Tom Lubbock, the chief art critic of the UK’s Independent newspaper for the last 13 years and a respected illustrator in his own right, has died after a battle with cancer which he chronicled with characteristic candour. He was 53.
The Independent reports that the Cambridge-educated writer, who was admired by his peers and his subjects for his vast knowledge and unaffected insight into artists from Francis Bacon to Pieter Bruegel, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour two years ago and continued to work virtually throughout his illness, submitting articles even as he incrementally lost control over his speech.
His last piece, written while staying in the south London hospice where he died yesterday afternoon, appeared in November, shortly before the opening of the first solo exhibition of his collages which appeared every Saturday between 1999 and 2004 in pages of The Independent. In a review of the exhibition, Mark Wallinger, the Turner Prize-winning artist who was a close friend, said: “He addressed the world in many different registers – sardonic, caustic, erudite and celebratory, with instinct, intelligence and wit.”
Fellow critic Brian Sewell, who 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.”
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.”
As his illness progressed, Lubbock wrote a memoir describing the slow loss of the grip on language that defined his life. “This life is unbelievable,” he wrote. “At moments it is terrible and outrageous. But in other ways I accept what it brings, in its strangeness and newness. This mortality makes its own world… And then again, I try to live as normally as I can.”
Lubbock leaves his wife, the artist Marion Coutts, whom he married in 2001, and their three-year-old son, Eugene.