Rembrandt and Saskia: a love story for the ages

In 2019, exhibitions across the Netherlands will mark the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. And at their heart lie the portraits of his wife, charting their short, doomed marriage

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The Da Vinci mystery: why is his $450m masterpiece really being kept under wraps?

When the unveiling of the long-lost Salvator Mundi was cancelled last month, there were cries of fake. But is there more to the controversy surrounding the world’s most expensive painting?

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Sri Lanka, the land of the disappeared​ – a photo essay​

Moises Saman’s latest work captures the terrible aftermath of the country’s civil war among its Tamil minority

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‘Painting is a high-wire act’: Olivia Laing on sitting for the artist Chantal Joffe

While being painted, author Olivia Laing pens her own portrait of Chantal Joffe and hears why painting is like hairdressing

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Objects of desire: the design delights of my favourite things

An old typewriter, a wooden chair, a worn cuddly toy… The things we surround ourselves with loom large in our lives. Here, eight people reveal why they love the design of their prized possession

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Blood, sweat and protests: on the rodeo trail in New Zealand

Animal activists are calling for rodeos to be banned in New Zealand, but cowboys say bull-riding is their calling

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What would the ultimate child-friendly city look like?

The reality for many urban children is too much time spent indoors playing on smartphones – but a few cities are fighting the tide with innovative ways to keep kids healthy, sociable – and outdoors

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Michelle Obama portrait puts black Baltimore artist in the spotlight

The commission of a lifetime for Amy Sherald has kickstarted a conversation about art, politics and culture

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The 2017 Observer quiz of the year

How did Boris react to a poster of Tintin, what’s been banned by Wetherspoons, and who said it was ‘disgusting’ to put a washing machine in the kitchen? How well do you remember 2017? Questions by Euan Ferguson (answers at the end)

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Sean O’Hagan’s best photography books of 2017

Studies of social tensions in the UK and US, rural Sweden by night and mafia countryside in Sicily were among the most striking collections of the year

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Frida Kahlo: feminist, selfie queen, queer icon and style muse of 2017

It’s the artist’s attitude as much as her work that inspires today’s designers (not to mention Theresa May)

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From Alice Springs to Buckingham Palace: the fight for Albert Namatjira’s legacy

A new feature film on the Indigenous Australian painter traces his family’s quest for justice after losing the copyright to his work

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Beneath the veneer: our unbending fascination with plywood

From army planes to pharaohs’ coffins, the V&A’s eye-opening show tells the astonishing story of this age-old yet perennially modern material

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Indian women wear cow masks to ask: are sacred cattle safer than us?

Kolkata artist Sujatro Ghosh’s latest project points to country’s veneration of cows to highlight rising violence against women

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