Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life

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Random House, Aug 18, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 912 pages
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Born Nikolai Pewsner into a Russian-Jewish family in Leipzig in 1902, Nikolaus Pevsner was a dedicated scholar who pursued a promising career as an academic in Dresden and Göttingen. When, in 1933 Jews were no longer permitted to teach in German universities, he lost his job and looked for employment in England. Here, over a long and amazingly industrious career, he made himself an authority on the exploration and enjoyment of English art and architecture, so much so that his magisterial county-by-county series of 46 books on The Buildings of England (first published 1951 - 74) is usually referred to simply as 'Pevsner'. As a critic, academic and champion of Modernism, Pevsner became a central figure in the architectural consensus that accompanied post-war reconstruction; as a 'general practitioner' of architectural history, he covered an astonishing range, from Gothic cathedrals and Georgian coffee houses to the Festival of Britain and Brutalist tower blocks.

Susie Harries explores the truth about Nikolaus Pevsner's reported sympathies with elements of Nazi ideology, his internment in England as an enemy alien and his sometimes painful assimilation into his country of exile. His Heftchen - secret diaries he kept from the age of 14 for another sixty years - reveal hidden aspirations and anxieties, as do his numerous letters (he wrote to his wife, Lola, every day that they were apart).Harries is the first biographer to have read Pevsner's private papers and, through them, to have seen into the workings of his mind.Her definitive biography is not only rich in context and far-ranging, but is also brought to life by quotations from Pevsner himself.

He was born a Jew but converted to Lutheranism; trained in the rigour of German scholarship, he became an Everyman in his copious commissions, publications, broadcasts and lectures on art, architecture, design, education, town planning, social housing, conservation, Mannerism, the Bauhaus, the Victorians, Zeitgeist, Englishness and how a nation's character may, or must, be reflected in its art. His life - as an outsider yet an insider at the heart of English art history - illuminates both the predicament and the prowess of the continental émigrés who did so much to shape British culture after 1945.

  

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Contents

Leipzig youth 19011911
1
Academic on the rise 19211933
49
3o
97
Changing tracks England 19331939
131
I4 More than just an episode
152
Amor fan
188
Pioneers of
201
Pevsners war 19391946
249
No time to laugh
501
Pevsner and Betieman 52 7
527
Always doing
550
Establishment figure t96os
581
NonStopography
594
Was it before or after 1963?
610
life without Lola
633
Looking at old buildings with an old man
655

lmcmec 5482 9 2 58
2-83
Contrast surprise and irregularity
335
Digging in 19461959
379
Birkbeck and the excursions
417
a milder modernism
435
Cambridge
448
The grim mopping up of work
461
The Englishness
484
More than is good for a mans work
670
The only one is duty
697
Endings 1970s
711
Right good is rest
757
Not quite in the English way
795
Copyright Acknowledgements 8 31
831
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Susie Harries is a writer specializing in culture, history and the arts. Born in 1951 in London, where she now lives with her husband Meirion and their two sons, she read classics and classical philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and St Anne's College, Oxford.She has co-authored seven books with her husband, including major works on twentieth-century arts:The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (1981), The War Artists (1983) and A Pilgrim Soul: a Life of Elisabeth Lutyens (1989).She has also written for the Independent and reviewed books on the arts for The Times Literary Supplement.

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