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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 22 August 2011
Alexandra Harris' "Romantic Moderns" is an excellent book. It tackles a range of writers and artists whose work explored a particular approach to, especially, landscape painting in the inter war period. This approach is typified in the work of Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious, among others.

The research behind this book is formidable and the wide range of references to the visual arts, writing, book design and typography, music and architecture, and even garden design, means the reader is kept on his or her toes throughout. However there are many apt and beautiful illustrations which illuminate the text and help the reader along in that regard, and Alexandra Harries draws together all these references into a coherent and satisfying whole. Fittingly, the book itself is a fine production by Thames and Hudson and beautifully designed by Karolina Prymaka.

Given that Alexandra Harris is but 30 years old, I am in awe of the range of examples she has found to support her thesis that the work of British artists and writers in the 1930's and 1940's is fully compatible with notions of Modernism, including European Modernism, in the Twentieth century. She has personally visited many significant sites where figures such as Piper, Nash, Ravilious and Eliot found inspiration.

I did not know that Evelyn Waugh stayed at the Sitwell's home, Renishaw Hall, in Derbyshire, at the same time as Piper was painting there for Osbert, and perhaps drew from that encounter an element of the character of Charles Ryder for "Brideshead Revisited"; nor that Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, famed painter and photographer of the Bauhaus, took many photographs of Oxford to illustrate John Betjeman's book on that subject. This wonderful book is full of such surprising revelations.

I would be delighted if Alexandra Harris turned her attention to British book illustration for children next because the period from 1945 to 1970 in book illustration reflects so much of what had been taking place in the visual arts in the earlier two decades covered in this book:the imagery and idiom are very close, and indeed the generation of postwar illustrators in Britain had in many cases been taught at art school by members of that older generation of artists.

Highly recommended.
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