Brian Sewell
You ask the questions.

Sherlock Holmes

So, which living artist would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? And, how did your idiosyncratic speech style evolve?

Brian Sewell grew up in Kensington, London. His father died before he was born and he went to boarding school at the age of 11. He took a degree in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute under Anthony Blunt, the spy, and later joined Christie's as an expert in Old Master paintings and drawings. He is the award-winning art critic of the London Evening Standard, in which he also writes a weekly column. He is an adviser to museums in Germany, the US and South Africa. He lives in London.

If we attack Iraq, are you more worried that its people or its ancient remains may be destroyed?

Peter St Michael, London
I cannot answer this as an either/or question, human suffering set against cultural loss, a life as the price of a monument. Some wars may have been worth the fighting, the only remedy for Nazi Germany perhaps, but with Saddam Hussein; whom we should have unseated during the Gulf War; we have only to wait; he is 65 and time will do the job soon enough, for the average age of death in Iraq, even for the well-fed, is much lower than ours.

Which living artist would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Nina Spencer, by e-mail
Tracey Emin with a full bladder.

What is your opinion of the art works that you have inspired? For example, Francine Germaine-Wilson's 'Brian Sewell has a Tiny Cock' and the statue of you by students at Central St Martins.
Gary Hawke, Colchester
Inspired? I've seen none of them, nor have their makers seen me.

It's all very well being a critic, but can you draw or paint?

Tina Kirkham, by e-mail
I have drawn and painted since I was a small boy, but do so no longer. Heart attacks in 1994 and 1995 were the turning-point. They changed a great deal in my life, no more skiing, no tennis, no clambering about on mountains, no more solitary (or, indeed, shared) explorations of central and eastern Turkey, my projected ambition to see all the monasteries of Armenia abandoned.With a very few exceptions, all the paintings and drawings were destroyed. The exceptions are already in the possession of the man who inherits my estate; they are a few watercolours, a quite remarkable abstract painting that I did at school (much to the despair of an art master who would have preferred a detailed study of Anne Hathaway's Cottage), and a half life-size self-portrait in the nude, strongly influenced by William Coldstream, at whose knee I sat for a year and who was instrumental in convincing me that I should not become a painter.

Who, in your opinion, should win the Turner prize?
Judy Grey, Gillingham
Nicholas Serota, for furthering so many worthless careers.

Come on, admit it, you'd love to sneak along to the local Odeon to watch Spider-Man or Eight Legged Freaks without anyone noticing...
Ryan Peterson, Godalming
No, I wouldn't. But I happily admit to watching The Bill, Casualty and Big Brother

Why did you remain an ardent supporter of Anthony Blunt?
Susan Binder, Matlock
Because, in a Platonic sense, I love the man.

How and when and why did your idiosyncratic speech style evolve?

Gloria Cigman, Oxford
Is it idiosyncratic? Is it not merely a late left-over of the 1930s in which I was born, the common speech of the decade for people like my parents, who were born in the Edwardian era? It was fully formed by the time I went to school, where I was much mocked for it and accused of having elocution lessons, though I did not even know the meaning of the term and was confused by the explanation. I think that I speak at the rate at which my brain forms complete sentences, hence the slow delivery. I know that I have odd mannerisms,"ears" for a ruminative "yes", and an "Oh" that varies in meaning from agreement to violent opposition, from surprise to disappointment; I know, too, that I swear far too much, and that when in a state of rage (far too often nowadays, particularly at the office) bugger follows fuck as surely as Pelion was piled on Ossa.

I go to Turkey for the warm weather and the windsurfing. Why do you love it so much?

Andy Riley, Uckfield
Turkey has given me insights into ancient pasts that are part of our cultural base, into the Greece and Rome of antiquity, into early Christian asceticism and the wonders of Armenian architecture, and an easy introduction to Islam. All this, to some extent, with the conventional pleasures of the holiday.

You are famous for your feuds. Which one is or was your favourite?

Katherine Armfelt, London
Am I? I am unaware of it. If feuds there be, then they are with the Arts Council, the Serota tendency and the BBC, all of which regard themselves as above criticism. They have been exhausting and debilitating; they have resulted in my total exclusion from the seas of public influence, power and patronage. But the Vicar of Bray has never been my role model

Samuel Beckett said that the worst thing you could call anyone was "a critic". What do you think is the worst thing you could call anyone?
Joanna Stella, Bradford
A Vicar of Bray.

Is it true that you believe that there have been no great women painters because women are not talented enough? Are you a misogynist?
Christine Smith, by e-mail
I am a misanthrope rather than a misogynist, not good with people, far too shy, no social graces. As for women painters, I suspect that intuitively they are more intellectually honest than male painters, better judges of themselves and more inclined to retreat into deserved obscurity. Look at women who are famous for their art and you find nothing but blind immodesty.

Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin?
Jules Publicover, Fort William
Damien. There was once a wayward intelligence in the boy.

British men have been attacked recently for being unromantic, bad in bed, and reluctant to ask people out. Do you agree?

Bella Anderson, Tenby
What should I know of sex with British men? Catherine the Great might have answered "Send me one, and a German, a Dane, a Swede, a Nubian and an Italian for comparison, and I will tell you", but I can't do that. All I can tell you is that, as I grow older the hunger grows, too; as a boy, I imagined that it would diminish with manhood, but it did not and at 40 I had three concurrent lovers for that happy summer. Now, I look in the mirror and ask the image if I would, were I half my age, go to bed with myself as I am now, and answer "No". Worse, I might run a mile.

How should we be commemorating the anniversary of 11 September?
Sarah Jasper, London
We shall, but I am not sure that we should. Was it not, to some extent, our own fault?

A new edition of Brian Sewell's book 'South from Ephesus' An escape from the tyranny of Western art', is published by Gibson Square on 1 September,£7.99