How flabby our ideas of draughtsmanship have become

The term drawing is a broad umbrella, so in an exhibition of 120 works it helps to outline some distinctions. A good place to start is to ask what drawings are for, and that is what Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has done with its current show of sketches by Flemish masters – staged in collaboration with Antwerp’s Museum Plantin-Moretus – dividing them into studies, designs and stand-alone finished works. Van Dyck’s teenage studies are a measure of how flabby our ideas of draughtsmanship have become If you’ve ever had the chance to visit it, you’ll know what a special place the Plantin-Moretus is. Still occupying the original premises in which it

The ghostly charcoals of Frank Auerbach

‘In some curious way, the practice of art and the awareness of the imminence of death are connected,’ Frank Auerbach said in 2012. ‘Otherwise, we would not find it necessary to do the work art finally does – to pin something down and take it out of time.’ There’s no sense of the imminence of death in Auerbach’s postwar landscapes of London building sites stirring with new life, but there is in his contemporary charcoal portraits, as scarred and sooty as the Blitzed city in which they were made. Auerbach started making large charcoal drawings from life as a student in David Bomberg’s evening classes at Borough Polytechnic, and carried

‘I came, I saw, I scribbled’: Shane MacGowan on Bob Dylan, angels and his lifelong love of art

We join Shane MacGowan, much like a character from one of his songs, in a world where prosaic, often harsh realities vie with feverish flights of fancy. The former Pogue conducts this interview remotely, ‘sitting on a vastly uncomfortable lime green leather chair, within reach of a grey bucket, in a small but surprisingly unspeakable room. In a corner, Jimi Hendrix is repairing some broken guitar strings, while in the kitchen behind me, Bono is loading the dishwasher and a leprechaun with a gold earring is rolling what he says is a cigarette. On the walls are a selection of my wife’s multidimensional angel paintings and one or two of

These rediscovered drawings by Hokusai are extraordinary

Lost boys, lost women, lost civilisations, lost causes — the romantic ring of the word ‘lost’ is media gold. So when the British Museum announced last autumn that it had acquired 103 ‘lost’ drawings by Hokusai, one was tempted to take it with a large pinch of salt. How do 103 drawings by Japan’s most famous artist simply disappear? The answer is, surprisingly easily. Hokusai’s works have never commanded the sorts of prices a draughtsman of his calibre would be expected to fetch, not even in Japan. His art was designed to be affordable: in his day, you could buy a print of ‘The Great Wave’ for the price of