Why are we so fascinated by ruins? Do we see them as jig-saws and riddles or romantic evocations of the damage of Time, complete with crumbling stone and ivy? Do they stir us to remember past glory or warn against future arrogance? In this elegant, provocative book , the brilliant young art-historian Christopher Woodward looks back to the start of the cult in the eighteenth century, when follies were built in English landscape gardens, artists and writers thrilled to Rome's poetry of decay, and in Paris the great chef Careme even served blancmanges shaped like classical ruins. He takes us from Troy and Pompei to Sicilian palaces and Nazi fantasies, and whirls us forward to modern times - to the shattered Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes, to Florida's Museum of Natural Phenomena, designed as a court-house dumped upside-down by a hurricane and to Chelsea Flower Show's brand-new 'Millennium Ruin'.
Even the decay of an ordinary house can be as moving as the collapse of a temple - with its fascinating stories and characters, and its telling illustrations, In Ruins is full of strange delights and startling surprises, exploring the mysterious, melancholy charm of eternal fragments.
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(198mm x 130mm x 18mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
For centuries ruined buildings have exercised a powerful hold over the artistic, poetic and antiquarian imagination. Travellers, writers and painters have discovered, studied, and valorised them: they have been invoked as remnants of lost worlds, symbols of human decay, temples of tranquillity. In today's Britain, with its thriving heritage industry, many of us spend our Sunday afternoons clambering over the piles of stone now in the care of English heritage and the like. In this fine book, Christopher Woodward explores some of the emotional and cultural appeal which ruins have held for aesthetic sensibilities over a broad sweep of history and some of the work which it has inspired. His style, which combines autobiography and travelogue with art history and literary criticism, is fluent and engaging taking the reader on a grand tour of eighteenth-century proportions around architectural remnants and recreations from ancient Rome to Nazi Germany. He is particularly vivid on the work of Lord Byron at Newstead Abbey, on the impact which the dissolved monasteries had on the psyche of the seventeenth century and the creation of mock ruins and follies from the Romantic era onwards (Woodward is a former curator of the museum dedicated to Sir John Soane, one the best exponents of this form of revivalism). In short, this is a pleasurable and very well informed read which Chattos are to be congratulated for encasing in such an attractive and affordable package. (Kirkus UK)
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