctor in a theatre and get Mo Mowlam? What use could she be to the victim of a heart attack?

Could you, or anyone, explain in a few words what makes Auerbach such a famous name?

NV Stanger, London


How do you deal with criticism? If called pompous and boring to your face, how would you react?


Turn on my heel. In open country, I justify my position in serious debate.

How did you acquire such an extraordinary collection of plums in your mouth?

Sam Reeve, London


Why do you dismiss Roger Fry (1866-1934) as ignorant?

Penri Morgan, London

He knew far too little about far too much and believed nothing worthwhile, apart from the work of Durer, was ever produced east of the Rhine.

Hitler once said all art should depict green grass and blue sky - he banned any form of abstract art in Nazi Germany - you would probably be of the same opinion. Doesn't that say rather a lot about your less than liberal tastes in art?

Rupert Harwood, Epsom

Hitler also believed the Germans to be the direct descendants of the classical Greeks. Why ask a question based on a false premise?

Why does modern art offend you?

Simon Ellis, Blackpool

It doesn't.

I have never heard English spoken like yours. Are you foreign?

Charles Copthorne, Cambridgeshire

Irish mother, Welsh father, Edwardian inheritance

What was your waking thought this morning?

Selina Hunter, London

Lordy, I'm up to date with my columns. What on earth can I do with the day?

Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral