Scope and Content

This sub-collection comprises the material related to Sewell's work as a journalist and art critic. It includes his handwritten and typed draft articles, alongside proofs and cuttings of published articles on many different subjects.

Sewell filed the many articles he wrote in A4 brown envelopes, titled with the name or subject matter of article and these titles have been retained. He separated the envelopes into three groups: articles about the arts, articles about non-art subjects, and articles about cars, and this arrangement has also been retained. During the cataloguing process, many other articles which were found elsewhere amongst his papers have been added to the appropriate series. In addition, articles about dogs have been given their own series. The series are outlined below:

-Articles on the Arts: Artists, Exhibitions and Reviews

-Articles on the Arts: London Letters

-Articles on the Arts: Picture This; Hot Tickets; Picture of the Week

-Articles on non art related subjects

-Articles on cars

-Articles on dogs

The files often contain more than one article. This is because:

-Sewell often revisited the same subjects during his career as a journalist, often giving a new article the same title as a previous one, and filing both together

-he often created and kept multiple copies of the same article (either as typed drafts, proofs, newscuttings, or photocopies of published articles) and where it has been possible to do so, two copies of each have been retained

-he sometimes filed individual articles in two different envelopes which has also led to some duplication of articles, for example, the articles he wrote for Ill Giornale dell-Arte as London Letters were filed as one separate sequence (see BS/5/1a) but can also be found amongst the other article series

Sewell also routinely filed any related material with his articles. This includes:

-his handwritten or typed research notes

-correspondence relating to his research, arrangements for publication, or sent in response to the published article

-research materials, which comprise newscuttings of published articles by other writers, extracts from publications, photographs, reports, etc

Unless otherwise stated in each catalogue description, the articles were written for the Evening Standard. Sewell created a typed list to record the titles and dates of those published in the paper between 1990-2014 and this can be found in BS/5/5/3 - List of articles written for the Evening Standard.

Administrative / Biographical History

Although Sewell pursued many interests and occupations throughout his life, it is for his work as a journalist and art critic that he is probably (at least publicly) best known. He first obtained a job as a critic with Tatler magazine because of the honest and outspoken way he had dealt with the media in 1979 following Anthony Blunt's exposure as a spy. He was offered £100 to write a thousand words, ten times a year for the magazine and his first article, a review of the works of Dali at the Tate Gallery, was published in June 1980.

Underneath his acerbic wit and interesting turn of phrase, Sewell was extremely knowledgeable and wrote informedly about art from a wide range of periods, genres and countries. Building on the foundations established with his Courtauld degree, he continued to read widely about the subject and, by the time of his death, had amassed a personal library of hundreds of books. Paperwork in the archive also reveals that he would not review an exhibition without visiting it in person: unlike other journalists he prided himself on always seeing the works first-hand.

Although Sewell continued to write for Tatler until 1990, his knowledge about art and obvious talent as a journalist meant that he was soon commissioned to write for other publications. From 1984 Sewell wrote regularly on the arts for the Evening Standard, as well as on many other subjects for his weekly opinion piece. His writing was articulate, witty, provocative, and often critical of the contemporary art world of the 1990s-2010s. His 1993 article about Tate's exhibition titled Writing on the Wall created an outcry amongst the contemporary art establishment. Despite a failed attempt by thirty-five artists, critics, art historians and dealers to get Sewell sacked from the Evening Standard, two months later he won Critic of the Year for the second time. He also won Arts Journalist of the Year (1994), the Hawthornden Prize for Art Criticism (1995), and the Foreign Press Award (Arts) (2000), and two compendium volumes of his more controversial articles, The Reviews that Caused a Rumpus and other pieces, and Naked Emperors: Criticisms of English Contemporary Art, were published in 1994 and 2012.

His success as an arts journalist also led to commissions to write about a wide range of popular and contemporary subjects, and also allowed Sewell to indulge his other passions: cars, dogs, and travel. He regularly wrote articles about cars for Evening Standard's ES Magazine, as well as many other publications, including the Independent, BMW Magazine, CAR, and Automobile; and his articles about dogs and animal welfare were published by the Evening Standard, as well as Country Life, The Times, PETA, and the Kennel Club Magazine. Sewell's articles about his visits to various locations can be found in BS/5: Travel: Travel articles.

Sewell continued to write for the Evening Standard and many other publications, and his last articles were written shortly before he died in 2015.

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