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Modern Art and the Death of a Culture Paperback – Nov 1970

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press; 2nd edition edition (Nov. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851105688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851105680
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,343,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THE AIM of this book is to discuss modern art, its meaning and its relation to the contemporary cultural scene at large. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin Casson on 20 Nov. 2013
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Only part way through this so not a review so much as a recommendation. This is a seriously thought provoking insight into arts relationship with contemporary thought. Rookmaaker certainly deserves a much higher profile.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cjbevan on 16 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is an almost unique work for a practising Christian to read, particularly if involved in the arts. There is a paucity of profound study of the subject of art and culture from an evangelical perspective, and this book stimulates thought and provides material for building a theology and philosophy of art for the practising christian. It answers many questions I had as a practitioner and a Christian, and provides intellectual tools for answering those questions unaddressed in the book. It is invaluable for Christians interested in art and culture, and for those with pastoral resposibility for them.

Rookmaaker attempts to describe how culture and art have moved particularly since the Enlightenment, and describes in detail the kind of dilemmas Christians might find themselves in by wishing to be good artists but rejecting the world view of much art. This could help practitioners by helping them formulate the questions they need to ask of themselves and their art so they can do good art consistent with their faith. I think it is important that those Christians who want their faith to be Real and Godly and Scriptural, and who want to do real art in a world hostile to their relationship with God, to ask these questions and formulate rigourous and profound thought to substantiate their art. It is a work and subject in my experience little addressed, with either faith or art being substantially compromised in process. More thought and writing on this subject would be welcome.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Robertson on 10 Dec. 2007
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As a book that was first published in 1970 you would think that it is somewhat dated. But this is not the case. Rookmaker takes us on a roller coaster ride through the history of art in the West and as such is it also a history of philosopohy, ideas, science, religion, culture, politics and just about anything else you care to name.

His knowledge of his subject is widespread. His writing lucid and his analysis superb. There are many memorable quotes. If you want food for your mind and if you want to understand where we are today and how we got here (and what can be done about it) then this book would be hard to beat. Highly recommended.

"Scientism is still the way man hopes to make a better world. It is, and will be, a technocratic world, a technocracy, which includes man, too, is at its heart. Man is no longer a human being who buys things: no, he is a consumer. He has become a little wheel in the big machine, a unit in social statistics, an electronic oscillation in the computer". p48 (in the section on the Enlightenment and Existentialism).
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Highlander on 19 Jun. 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a former student of Dr Rookmaaker I was and am still grateful for the opportunity and am still in awe of his depth of scholarship,his wide ranging interests,and his humanity in general and indeed his own bravery during the Second World War when his own beloved Holand was overrun and occupied by the Nazi's.Indeed it was during his time imprisoned by the Nazi's that Rookmaaker through reading the bible became convinced of the reality of God and how God interacts with the world and the people in was partly among other things his engineering background which gave him the impulse to deal intricately with many of the aspects of Art History in such a clear way.He was a man who had a rich laughter buried not so far below the surface and had a great love for Jazz and blues and spirituals in especial the African American connection.He had a very large personal collection of jazz records and published a book on the above subjectThe six volumes of the complete works include books written originally in Dutch and published in English for the first time.These six volumes are a worthy addition to any library and will especially help assist and guide the Christian and/or christian artist about his or her vocation or calling and the place of the arts in general in the christian life.They are however instructive for anyone who knows the arts and wishes to expand the length and breadth of any analysis of the arts he or she might care to make.One should read these volumes in my view with the six volumes of Dr Francis Schaeffer's complete works who was Dr Rookmaaker's friend and colleague and who together formed L'abri Fellowship which continues the work first started by them to give honest answers to honest questions that arise on the quest for living a life of meaning and purpose and a reason why that is possible in a world like this. He writes clearly and distinctively and is an antidote to much of the muddled thinking that passes for art appreciation and art history in these days.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Dr. Rookmaaker was the Professor of the History of Art at the Free University of Amsterdam. This book is his very interesting analysis of art and how it reflects the culture. Rookmaaker was of the opinion that artists were like canaries in a mine. They were (are) the early warning system. They show clearly where a society is headed. They are not (as many cultural conservatives falsely believe) the cause of societies problems, rather they are the earliest indicators of those problems. This book (first published in 1970) is more timely than ever. It (and Dr. Rookmaaker) were a huge influence on Dr. Francis Schaeffer (The entire "line of despair" idea in "The God Who is There" comes from Rookmaaker). I highly recommend this book.
42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Careful reading required 21 Nov. 2000
By Mark Grindell - Published on
Format: Paperback
I used to really like this book. Finding it at the Dales Bible Week in Harrogate was a stroke of exceptional good fortune. Together with various texts by Schaffer and Guinness, I found a good deal of clear explanation for the kinds of encounters with literature I had had in recent years.
However, I think that in later years I became somewhat anxious. Oddly enough there was the coincidence that nearly all the actual content of the Dales Bible week was suddenly coming under very close scrutiny and rightly being found wanting, I re-read quite a few of the texts I picked up in that period (which was the late 70's and early 80's), this included.
What passes for scholarship in this book is quite hard to resist, and requires the most detailed knowledge to refute. I have some friends who have tried to do this. It takes years to absorb the whole impact of 19th century machinations in the arts, and the 20th century is far more difficult. I found that Rookmaakers analysis still held up, though it is hard to rationalise how this book has now become the sole element in far too many arts and literature courses in Christian establishments. Not every stream of arts development led entirely to despair, and not every artist abrogated their responsibility to truth quite so wilfully as the author seems to suggest.
The book has become, in fact, far too embedded in the Christian subculture now. And this of course is a dreadful trap. In some institutions this form of criticism has become an alternative and if fact, vicarious alternative to real scholarship.
At the risk of being classed as a reckless fool, I would suggest it would be best if there was a concious attempt to point focus away from the L'abri fellowship for a while and to allow people to develop and sharpen real critical skills. This should never compromise real faith. Once again, what is happening in the real world is a loss of dialectic clarity among those who should be the salt and light.
Another concern is that now the arts are so degenerate, it is now almost certainly the case that the canary is now thoroughly dead, and very little, if anything is to be gained from it's postmortem. I suspect that far more is to be gained by shifting the focus of action to other spheres.
I'm afraid I must sound very critical of this - I don't mean to really. The book contains invaluable truth and should be read. However, things in the secular world are changing rapidly and it is important for us all to think on our feet.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
We are experiencing what this book predicts 31 July 2006
By Richard N. Harding - Published on
Format: Paperback
Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by Rookmaaker

This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. I heard a lecture by Rookmaaker in Amsterdam in 1972. I thought a lecture on art would bore me to death. Instead I was on the edge of my seat even after an all night plane ride. The book shows through art how our culture has moved away from the concept of a transcendent God since the 1300s. It is an exciting read because it takes the words of the artists themselves right up the the 1970s to explain their art and their spiritual beliefs. It is very hard to put this book down even for someone like me who is not all that excited about art. It is ominous in its predictions of what impact this has on our present culture.

You can get it used [...]. I value it so much I don't even loan my copy out.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Rookmaaker Reveals Art 12 Feb. 2000
By Jeremy S Knudsen - Published on
Format: Paperback
Christians weren't and aren't necessarily "right" when it comes to art. Often uninformed and bias, Christians tend to pigeon-hole art, making it have no place in the lives of humanity. This book takes a look at art through a historical and biblical viewing glass. Rookmaaker does not just say "sin is the problem" and leave it at that (though he speaks plenty on the root of the problem which is sin). Rather he looks to history, the artist's intentions of a particular "movement", and both Christian and secular mentalities that pervaded the times. Rookmaaker ends the book splendidly, answering questions that are left in the Christian's mind (concerning faith, morals and art, good and bad art, beauty, aesthetics, what is art, and more), calling Christians to take courage, and finally charging Christians with the responsibility to go out and make good art.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Showing the intersection of culture, philosophy, and theology - in an enjoyable read 29 April 2006
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the joys of fathering a bunch of boys is taking them fishing. My oldest is only eight, so as of yet we have not had a lot of success actually catching fish! Nontheless, there is a lot of joy in teaching them about bobbers, hooks, bait, casting the line, etc. - there is truly an art and a science to the task. One of the difficulties that little hands have is pulling all the information together and using it properly.

Just as little children need a good teacher to help them integrate a lot of facts, so do we often find ourselves in the same condition. In writing Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, the late Hans Rookmaaker comes alongside us to explain how a lot of different topics intersect and interact with each other. Art, aesthetics, culture, theology, philosophy world history - these various areas are laid out on the table for discussion, and then integrated together to make a strong point.

Rookmaaker, a lifelong friend of Francis Schaeffer, provides us with a biblical perspective on the modern world, focusing specifically on the philosophical agenda behind modern art. Beginning his overview with the dawn of the Renaissance and Reformation, Rookmaaker quickly covers a lot of historical ground in the journey toward the modern era. In the end, he reveals the roots of modernity's despair. The autonomous reason of mankind put God outside of the box of the world, and as a result began the slow descent into subjective meaninglessness.

Don't let the topic of the book scare you. Even while addressing heavy themes, Rookmaaker writes with great skill and passion. He is not trying to impress you with ivory tower gibberish and a specialized insider's vocabulary. Although he knows his material exceedingly well, his aim is to edify Christians. He wants to teach you how to pull a lot of cultural data together in order that you understand the times in which you live. If you have ever been puzzled at the message, or lack thereof, of modern art, Rookmaaker will help you understand and discern what you are seeing. I highly recommend this work, and wish that many more works like this will be written that help Christians to understand the worlds of high culture, popular art, and music.

Note: This 1994 Crossway edition is actually a reprint of this classic work originally written in 1970, about seven years before the author's death.
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