How Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group unbuttoned Britain

Published in BBC Culture on November 2, 2023

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in her 1928 novel Orlando, about a young nobleman who lives for several centuries, changing sex along the way.

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When Britain was gripped by ‘fairy mania’

Published in BBC Culture on September 18, 2023

Imagine a fairy. Is the picture that appears in your mind’s eye a tiny, pretty, magical figure – a childish wisp with insect-like wings and a dress made of petals?  

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Review: WARHOLCAPOTE, Rob Roth

Published in The TLS on January 6, 2023

In 1948 a young Andy Warhol read Truman Capote’s first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, and became obsessed with the writer. On moving to New York a few years later, he started sending fan letters to Capote, hanging around outside his house until they got talking, and after that phoned him every day. His first show in the city was called Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote.

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Inês De Castro: The macabre tale of the ‘skeleton queen’

Published in BBC Culture on April 20, 2022

It’s a tale as old as time – two lovers unjustly torn apart. But while the story of King Pedro I and his queen Inês De Castro has shades of Romeo and Juliet in its set up, it ends up somewhere altogether more macabre – imagine if Shakespeare’s tale swerved into horror movie territory in the final act. 

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The surprising ways that Victorians flirted

Published in BBC Culture January 17, 2022

Look up the term “collage”, and the Tate’s website will inform you that this cut-and-paste method for making new work was “first used as an artists’ technique in the early 20th Century.” Generally, Picasso and Braque get credited with inventing collage, with Picasso’s decision to paste oilcloth into his painting Still Life with Chair Caning in 1912 considered a firing shot for an explosion of avant-garde art.

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How I learned not to worry about being cool and fell in love with Renoir again

Published in Elephant August 17, 2021

I was small enough to be picked up to see the painting, held comfortably in my father’s arms. It was a good print, in a good frame, hanging on the wall in my grandmother’s dining room. It is the first artwork I can remember really being aware of, and I loved it.

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Why Alice is the ultimate icon of children’s books

Published in BBC Culture May 12, 2021

For books that are all about surprising transformations, it should perhaps be no real surprise that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are among the most frequently adapted and reinterpreted stories ever written.

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A cultural history of the nude selfie

Published in BBC Culture March 19, 2021 

“Love, lust, pleasure, desire, beauty, anatomical study, self-expression, egotism… The impulses behind sending nudes are many. Creating nudes and sharing them seems to be part of human nature.” So begins Karla Linn Merrifield, in the first contribution to a new anthology entitled Sending Nudes. A collection of poems, stories and memoir on the subject, it takes a long hard look at the contemporary – and seemingly timeless – habit of sharing images of the naked human form.

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