I found the archive of his Evening Standard articles last night and once I'd started in on them I couldn't stop. It's not that he's such a wonderful writer- because he's not, he can be very stilted- but he's independent, honest and fearless.
You can't predict his enthusiasms or his bete noirs. He loathes Tate Modern (which everyone else pretends to like) and most contemporary art. But he's not just a fuddy-duddy conservative. He loves Joseph Beuys and- most outre of all- the Chapman brothers. When everyone else was hymning Hogarth earlier this year, Sewell wrote an article pointing out his limitations. When Turner's "Blue Rigi" came on the market he suggested that the Tate- if it really, really wanted it- should sell some of its huge collection of "rubbish" Turners to raise the asking price. His review of the recent Renoir exhibition at the National Gallery- which most critics swooned over- is a glorious demolition job. He detests Gilbert and George.
Art has become a religion. The "great" artists have been sanctified by the prices paid for their work. We tiptoe round them like we were in church. Sewell just won't play that game. There's no false reverence. He says exactly what he thinks.
And, yes, he's right. Renoir is crap.