Brian Sewell is a most remarkable man. One could easily brand him a jack of all trades who conversely excels in everything he does.
Besides being acclaimed by many – apart from his sworn enemies – as the best art critic in the world, his writing and humour are to the discerning few without parallel. His prose and turn of phrase have to the reader a musical resonance that enthrals as well as standing alone for its fluency and elegant flow. Language is like music; it is an art form that is perhaps endowed rather than learned. And in Brian’s case, he owes it to the circumstances of his birth and his tutoring by a mother whose way of life imbibed him with extraordinary gifts.
Having travelled extensively, met the good and the bad, the intellectually lame and the pretentious, he has over the years come to the conclusion that animals – particularly dogs – are more loving, loyal and comforting than the majority of humans. Yet, to his close circle of friends he remains a most accommodating and bounteous soul mate with an endearing sensitivity.
However, his pen can be deadly when provoked – for his lexicon is by no means to be taken lightly. Some of his previous encounters are but a testimony to an acerbity that tingles as well as bites.
As his publisher, I have over the last three years become aware of the multiplicity of his talents and his capacity to surprise with a sharp observatory power that brings new dimensions to any given subject. But above all, he possesses an uninhibited sense of humour – which in this particular case will not go down well with the sycophants of Margaret Thatcher, as the following piece from last week’s Evening Standard demonstrates:
‘Sewell’s urge to sit on Maggy T’
The rest of the world might be up in arms after the art dealer Dasha Zhukova was pictured sitting on a chair modelled like a black woman in bondage gear but Brian Sewell is amused: ‘It is just postmodernism; it is meant to be ironic.’
The Standard’s venerable art critic says he ‘would not pay tuppence’ for the work itself — made by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard as a comment on the original Sixties pieces by Allen Jones — but something about it has piqued his interest. ‘I would love to sit on Margaret Thatcher: if someone gave me a sculpture of her in sexy underwear, all done up in bondage gear, I would just adore to sit on that.’
Well that goes some way to encapsulating the thinking of a true humourist, whose wealth of repartee matches his formidable talent in other literary endeavours.
Brian has proved time and again that controversy has a premium value in our culture, so long as we maintain a highly envied standard in whatever we do, as learned debate is the key to a vibrant and intellectual society. Men such as he are indispensable.