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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Winston Churchill of architectural appreciation, 4 May 2010
This review is from: Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art (Hardcover)
What Winston Churchill was to British politics, Nikolaus Pevsner was to architecture. On two counts - modern architecture and historic heritage - he defined public tastes. He didn't create buildings but he set the agenda. It's hard to think of anyone more important to the reception of built aesthetics in the twentieth century.

It's amazing, therefore, to discover from Stephen Games's book how Pevsner's career actually began. Churchill started out as a British newspaper reporter and then as a Liberal politician before becoming a Conservative; Pevsner started out not as an English gentleman but as a German whose main interest was late-Renaissance Italian painting. He was also not at first a supporter of the Bauhaus but of pre-First-World-War buildings - "conceived in the last years of the Empire, when architecture still had sloping roofs," as Games puts it. Pevsner actually deplored Cubist architecture, we discover.

He wasn't even, at first, an enthusiast for Walter Gropius. The reason he adopted Gropius as his guru around 1930, Games explains, was bound up in Pevsner's political hatred of France, a country whose language he learned at school but refused to use after the Versailles Treaty. On one occasion he forced his mother to read and translate a book for him that he wouldn't read for himself solely because it was in French.

"Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art" looks at Pevsner's family background, his youth and schooldays, his university career, his love-life (written very amusingly), and his extraordinary early career in Dresden and Goettingen. It's fleshed out with firsthand interviews conducted specially for this book with family members and former students in Germany - material never seen before.

These observations and Games's own perceptive insights make "Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art" a brilliant analysis of a man and his obsessions: scholarly, cultural and personal. Books about academics are often dry; this one is quite the opposite. It's fascinating, highly enjoyable and a revelation to anyone who may have suspected that the usual clichés about Pevsner are wrong but not known why.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read, 21 April 2010
This review is from: Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art (Hardcover)
This book defies any expectations you may have had about studies of the 1920s and 30s. Through the personality of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, it vividly brings to life issues that existed in Germany in the Weimar years and that came to the fore in the study of art and architecture history.

Why were rebellious young Germans obsessed by medievalism? What attracted them to bad Renaissance art? How did these two interests relate to the modern world? This book explains.

It also talks about the extraordinary dilemma that existed for Jews who wanted to be German, so they could escape from their Russian and Polish origins, but who could never be German enough to satisfy the German right.

Both as a study of Pevsner, the 20th century's most influential historian, and as a study of his times, this is a terrific book. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book, 3 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art (Hardcover)
Stephen Games's book is a clearly-written account of Pevsner's early career, based on extensive documentary and published research. It presents, in an authoritative and readable way, the fascinating story of Pevsner's family and scholarly life until his arrival in England. The drive which was so characteristic of him (I wrote my PhD thesis under his supervision) was evident from the start, and enabled him to overcome many personal and academic problems. We are greatly in Mr Games's debt, and await eagerly the publication of his second volume.
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Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art
Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art by Stephen Games (Hardcover - 19 Mar 2010)
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