Rookmaaker established his international reputation as a scholar and as a substantial contributor to research in the history of modern art with the publication of Synthetist Art Theories (1959), his dissertation on the art theory of Gauguin, reproduced volume 1 as `Gauguin and Nineteenth-Century Art Theory'. Also included in this volume are the reviews that Rookmaaker wrote in the years 1949-1956 as an art critic for the Dutch Christian newspaper Trouw. They reveal an eager enjoyment of the artistic qualities of the works reviewed, may serve to refute the notion of some that Rookmaaker saw only `world views' in works of art. Moreover, they can, as Graham Birtwistle writes, "provide a rich hunting ground for the reader who wants to gain a better understanding of the development of Rookmaaker's ideas. Most importantly, the reviews can help correct a misapprehension that he was an implacable opponent of all modern art."
It was in a Nazi prison camp during World War II that the young Hans Rookmaaker read the Bible and became a Christian. It was there too he received his first instruction in the Neo-Calvinist philosophy of Dooyeweerd by an older fellow prisoner, J.P.A. Mekkes. And it was there 22-year-old Rookmaaker started writing his 'Sketch for an Aesthetic Theory' based on the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea. The philosophical writings brought together in volume 2 show the Dooyeweerdian roots of Rookmaaker's art-historical work, an essential insight for a proper understanding of his philosophical framework. Rookmaaker also loved music, especially jazz, blues, spirituals and black gospel music; his lifelong and lively interest in music finds its expression in his book on Jazz and the articles included here.
Through his early work, Art and Entertainment (1962), made available in English for the first time in volume 3, and through The Creative Gift, a collection of essays put together shortly before his death in 1977, Rookmaker speaks with a clear voice of expertise, faith and wisdom as he shepherds the reader through the bewildering jungle of art and popular culture. He anticipates the postmodern erasure of the split between high and low culture and points out guidelines for a meaningful involvement in both.
Why do we call seventeenth-century Dutch art the `golden age' of Christian art? These and similar questions about Western art are adressed in volume 4, in which we come to know Rookmaker not primarily as a cultural critic or an enthusiastic encourager of Christian artists but first and foremost as art historian. Rookmaker's expert knowledge leads the way to an appreciation of the beauty and artistic eloquence of many a work of art as he guides the reader into an understanding of its content and meaning, and of its place in Western history.
Rookmaker's analysis of modern art offers an insightful perspective on the cultural turmoil of the past century and its subsequent impact on today's world. He looks at modern art in a broad historical, social, and philosophical context, laying bare the nihilism and despair that constitutes its core. "We can marvel at the way Rookmaker combined the diverse resources of Christian witness, Calvinistic philosophy, art-historical expertise, and musical connoissership to create a seamless and challenging account of modern cultural history," Graham Birtwistle writes about Modern Art and the Death of a Culture which is included in volume 5. More than any other work, this book instilled a new cultural awareness in many Christians hitherto cloistered in pietistic ghettos.
Rookmaker was a man of many contrasts: provocative and gentle, rough-hewn and refined, playful yet profoundly serious, reserved, yet close to many. Volume 6 attempts to capture the person behind the writings and lectures through a new biography by Laurel Gasque. Colin Duriez edited the lecture series on 'God's Hand in History', a biblical theme for Rookmaker as pivotal as the themes of Creation, Fall and Redemption.