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?

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum