Tom Lubbock Artist / Critic dies at 53

Tom Lubbock

The chief art critic for the Independent, Tom Lubbock died yesterday, aged 53. This has come two years after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He was best known for his art criticism which embraced a clarity so original that it never relied on art-speak or any other kind of pretence. His honesty  was never intimidated by reputations in writing about the visual arts. Evening Standard, Art critic Brian Sewell, described Lubbock’s death as a “wretched loss”, said: “He really is amongst a very small body of English art critics – he was an outspoken and honest writer. He could tackle intelligently both Old Masters and contemporary art. I don’t think he cared about offending or not offending and that’s where the honesty came in.”

The Victoria Miro Gallery in London held an exhibition of the weekly paper collages which Lubbock made for the Saturday edition of The Independent between 1999 and 2004,In December. As a tribute to him the exhibition will reopen on Saturday 15 & Saturday 22 January from 10am to 6pm. Or by appointment Tuesday to Friday. Admission is free.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said: “Tom Lubbock was an original thinker who could always be relied upon to come up with a fresh and independent view. He will be much missed as a writer who could make plain the meaning behind even the most complicated art.” Lubbock leaves his wife, the artist Marion Coutts, whom he married in 2001, and their three-year-old son, Eugene.

Tom Lubbock | Collages from The Independent 1999 – 2004

Tom Sutcliffe remembers his friend of 30 Years Charles Darwent’s Obituary in The Independent Kevin Jackson’s Obituary in The Guardian

This exhibition of beautifully crafted paper collages, provides the first opportunity to see a small selection of works made weekly by Tom Lubbock for the Saturday edition of The Independent between 1999 and 2004. Topical, arcane, satirical and observant; this combination of text and image provides a unique bridge between Lubbock’s vast art historical knowledge and his sharp graphic response to the moment. The range of charged, bright, images reveal a highly original commentary that remains pertinent today.

The works are the result of an unusual and open newspaper brief, and continued to feature for five years on the editorial page without intervention.  Although the trajectory of the archive reflects the fact that this was a period of immense change in media production, the collages here are purely manual, and were created with scissors, a wax roller and a store of glossy magazines. The images are all precisely dated, and track in and out of the political and social changes of the time, referencing the war in Afghanistan, the rise and fall of New Labour, Section 28, ASBOS, as well as more oblique, personal, cultural and seasonal markers.

Mark Wallinger’s essay on Tom Lubbock’s collages

Political, a limited edition digital pigment print, has been made to accompany the exhibition. Click here for image and details


Tom Lubbock was the chief art critic of The Independent from 1997, and worked in newspapers, as a critic and an illustrator, for the past 25 years.  His recent art writing includes monographs on the 19th-century engraver Thomas Bewick and the contemporary British painter Carol Rhodes as well as the weekly Great Works column for The Independent.  Tom began working as a comedy writer and art critic for radio, television and newspapers in 1985, appearing on BBC2’s The Late Show and writing for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent, among others.

He has written major catalogue essays on Goya (2001) and Ian Hamilton Finlay (2002) and has also completed book-length works – The Donkey’s Head, on 17th-century painting, Great Works, a collection of essays to be published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln, and an anthology of English graphic art.

In November 2010, his essay, When Words Failed Me, was published in the Observer. This is part of a longer memoir that is a record of and reflection upon the progress of his life and illness since being diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2008.

Photo: Via Tom Lubbock Website