Romantic Moderns

Romantic Moderns

English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper

Winner of The Guardian First Book Award
  1. Alexandra Harris
  • ISBN 9780500289723
  • 22.90 x 15.20 cm
  • Paperback with flaps
  • 320pp
  • 79 Illustrations, 48 in colour
  • First published 2015

Now available in paperback

‘It would be impossible to over-emphasise what a clever book 'Romantic Moderns' is … not just an important book but a deeply pleasurable one, too’ – The Guardian
‘The only disappointing thing about 'Romantic Moderns' is that it comes to an end’– The Times
‘The originality of Romantic Moderns' is the extraordinary breadth of its focus … a joy to read’ – The Sunday Times
‘Highly eclectic and original … a book that makes you think freshly about that perennially puzzling question of what it means to be British. It’s elegant and wittily written, beautifully designed and splendidly illustrated: altogether, an admirable debut’– Martin Gayford, The Sunday Telegraph
‘Remarkable … Harris’s insights are based on a close, imaginative reading of collaborations and connections mapped through friendships and unlikely encounters. Her book is full of vivid snapshots, telling detail and beguiling loose ends’– The Times Literary Supplement
‘A brilliant piece of work that manages to be both comprehensive and coherent as it tells a compelling story about 20th-century English art … a significant contribution to the history of English culture’– Adam Foulds

While the battles for modern art and society were being fought in France and Spain, it has seemed a betrayal that John Betjeman and John Piper were in love with a provincial world of old churches and tea-shops.

In this multi-awardwinning book – now available in paperback – Alexandra Harris tells a different story. In the 1930s and 1940s, artists and writers explored what it meant to be alive in England. Eclectically, passionately, wittily, they showed that ‘the modern’ need not be at war with the past. Constructivists and conservatives could work together, and even the Bauhaus émigré, László Moholy-Nagy, was beguiled into taking photographs for Betjeman’s nostalgic Oxford University Chest.

This modern English renaissance was shared by writers, painters, gardeners, architects, critics, tourists and composers. John Piper, Virginia Woolf, Florence White, Christopher Tunnard, Evelyn Waugh, E. M. Forster and the Sitwells are part of the story, along with Bill Brandt, Graham Sutherland, Eric Ravilious and Cecil Beaton.

Click here to read the first chapter!

Alexandra Harris was educated at the University of Oxford and the Courtauld Institute, London, and is currently Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool. She is the author of Virginia Woolf, also published by Thames & Hudson.

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