Letter: In defence of the acerbic art criticism of Brian Sewell

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have never met Brian Sewell, but my experience of him has shown an entirely different side to the one complained about by the petitioners for his dismissal ('Critic caught in the line of artistic fire', 6 January).

In 1988 I was badly injured in a road accident. After prolonged convalescence, during which I gained much of my spiritual sustenance from painting, without the benefit of institutional support, I decided to undertake a course of study in fine art with a view to gaining greater insight than I could as a self-taught painter. I attempted to contact the Arts Council, and subsequently the tutors of several major London art schools, to inquire about the ways of going about this. My inquiries were met with indifference until, after several months, I wrote to Brian Sewell at the Evening Standard asking if he would examine my portfolio.

To my surprise, he agreed to appraise my work and I sent him some 70 slides (with misgivings, as I had only the one copy of each). They were returned undamaged after two or three weeks, in a carefully wrapped parcel, with a letter listing their weaknesses and praising their strengths, and suggesting some avenues I might consider to remedy my situation.

He invited me to keep in touch, and for several months thereafter I telephoned him. During this series of discussions he always treated me with respect and dignity, answering my many questions immediately and without objection, and giving objective and informed reasons for his replies. In spite of his obvious commitment to his beliefs, he never attempted to impose a value judgement on the methods or preferences of any particular system or school, or the personal life of any individual artist, even though these were discussed in depth, and always encouraged me to continue painting.

He later selected two of my works for inclusion in his Critics' Choice Exhibition at the Cooling Gallery in Cork Street, giving me an exceptional opportunity as an unknown artist. Brian Sewell's encouragement and support have been invaluable, raising my awareness and pointing the way for me to seek my own voice from a more informed, less isolated place, and thus helping me to overcome the heavy anguish I felt at the time.

Yours faithfully,

PHILIPPE DELIGANT

London, NW10

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