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Tom Lubbock's Great Works

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[THIS WEEK] Tom Lubbock helped his readers see the unexpected in art, writes James Pallister

One of the consequences of the introduction of broadband and the explosion of internet usage that followed has been the devaluing of the individual image. When an amusing, inspiring or useful image is just a click away, the compulsion to clip, collate and catalogue images diminishes.


When I was studying for my art A-level, there was still a premium on images. As a keen collagist and natural-born hoarder, good pictures were hard currency: to incorporate into work or as sources of inspiration. One of my favourites to clip out of the newspaper was Tom Lubbock’s collages in the Independent. Their completeness meant they weren’t much good as raw material, but they tended to be weirdly compulsive. Part of this was in their formal qualities, generally collages with moments of hyper-real illustration, and partly it was because of their incongruous position in the newspaper. Where you would normally expect to find an editorial cartoon, he used a seemingly fickle technique of directing his attention towards timely news stories one week and to oblique philosophical subjects another.


As well as being one of the Independent’s illustrators, Lubbock was its chief art critic. I stopped reading the paper after I left home and so missed his weekly series, ‘Great Works’, which ran between 2005-10. Here, he wrote short essays on a particular painting, bringing it to life in myriad unexpected ways. His tastes were catholic and his references wide-ranging. He took on masters ancient and modern; Miró, Goya, Toulouse Lautrec (The Bed, right) and drew upon references high and low; Proust, Mickey Mouse, Hitchcock.


Lubbock died in January this year, aged 53. The new book, Great Works, collects 50 of his short essays together with reproductions of the paintings they discuss. There are no collages in it, but you’ll still be richly rewarded with words, ones which that make you see anew.


Great Works: 50 Paintings Explored, Tom Lubbock, Frances Lincoln, £18.99

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