Laura Cumming

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Laura Cumming has been art critic of The Observer newspaper since 1999. In addition to her career in journalism, Cumming has written well-received books on self-portraits in art and the discovery of a lost portrait by Diego Velazquez in 1845. The Vanishing Man was a New York Times bestseller and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2017.

Early life[edit]

Cumming is the daughter of the Scottish artist James Cumming and his wife, the artist Betty Elston.


Cumming was literary editor of the BBC's The Listener, assistant editor of the New Statesman, worked on the Literary Review, as a BBC arts producer, and the presenter of Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3. [1][2]

Cumming has written two well-received books on art. Her work on self-portraits, A face to the world (2009), was praised by Serena Davies in The Daily Telegraph for seeking to "persuade us, with sumptuous superlatives, how great her subjects are" rather than baffling the reader with art theory as some other works do.[3] Her work on the discovery of a lost Diego Velazquez portrait by John Snare in 1845, The vanishing man: In pursuit of Velazquez (2016), was described by Honor Clerk in The Spectator as "a study in obsession, a paean of praise to an artist of genius, a detective story and, for the author, an exorcism of grief".[4] Fisun Güner, in The Independent praised the "beautifully compelling accounts of Velázquez's paintings" that revealed as much about Cumming's own relationship with the work of Velázquez as it did about the ostensible subject of the book.[5] Jonathan Beckman in The Times, however, felt that the book was "breathless" and that its source materials (or lack thereof) didn't completely support the weight that Cumming placed on them.[6] The book was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in a reading by Siobhan Redmond.[7]


Since 2011, Cumming has been a trusteeof Trinity London Academy Trust, a co-educational free school serving south west London.

Personal life[edit]

Cumming is married to Dennis Sewell, writer, broadcaster and contributing editor of The Spectator. They have twin daughters and live in Clapham, south London.

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ Cover notes, A face to the world: On self-portraits. Harper Press, London, 2009. ISBN 9780007118434
  2. ^ Laura Cumming. Conville & Walsh. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  3. ^ A Face to the World: On Self-Portraits by Laura Cumming: review. Serena Davies, The Daily Telegraph, 25 July 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  4. ^ Velázquez’s vanishing act. Honor Clerk, The Spectator, 2 January 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  5. ^ The Vanishing Man: in Pursuit of Velázquez by Laura Cumming, book review: Saga of a lost masterpiece. Fisun Güner, The Independent, 5 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Velázquez goes missing", The Times Saturday Review, 9 January 2016, p. 15.
  7. ^ Book of the Week: The Vanishing Man. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 15 January 2016.