Arts and Entertainment Brace yourself: Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves in 'House of Fools'

Vic and Bob have done sketch shows (The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer), web series (Vic & Bob’s Afternoon Delights), comedy dramas (Catterick, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)) and the greatest quiz show of all time (Shooting Stars), but until now they’ve never done a sitcom as sit-commy as this. Their new show, House of Fools (BBC2), is filmed in front of a live studio audience, and the duo play Odd Couple-style flatmates in a home filled with bizarre bric-à-brac and beset by unwelcome visitors.

PHOTOGRAPHY / Behind the mask: Who was Claude Cahun: man, woman or member of the third sex? Adrian Searle reviews the gender-bending Surrealist photographer

Sometimes she looks like a man, at other times like a disconcertingly contemporary androgyne, with a shaven head and fabulously loud shirt. She cuts the scariest edge of fashion, yet was born exactly a century ago. Who is this third-sexer made-up to look like a cross between Sinead O'Connor and Nosferatu?

T'narrowness of t'North: They scorn muesli and avocados. They're poor, gritty and somehow authentic. Or are they?

THE NORTH is having one of its periodic funny 'turns'. Flat vowels and outside toilets are everywhere. Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of J B Priestley; on Sunday Victoria Wood's television film Pat and Margaret was broadcast to rave reviews; soon Alan Bennett's dyspeptic, gloomy diaries are to be published. Once again everything north of Newport Pagnell services has become withering, strange, salutary and funny.

Tactical weapons: Abram Games' wartime posters mixed sloganeering with a touch of surrealism and the promise of a brighter future. Iain Gale reports

It was Total War. From 1939 to 1945 the British people were united against tyranny. But the Government, unidealistic, realised that total patriotic unity could not be achieved without some persuasion. An expert in the art of such persuasion was Abram Games.

Obituary: Paul Delvaux

Paul Delvaux, painter; born Antheit, Belgium 23 September 1897; twice married; died Furnes, Belgium 20 July 1994.

Surrealist Delvaux dies at 96

BRUSSELS - The Belgian painter Paul Delvaux, whose dreamlike depictions of hypnotic naked women, skeletons and trains in timeless landscapes made him a master of surrealism, died at 96. Delvaux was one of the last surviving surrealist painters, having gained fame for depicting the richness of the subconscious in figurative images. AP

A licence to print money: The photograph by Man Ray (above) was bought last month for hundreds of thousands. The self-portrait by Alvin Langdon Coburn (right) sold last week for tens of thousands. Smile, please, photography is beaming. Iain Gale reports from the saleroom

Christie's saleroom is packed; the auctioneer has barely broken sweat by the time the picture has passed its estimate of pounds 15,000- pounds 20,000. The early bidders - a bald-headed man at the front of the room, a thin man with a pony-tail and a nervous woman in a green coat - have fallen away, and all attention is on the two who remain: a sombre man in a side aisle and a voice on the end of a phone. The hammer falls and heads drop to peruse the reproduction of a photograph in the catalogue. It is a self-portrait by Alvin Langdon Coburn, taken in 1905 when Coburn was 23 and the young turk of artist photographers. In it he wears a high-collared jacket and the shadow of a disdainful scowl. That scowl has just been sold for pounds 36,700.

Noir et Blanche (1926) by Man Ray

(Photograph omitted)

Obituary: Jose Coronel Urtecho

Jose Coronel Urtecho, poet: born Granada, Nicaragua 1906; died Los Chiles, Nicaragua 19 March 1994.

IN THE FRAME / Joseph Cornell: Theatre of the Mind

When the American artist Joseph Cornell died in 1973, at the age of 70, he was already renowned for his surreal and enigmatic boxes, which one critic called 'some of the most individual achievements in the entire modernist canon'. In an introductory essay to Theatre of the Mind: Selected Diaries, Letters and Files (Thames & Hudson pounds 24), Robert Motherwell lists Cornell's obsessions reflected in his boxes' contents: 'Birds and cages, empty cages, mirrors, ballerinas and theater folk (living and dead), foreign cities, Americana, Tom Thumb, Greta Garbo, Mallarme, Charlie Chaplin, neglected children, charts of the stars, wineglasses, pipes, corks, thimbles, indigo blue and milky white, silver tinsel, rubbed wood, wooden drawers filled with treasures, knobs, cheese boxes (as a joke), wooden balls, hoops, rings, corridors, prison bars, infinite alleys . . .'. (If the cheese boxes are a joke, what is the rest?)

Surrealist hands set to fetch five-digit price

A PAIR of furry hands with wooden fingers and painted nails (right), one of the ultimate Surrealist objects, is to be sold for an estimated pounds 30,000 by Christie's in Zurich on 11 April, writes Dalya Alberge.

BOOK REVIEW / Love and death on the forest floor: 'Days of Anger ' - Sylvie Germain; Tr. Christine Donougher: Dedalus, 8.99 pounds

FRENCH magic realism? Sounds awful, doesn't it? But Sylvie Germain is much more remarkable than tags such as these might make her sound (she could hardly be less). Her first novel, The Book of Nights, was a tremendous success in France, and won the Scott-Moncrieff Prize for translations when it was published in Britain last year. Now Days of Anger has arrived in English, too, having won the Prix Femina and many critical accolades, all of them deserved.

Atget's Paris

BY THE TIME Eugene Atget wrote to Paul Leon, Director of Fine Arts at the Museum of Historical Monuments in Paris, in 1920, the city he had photographed was already disappearing. In the past 20 years, Atget told Leon, he had 'collected artistic documents of the fine sixteenth to nineteenth century architecture in all the ancient streets of old Paris in the form of photographic plates in format 18cm x 24cm: old hotels, historical and curious houses, fine facades and doors, panellings, door-knockers, old fountains, period stairs (wood and wrought iron), and interiors of all the churches in Paris (overall views and details) . . . This huge artistic and documentary collection is now completed, and I can truthfully say that I possess the whole of old Paris.'

Obituary: Marcel Marien

Marcel Marien, publisher, poet, artist, writer: born Antwerp 29 April 1920; publications include Notes 1943, Magritte 1943, Les Corrections naturelles 1947, Theorie de la revolution mondiale immediate 1958, Dix Tableaux de Magritte 1946, L'Activite surrealiste en Belgique 1979; died 19 September 1993.

Obituary: Pierre Naville

Pierre Naville, poet, writer and artist: born 1903; publications include: Les Reines de la main gauche 1924, La Revolution et les Intellectuels 1926 (new expanded edition 1975), Paul-Thiry d'Holbach et la philosophie scientifique du 18eme siecle 1943, Le Nouveau Leviathan 1957-81, Trotsky vivant 1962, Le Temps du surreel 1977, Sociologie d'aujourd'hui 1981; married; died 24 April 1993.

BOOK REVIEW / 'Erotique violee',: 'Power and Beauty: Images of Women in Art' - eds Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot: Tauris Parke, 32 pounds

Man Ray's 'Erotique violee', 1933, a portrait of Meret Oppenheim, the surrealist Swiss artist, which plays with the ambiguities between technology, gender, standardisation and individual sexuality. From Power and Beauty: Images of Women in Art, eds Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot (Tauris Parke pounds 32), an analysis of representations of the female form (largely European, largely by men) from Cranach to Dali. An interesting collation of images, although the text is sometimes feeble and glib: whether madonnas or witches, such images have allegedly 'perpetuated the notion of a fundamental incapacity in women, surrendering, passive, dressed up for men's pleasure'.
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