I do not, as an everyday practice, read or mull over the Obituaries page. My late mother used to pour over the ‘despatched’ page, mainly to find out whom she had outlasted. Sadly, her days ended in a haze of delirium, and she never knew who had actually won her own race. But I write in honour of a very special man, Brian Sewell; a person of rare intellect, a ferocious and astringent critic of the pompous and the false, and, surprisingly enough, a homosexual man who did not wish to parade his ‘difference’, and only expected others to respect his lifestyle choices. He was said to have stated that ‘he did not come out……but instead slowly emerged’
He had a surprisingly affected and almost ‘camp’ accented speech, but his was also a voice free from the snide and the absurd acid which seems to have infected many of his compatriots. His opinion of the ‘Contemporary Artist’ who seemed to think that a dirty pile of bedsheets draped across a grubby mattress constituted ‘Art’ was the same as the vast majority of ordinary British people, who can spot a fraud or a ‘pseud’ at about the same distance as they could see the celebrated formaldehyde-encased ‘Mother and child’ constituting a cow and a calf. Of the now infamous bed, he remarked “The sane man must ask whether he should give any of this pretentious stuff the time of day in aesthetic terms when it seems that this self-regarding exhibitionist is ignorant, inarticulate, talentless, loutish and now very rich.”
His knowledge and indeed love and admiration of Renaissance art was to colour his entire later life, he worked at Christie’s Auction House, and through his early immersion in great art with the attention and encouragement of his mother drew knowledge of the great artists as though through a sponge.
He was an entertaining raconteur and host of television documentaries, which ranged from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to a potted history of Rolls Royce cars; about which he also wrote a book. He also made a ten-episode documentary about the Grand Tour. His was a life of depth in art, in painting and in sculpture. He was that rarity, a man who could be depended upon to speak his mind, and woe indeed to the ones who attempted to revile him and his words, because he gave twice as much as he received. I liked him immensely and shall miss his fruity tones as he pondered on the iniquities of so-called ‘Modern Art’, for I too believe that the whole Modern Art establishment, inclusive of the ludicrous ‘Turner Prize’; itself named after an English genius, is nothing more than the most expensive con-job ever laid upon the British horizon.