28 of the most exciting new art exhibitions to see in London this summer

From retrospectives of era-defining artists to cutting-edge immersive installations, the city’s art scene is thriving this season

The capital’s cultural institutions have excelled once again, with a wealth of exciting art exhibitions to see in London this summer. From the RA’s 255th Summer Exhibition and a retrospective of trailblazing photographer Yevonde at the reopened National Portrait Gallery to a new body of work by Chris Ofili at Victoria Miro and Tate Modern’s celebration of contemporary African photography, here’s where to go for your culture fix.  

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London Art Exhibitions for Summer 2023

Summer Exhibition
Royal Academy of Arts
13 June - 20 August

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It’s that time of the year when the art world flock to the RA for what promises to be one of the most exciting art exhibitions to see in London this summer, the 255th Summer Exhibition. This year it is coordinated by British artist David Remfry RA who, along with the committee, will explore the theme of Only Connect (inspired by a quote from the novel Howards End by E. M. Forster). In addition to the huge volume of public submissions that will be hung on the walls, the exhibition will feature work by Royal Academicians such as Frank Bowling, Michael Craig-Martin, Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing and the late Paula Rego. Other artists exhibiting include British artist Lindsey Mendick, who has created three new ceramic works, and Barbados born painter Paul Dash, who will show compositions that bridge figuration and abstraction. The Architecture Room, curated by Peter Barber RA, will focus on construction and making, with two towering works by the late Phyllida Barlow RA as the centrepiece.

Avedon: Glamorous
Hamiltons Gallery
Until 11 August

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Antonella Agnelli, New York, 1961

To commemorate the centenary of Richard Avedon’s birth, Hamiltons has curated a series of images – some iconic, others less well-known – taken by the late photographer throughout his 60-year career. Forever pushing the boundaries of portraiture, Avedon was widely recognised as one of the pioneers of modern photography and was the first photographer to have two exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This exhibition focuses on glamour, a central pillar to Avedon’s oeuvre. Hamiltons has worked closely with The Avedon Foundation to create an exhibition that fully details the length and breadth of Avedon’s understanding of how to convey glamour, with subjects ranging from models – including Twiggy, Ingrid Boulting and Jean Shrimpton – to Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Vanderbilt.

Capturing the Moment
Tate Modern
13 June - 28 January 2024

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David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972

Francis Bacon, Peter Doig, Paula Rego, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Paulina Olowska, Lisa Brice, Hiroshi Sugimoto… just a few of the artists whose work has been curated for this exhibition exploring the dynamic between contemporary painting and photography. The show has been laid out as an open-ended conversation between artist and photographer, looking at how the brush and the lens have inspired and influenced each other, and converged. It starts with painters of the post-war period and visitors will be able to see, for example, how artists like Lucian Freud and Alice Neel developed alongside ground-breaking photographers like Dorothea Lange – and how the influence also worked the other way. In another section of the exhibition, more recent canvases, by the likes of Laura Owens and Salman Toor, show how digital media is reshaping how artists work today.

A World in Common - Contemporary African Photography
Tate Modern
6 July - 14 January 2024

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Mario Macilau, Breaking News from The Profit Corner series, 2015

This exhibition brings together a group of 36 multi-generational artists to celebrate the dynamic landscape of photography in Africa today. Unfolding across seven thematic sections, the exhibition features around 100 works, all of which serve to highlight contemporary perspectives on cultural heritage, spirituality, urbanisation and climate change. As visitors follow artists across the many landscapes, borders and time zones in the African continent, from sprawling urban landscapes to ethereal utopias, they’ll hopefully come to realise how photography allows the past and the future to co-exist.

Yevonde: Life and Colour
National Portrait Gallery
22 June - 15 October

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Mask (Rosemary Chance) by Yevonde (1938, printed 2022-3)

Following a two-year closure, it seems only fitting that the National Portrait Gallery should reopen with Yevonde: Life and Colour, an exhibition celebrating the incredible 60-year career of London-based Yevonde Middleton (1893-1975). Yevonde – who went by her first name or Madame Yevonde – was a portrait photographer who pushed the boundaries of her medium throughout most of the 20th century, in particular pioneering colour photography in the 1930s. This exhibition, which is supported by the Chanel Culture Fund and is the largest of Yevonde’s work to date, brings together over 150 of her portraits, commercial work and still lives, including 25 newly discovered photographs.

24 June - 7 April 2024

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Cher, Elton John and Diana Ross at the Rock Awards, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1975

A first-of-its-kind celebration of the power and creativity of the diva (meaning ‘goddess’ in Italian). Fashion, photography, design, costumes, music and live performance will be brought together to celebrate the power and creativity of some of our best-known iconic performers who’ve “made their voices heard” from the 19th century to the current day. Over 60 looks go on display in what promises to be one of the most exciting art exhibitions to see in London this summer – from an ensemble Maria Callas wore on stage and Marilyn Monroe’s fringed dress in Some Like It Hot to iconic Bob Mackie-designed costumes for Tina Turner and Cher, and Elton John’s Louis XIV inspired, Sandy Powell-designed look for his 50th birthday. All come together to demonstrate how the term ‘diva’ has changed over the years, looking at the creation of the diva and how performers of all genders have reclaimed the title as an expression of both their art and sense of self.

Civilization: The Way We Live Now
Saatchi Gallery
2 June - 17 September

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Pablo López Luz, Vista Aerea de la Ciudad de Mexico, XIII, from the series Terrazo, 2006

William A. Ewing and Holly Roussell had the enormous task of curating an exhibition comprising 350 original prints by 150 contemporary photographers from around the globe, for Saatchi Gallery’s highly anticipated new show (which has already toured in major museums across Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, France and Italy). The theme centres around contemporary civilisation, with the artists exploring global societies today and humankind’s always changing and forever complex life in the 21st century. The images cover every corner of the globe, from Raimond Wouda’s high school subculture and Wang Qingsong’s parody of insane work habits to Lauren Greenfield’s displays of ostentatious wealth, Edward Burtynsky’s study of fragile water resources and Xing Danwen’s electronic wastelands.

Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis
Hayward Gallery
21 June - 3 September

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Himali Singh Soin, Inverted Map II, 2020

Framed within the Southbank Centre’s wider summer season of work focusing on the climate emergency and leading on from Hayward Gallery’s acclaimed 2020 Among the Trees exhibition, Dear Earth explores how contemporary artists are helping to reframe our responses to the environmental crisis. Multi-disciplinary works by more than a dozen international creatives will be on display – including new commissions – to inspire a renewed sense of connection with the natural world, inviting the viewer to consider the unique role art has to play in the climate debate. What is so refreshing here is that the underlying message is one of hope, joy and compassion, drawing on themes of resilience, care and tending.

Jean Cooke: Ungardening
Garden Museum
21 June - 10 September

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Jean Cooke, Through the Looking Glass, 1960

This retrospective focuses on Jean Cooke’s (1927-2008) garden paintings. Cooke – who was not a conventional gardener, once citing “ungardening” as her hobby, preferring to leave nature to its own devices – was an underrated artist. Throughout her lifetime, despite becoming a member of the RA in 1972, her oeuvre was overshadowed by that of her husband, the painter John Bratby (who only allowed his wife to paint for a certain period each day). This exhibition brings together over 30 of her works, including newly discovered, never-before-seen paintings, depicting Cooke’s gardens – an overgrown plot in Blackheath and a clifftop meadow at her coastal Sussex cottage. Also included is an early self-portrait, Through the Looking Glass (1960).

Berthe Morisot
Dulwich Picture Gallery
31 March - 10 September

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Berthe Morisot, Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1885

Berthe Morisot was undoubtedly a trailblazer. The French painter was a founding member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. Her paintings – which give fascinating, often intimate, glimpses into everyday life in the 19th century – featured prominently in the Impressionist exhibitions at the time, defying the social norms and what was undoubtedly a very male profession. Around 30 of Morisot’s masterpieces have been collated from around the world for this exhibition, held in partnership with Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. They will be displayed alongside artwork by greats such as Reynolds, Gainsborough and Fragonard to help trace the roots of Morisot’s inspiration and highlight the originality of her artistic vision.

Chris Ofili: The Seven Deadly Sins
Victoria Miro
2 June - 29 July

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Chris Ofili, The Pink Waterfall detail, 2019-2023

A major new series of paintings by Chris Ofili, completed over the past six years and offering “an expansive meditation on sin and the complex experience of sinfulness” is shown at Victoria Miro’s Wharf Road gallery. The Turner Prize-winning artist contemplates the seven deadly sins but rather than focusing on one particular sin, each canvas encompasses the gamut of excessive and transgressive behaviours. The works represent scenes where humans and mythological creatures co-exist, a place where the forces of attraction and repulsion hold sway. A new publication accompanies the exhibition, in which Ofili invited seven writers – Hilton Als, Inua Ellams, Marlon James, Anthony Joseph, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, Attillah Springer and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye – to contribute poems and narratives meditating on the seven deadly sins.

AI: Who’s Looking After Me?
Science Gallery London
21 June - 20 January 2024

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Cat Royale by Blast Theory

Artificial Intelligence continues to shape our future – and this exhibition and public programme (a collaboration between Science Gallery London and FutureEverything) is a deepdive into AI and its impact on our lives. Artists, King’s College London researchers, young people and technologists have come together to help create what promises to be a fascinating show, looking at who holds the power in technological advancement, as well as how humans might take more collective ownership of the systems that feel beyond our control. The exhibition includes an exploration into AI’s role in healthcare, the power of algorithms, and the imagination of a futurist utopia with robots, as well as a film touching on the hidden workforce that enables AI systems to function.

To Bend The Ear of the Outer World
1 June - 26 August

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Suzanne Jackson, Palimpsest Grit, 2022-2023

This new exhibition, called To Bend The Ear of the Outer World: Conversations on contemporary abstract painting to give it its full name, is the first to be sited across both of Gagosian’s galleries in Mayfair, at Grosvenor Hill and Davies Street. Guest curator Gary Garrels brings together new and recent works by more than 40 international, multi-generational artists, displaying a single painting by each to showcase the significance of abstract painting today. The idea is that, while the installation emphases the individuality of each work and artist, the viewer will also find their own affinities between them, better understanding the latest developments in abstract painting and its significance today.

Andy Warhol: The Textiles
Fashion & Textile Museum
Until 10 September

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Shoes Textile, blouse, Jayson Classics, circa 19571958 © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Licensed by DACS, London

He is, of course, famous the world over as the King of Pop Art, whose works so brilliantly embraced consumerism, celebrity and counterculture. But what isn’t as well known about Andy Warhol is that he produced a series of textile designs during his early career as a commercial designer and illustrator in the 1950s and early 60s. This exhibition brings together over 45 of these designs, dazzling in their colours and patterns. Ice cream sundaes, toffee apples, lemons, pretzels, clowns… all feature, both as fabric lengths and garments, showing how this body of work added considerably to his ability as an artist. Some of the most important manufacturers in American textile history are also represented, such as Stehli Silks, Fuller Fabrics Inc., and M Lowenstein and Sons.

Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece
The British Museum
Until 13 August

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Sphinx Drinking Cup © The Trustees of the British Museum
The Best New London Exhibitions To See This Spring 2023Pin
Gilt silver rhyton © The Trustees of the British Museum

This promises to be a blockbuster of a show highlighting the relationship between luxury and power in the Middle East and southeast Europe between 550-30BC. The London exhibition looks beyond ancient Greece to Iran, Athens and the world of Alexander, king of Macedon, aka ‘Alexander the Great’. Expect some incredible loans – including the extraordinary Panagyurishte Treasure from Bulgaria – as well as objects from the British Museum’s own extensive collection, including a glittering array of gold, silver and glass artefacts. These exquisite pieces have been curated to help the visitor understand how the concept of luxury changed over the centuries, from the royal Persian court who used luxurious objects as markers of authority to those pioneers of early democratic Athens who – dismissing Persian culture as decadent – put their own unique spin on luxury.

Style and Society: Dressing the Georgians
The Queen’s Gallery
Until 8 October

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British School, St James’s Park and the Mall, c.1745

This exploration into life in the 18th century, presented through the fashions of the day, is one for the best new art exhibitions in London list. Over 200 works from the Royal Collection are on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth. These are shown alongside rare examples of clothing and accessories from the era. All build a fascinating picture of what the Georgians wore – from the day-to-day practical attire of, say, laundry maids, to the bejewelled finery at court. Exhibition highlights include a rarely seen full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough, which usually hangs in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. This will be shown beside a beautifully preserved gown of a similar style, worn at Queen Charlotte’s court in the 1760s. And don’t miss Queen Charlotte’s book of psalms, covered in the only silk fabric known to survive from one of her dresses.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art
The National Gallery
Until 13 August

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Paul Cézanne, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894 – 1905

The decades between 1880 and the First World War were ones of instability, but they were also a time of artistic questioning, searching and innovation. At the forefront were Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. This blockbuster – and easily one of the best new art exhibitions in London this Spring – brings together iconic works by these artistic greats to celebrate not just their achievements, but also the influence they had on the generations of artists across Europe that followed in their wake. Other works by artists ranging from Klimt to Kandinsky, Matisse to Mondrian, Rodin to Claudel, further serve to explore the creation of a new modern art, free from the constraints of convention, taking in Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction.

The Offbeat Sari
Design Museum
19 May - 17 September

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Norblack Norwhite. Photo Bikramjit Bose

This London exhibition unravels the role of the sari and its manifold definitions of India today. Curated by the Design Museum’s Head of Curatorial Priya Khanchandani, over 90 saris will be on display, including some of the finest designs of our time. Exquisitely crafted and often experimental, these include the first ever sari worn to the Met Gala and Tarun Tahiliani’s shimmering creation for Lady Gaga. Through their textures, weaves and colours, all tell the story of how the sari is an expression of identity and resistance. The exhibition also serves to showcase how this ubiquitous item of clothing has had a 21st century overhaul, with designers experimenting with evermore hybrid forms such as sari gowns and dresses, pre-draped saris and innovative materials such as steel.

Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me
Tate Britain
Until 20 August

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Isaac Julien, The Lady of the Lake (Lessons of the Hour)

London-born artist Isaac Julien is renowned for breaking down the barriers between different artistic disciplines – film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, sculpture – and using them to construct his own visual narratives through his lyrical films and video art installations. Tate Britain presents a unique overview of Julien’s pioneering 40-year career, including his trailblazing early films and immersive videos of the early 1980s to the kaleidoscopic, sculptural multi-screen installations for which he is so renowned today. A fascinating insight into Julien’s critical thinking and the way his work reflects themes of desire, history and culture.

Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender
William Morris Gallery
Until 10 September

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Tinsel jumpsuit, Ashish, Autumn Winter 2018 © Ashish Gupta

Fashion fans will want to visit this major survey of designer Ashish Gupta where over 60 designs are on display, created by his eponymous London-based fashion label over the past two decades. Known for making clothes that are at once glamorous and joyful, many exquisitely hand-embroidered in sequins and beads, Ashish has been worn by everyone from Beyonce and Rihanna to Debbie Harry. The exhibition explores “spectacle”, a recurring theme in Ashish’s work, inspired by mid-century Hollywood and Disco-era fashion. It also looks at Ashish’s use of fashion as a means of social and political messaging (such as his designs emblazoned with ‘More glitter less Twitter’ devised in response to the election of President Trump in 2016). It also spotlights Ashish’s SS17 ‘The Yellow Brick Road collection, which was an overt celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance.

The Rossettis
Tate Britain
6 April - 24 September

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine 1874 © Tate

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Rossettis – Dante Gabriel, his sister Christina and his wife Elizabeth (neé Siddal). Spanning the Pre-Raphaelite years and beyond, over 150 paintings and drawings have been brought together at Tate Britain. Indeed, it is the largest exhibition of Dante Gabriel’s work in two decades and the first full retrospective of Elizabeth Siddal for 30 years, with many of her rare surviving watercolours and drawings on display. This major exhibition will showcase the Rossettis’ unique approach to life, love and art and how their influence manifests itself to this day. One not to miss.

Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life
Tate Modern
20 April - 3 September

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Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, Group IV, No. 3, Youth, 1907. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation
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Piet Mondrian, Composition with red, black, yellow, blue and gray 1921. Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Though they never met each other, Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian had much in common: each had a deep connection to the natural world and shared a mutual desire to understand the forces behind life on earth (both, too, died in 1944). For the first time ever, this exhibition presents the artists in close dialogue with around 250 works on display, including paintings, drawings and archival materials, revealing just how much their art reflected the new ideas, theories and scientific discoveries in the first half of the 20th century. Incidentally, this is the largest presentation of Hilma af Klint’s work in the UK to date – and will be the first time in over 25 years in this country that Mondrian’s early work has been shown alongside his iconic grid paintings.

Paula Rego: Crivelli’s Garden
National Gallery
20 July - 29 October

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Paula Rego, Crivelli's Garden III, 19901

Paula Rego was undoubtedly one of the most compelling figurative artists of her generation, whose work touched on hidden narratives and associated stigmas around the themes of  sexuality and gender, fear, desire, power and grief. More than 30 years ago, Rego – who was the National Gallery’s first Associate Artist – was commissioned to create a painting for the Sainsbury Wing Dining Room. This exhibition explores the relationship between the work – which was called Crivelli’s Garden – and the 15th century altarpiece by Italian artist Carlo Crivelli which inspired it. Both artworks will be displayed together for the first time, inviting viewers to draw out comparisons as well as show how members of the National Gallery’s staff also found their way onto Rego’s canvas.

Tomás Saraceno: Web(s) of Life
Serpentine Galleries
1 June - 10 September

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This is the first major show in the UK of Tomás Saraceno and it promises to be one of the most exciting art exhibitions to see in London this summer. For the past two decades, the multimedia Argentine artist has focused on our role in a complex network of relationships that make up an ecosystem. Drawing on the spider and its web as a metaphor, Saraceno encourages the viewer to move away from arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) and towards arachnophilia (a love of spiders). Saraceno will bring together new and recent interactive works to create a porous environment in the gallery – aka a “living organism” – that will respond daily to the immediate landscape and weather conditions of the surrounding Royal Park, to show how it’s possible “to take a more responsible and responsive approach to one’s actions in relation to other people, interspecies cohabitation, and the climate injustices unfolding across the world.”

Zinzi Minott: Many Mikl Mek Ah Mukl
22 June - 27 August

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British artist Zinzi Minott’s new exhibition at Queercircle is called Many Mikl Mek Ah Mukl, which loosely translates from Patois as “Every little helps, all the small pieces will come together to make something larger.”  Minott presents the sixth iteration of her film series Fi-Dem (“for them” in Patois), a continued exploration into Blackness and diaspora collectives which she first created in response to the Windrush Scandal of 2018. Fi-Dem VI coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush docking on 22 June 1948; the new film will be accompanied by a series of five large-scale digital framed prints, some of which are taken directly from past iterations of Fi-Dem.

Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections for Now
Barbican Art Gallery
22 June - 3 September

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Portland-born Carrie Mae Weems is widely considered to be one of the most influential American artists of our generation – and this is the first major solo exhibition of her multi-disciplinary work in the UK. Recognised for her exploration of cultural identity, power structures, desire and social justice, this survey brings together photographs, film and installations spanning three decades. Highlights include Weems’s Kitchen Table series (1990), which explores power dynamics in a domestic setting, to her acclaimed series Roaming (2006) and Museums (2016). The show also features her panoramic film The Shape of Things (2021), which focuses on the current political climate in the US.

Gary Simmons: This Must Be The Place
Hauser & Wirth
25 May - 29 July

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New York-based artist Gary Simmons has for three decades been using icons and stereotypes of American popular culture to explore the politics of race, class and social stereotypes. Simmons’ work spans painting, sculpture, sound and architectural environments, and This Must Be the Place brings together a new body of work in what is the artist’s first show with Hauser & Wirth in London. The new pieces employ the erasure of the image – a technique synonymous with Simmons’ practice – in which outlines of characters, words and scenes are painted on chalkboard-like surfaces and then blurred and smeared by hand. The concept holds cultural significance, capturing the histories of erasure as experienced by Black communities.

Visions in Porcelain: A Rake’s Progress
Sir John Soane Museum
7 June - 10 September

Bouke de Vries is a London-based Dutch artist specialising in ceramic art and porcelain. His latest work – on display in the Foyle Space – is a response to William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress. Inspired by the series of Hogarth’s original satirical paintings that hang in the museum, de Vries draws on his love of storytelling with eight newly created porcelain vases, each one in various states of (dis)repair. The display starts with an immaculate celadon vase and then the following seven pieces are increasingly deteriorated, each one treated by the artist with a variety of restoration processes and glazes to parallel the physical and mental decline of Hogarth’s protagonist Tom Rakewell.

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