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Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century [Hardcover]

Harry Francis Mallgrave

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Book Description

2 May 1996
During his life, the German architect, scholar and political revolutionary, Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) experienced early fame, political exile from his homeland, international prominence, and seeing European architecture transformed by his influential body of ideas. In this biography Harry Mallgrave presents an account of the life, buildings and writings of the man he describes as a colossus of the 19th century. Mallgrave weaves a saga of Semper's youth, his fascination with the July Revolution in France, and his voyage to a Greece wracked by civil war. He speaks of Semper's design for the Dresden Hoftheater in the mid-1830s, his influence on Richard Wagner, and his plummeting fortunes after the political unrest of 1848-1849. Mallgrave traces Semper's literary resurrection that culminated with the publication of his book on style; he follows his artistic resurrection with a practice in Zurich and Vienna. By the time of his design for the second Dresden Hoftheater in the 1870s, Semper was without architectural peer in the German-speaking countries and his ideas had pushed European architecture to the brink of modernism.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular biography of a true creative giant 23 July 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
It must seem pretty odd to have such a high opinion of a
pretty remote subject: the biography of a peripatetic,
19th century German architect. But the author, Harry
Mallgrave, is uniquely qualified to explore the vexatious
artistic and architectural disputes of the 1830s to the 1870s
in such a way that the major themes of the century run
through the career - indeed, through the blood - of Gottfried
Semper. And this is no accident for Semper, a fiery
personality, was a central participant in the intellectual
crusade that gave us "modern" culture.

In this way, not only do we come to understand the roots of
the contemporary professional dilemmas in architecture, but
we are encouraged to see the larger, synthetic patterns of
German intellectual life that are so important to the
formation of our modern (and post-modern) approach to
"the good life."

I highly recommend the book, notwithstanding the rather
daunting price tage, and believe that this long-awaited
study marks an important contribution not only to the
overall intellectual history of the nineteenth century,
but it similarly marks a new standard in the writing of
architectural biography. Mallgrave's mastery of fact and
interpretation is exemplary; his style, perfectly suited to
his task.
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