Tag: april theme

Building Seagram

Building SeagramThe Seagram building rises over New York’s Park Avenue, seeming to float above the street with perfect lines of bronze and glass. Considered one of the greatest icons of twentieth-century architecture, the building was commissioned by Samuel Bronfman, founder of the Canadian distillery dynasty Seagram. Bronfman’s daughter Phyllis Lambert was twenty-seven years old when she took over the search for an architect and chose Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969), a pioneering modern master of what he termed ‘skin and bones’ architecture. Mies, who designed the elegant, deceptively simple thirty-eight-story tower along with Philip Johnson (1906–2005), emphasized the beauty of structure and fine materials, and set the building back from the avenue, creating an urban oasis with the building’s plaza. Through her choice, Lambert established her role as a leading architectural patron and single-handedly changed the face of American urban architecture.

Below is an excerpt from Building Seagram, by Phyllis Lambert:

Phyllis Lambert—

Looking at the past through the eyes of the present, it might be assumed that the commissioning, design, and construction of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building were politically driven by the world of power and intrigue. In face, Building Seagram is not a story of architectural or corporate power plays but rather one of unlikely convergences, extraordinary coincidences, and ironic turns. In 1951, when the building project got under way. my father, Samuel Bronfman, whom I still refer to as SB, the ‘client’, de jure, was still effectively an outsider in New York, Mies was living in Chicago, and I was working as an artist in Paris. Only Philip Johnson, through his longtime position as director of the Department of Architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, was any sort of powerful figure in New York City at the time. Real estate development, on the threshold of a postwar boom, did not yet wield the influence that it would eventually assume. Though it is difficult to comprehend today, architecture itself was generally considered to be little more than a commercial product at the beginning of the 1950s.

This book is based on my involvement with the Seagram building from its beginnings – identifying the architect, serving as director of planning and, in effect, as ‘client’ from 1954 to 1959, building the company’s collections, and continuing to be involved with the maintenance and stewardship of the building as well as the artworks and programs through the end of the twentieth century. It is a personal account of how Mies designed the Seagram building as well as Philip Johnson’s role, both as I experienced the process at the time and as I see it now, some fifty years later. Ultimately, it is very much about the life of the building in the city. This post-World War II phenomenon is seen against and within the coming of age of architecture and the arts in New York, transformations from war technology to building construction, the first real changes in zoning regulations in New York City, the evolution of real estate from individual practices to a highly structured and influential industry in the city, and the onset of legislation aimed at sustaining the urban fabric.

[...]

The story of Building Seagram offers insight into the arcana of commissioning buildings  in New York City after World War II. In this volume I have sought to explain in some detail Mies’s approach to building - Baukunst, he called it, the building art. This encompasses the questions he posed about the time he lived in, the logical, the less than logical, and the spiritual, as well as the instances of his auto-generative process. Rising prominently on park Avenue, New York’s broadest and most majestic street, Seagram was immediately perceived as the great exemplar of the prototypical American building type. What industry and lesser architects learned from it was not its exemplary form and proportions, not its refined details, not its astute siting (which changed the concept of public space in New York City), but the idea of the glass and metal curtain wall, which was roughly copied and deployed in countless buildings insensitive to site, context, or proportion, and, one must say, far removed from the philosophical and cultural foundations of the art of architecture in which Mies was immersed. Like all, or almost all, of the buildings Mies forged, the Seagram tower was bound to an open platform forming a podium establishing a vista and an oasis in the grid of the busy city. Mies had explored the spatial interrelationship of building and landscape from his first built work in the first decade of the twentieth century. The glass towers he drew in the early 1920s as revolutionary manifestos remained theoretical for forty years, until the circumstance materialized in which they could be built. However, neither his low rise structures nor his towers were entities in themselves. Rather, each was resolved as a union of house and garden or building and plaza, as elements bound together to become clearings in the ‘forest’ of the city. In looking back at the birth and life of the Seagram building, it is not enough to recount what happened, as complex and compelling as that might be: It is also necessary to examine the unfolding of Mies’s course in architecture, the evolution of his ideas over half a century, from his independent building of the 1909 to the completion of Seagram and its plaza in 1958. Similarly, it is necessary to revisit Philip Johnson’s Glass House to understand his contribution to the building. It is equally vital to consider the impact of the Seagram building in the public realm of the city over the next fifty years, from 1959 through the first decade of the twenty-first century, when the Seagram company ceased to exist.

Excerpted from Building Seagram, by Phyllis Lambert, available now from Yale University Press. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

 

Westerly: “A book of uncommon wisdom”

WesterlySince 1919 the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize has helped burgeoning artists find a well-deserved audience for their poetry. Last year’s winner, Will Schutt and his new anthology Westerly, is no exception. Carl Phillips, acclaimed poet and the judge of last year’s prize, writes in the Foreword to Westerly:

Will Schutt’s Westerly takes on nothing less than, on the one hand, the ways in which we, the living, both late and soon, make our stumbling way westward, mostly oblivious to the fact of mortality, and, on the other hand, how the dead make their resonant way back to us, sometime as memory, sometimes as guide directing us toward and through the inevitable… This is a book of uncommon wisdom… its poems sustain me. They give me hope – which may very well be, among gifts, the one we need most.

Schutt’s poems are concerned with both the real and the mythical, the modern and the historical. He weaves translations, illusions, and inventive narratives into effortless pieces of a wholly moving collection.

Read a poem excerpt below, then pick up a copy to read the whole work!

“Westerly”

Even up close it’s hard to tell

whether the white and blue

church tower is defunct or half-finished

or, like every third house

block after prim block, let for summer.

Only an odd patch of moss

flecks the siding, and thin ginger-colored

stains make a noncomittal

braid, like wicker or wings at rest.

From our third-floor window

long scarves of water push

right up against the houses.

They seem to clip the gutter spouts.

If one were Elizabeth Bishop

one might hear it turn into a tidy music.

Tidy and resolved, the way

history says, “Look West, Future-looker,”

and kids worry a blue vein

of hope in their spiral notebooks.

At night after each boat has pulled in

behind the artificial bulwark

moonlight saddles a galvanized tub

of orange marigold and sedum,

and green and burgundy rosettes

creep upward like weird insect antennae

trucking the earth off to Westerly,

Rhode Island, where nirvana is a long time

coming, or untidy, unresolved,

the way stupid hope won’t shut up.

Excerpted from Westerlyby Will Schutt. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

Garry Winogrand Photo Contest!

The vision of America that photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) captured in his lifetime has evolved since his death, but his photographs capture a timeless essence of the nation.. One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Winogrand left behind over sixty-five hundred rolls of film that he never processed, or that he processed but never proofed, the contents of which  he therefore never saw.  The publication of the near 500-page retrospective, Garry Winogrand, edited by Leo Rubinfien, exposes many of these unseen photographs and tells a fuller story of a man who chose America as his subject and his teacher. It is a colossal homage that showcases hundreds of Winogrand’s photographs and offers a perspective – at once unique and universal – on the intricacies and absurdities of American life in the twentieth century.

Garry WinograndWinogrand was born in New York City and his career began whilst traipsing the streets of Manhattan. Below Ninety-sixth Street and above Thirty-fourth Street was his usual terrain. In the 1960s, he was shooting often outside of his commercial assignments, and seemed as if on patrol, always ready to capture the pulse of Manhattan. His work at this time overturned the comfortable, fixed certainty to which picture-stories often clung, and instead embraced the randomness of human experience.

In his 1963 application for his first Guggenheim fellowship, Winogrand wrote that he had “been photographing the United States, trying… to learn who we are and how we feel, by seeing what we look like as history has been and is happening to us in this world.” He first crossed the country in 1955 and became interested in the new cultures of suburbia and the booming American Southwest. He took photographs all over the country, yet his subjects were rarely exotic. Winogrand’s America was as light as it was dark, as filled with sunlight as it was with trash. He saw the beautiful in the chaotic subject, and left us with a remarkable, vast, and multifaceted portrait of America.

In celebration of the sense of place that Winogrand’s photographs have endowed, we are holding a contest! Just as Winogrand used the language of image to guide his understanding and exploration of America, we ask you to tweet an original photograph that you believe captures some detail or peculiarity of a country. We are looking for a photo that captures a sense of time and place. It need not be America! Tweet us @yaleARTbooks with hashtag #YUPphotocontest and identify the country your photo represents. Please submit your photos by Friday, May 3.  We will select a the best representational photo and the winner will receive a copy of the magnificent new catalog for the exhibition currently on view at the San Francisco  Museum of Modern Art.  We’ll announce the winner via Twitter on Tuesday, May 7!

Michael Haas on Forbidden Music

Follow Forbidden Music on Facebook! 

From the Yale Books Blog:

Michael Haas‘s Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, to be published in North America in June, explores the legacy of those musicians persecuted by the Third Reich. When National Socialism arrived in Germany in 1933, Jews were dominating music more than virtually any other sector, making it the most important cultural front in the Nazi fight for German identity. The party’s policy on music brought about a cultural holocaust, with far-reaching consequences for the history and development of music during the twentieth century. The conventional view is that the Third Reich’s rejection of atonality was an act of anti-semitism. Yet although Jewish musicians and composers were responsible for countless original ideas applied to both the popular and serious music of the day, as well as becoming the experimenters who would represent the starting point of the century’s most daring avant-garde, they were also by 1933 almost uniquely the principal conveyors of Germany’s historic traditions and the ideals of German culture. Here, Haas introduces the key ideas and individuals from Forbidden Music and describes their lasting contribution to musical history.

Michael Haas—

With the enormous interest in the Holocaust, it may seem superfluous to add to the literature already available. Yet music of specific Jewish authorship has strangely been missing from examinations of ‘Entartete Musik’ – or music condemned by the III Reich as ‘degenerate’. Greater interest has been accorded to the Nazi suppression of Modernism in its largely atonal and dodecaphonic guises. For a number of social and aesthetic reasons, this particular variant of Modernist music was, with a single quite notable exception (Arnold Schoenberg), rarely composed by Jews.  Thus the music that was most frequently composed by Jews was paradoxically seen, post-1945, as part of a Romantic delusion that led Germany down a path that ended with its cultural destruction. In such a climate, the mere adherence to tonality itself was decried as ‘Romantic’. This position disregarded prevailing musical developments prior to Hitler, and it was these predominant movements within Modernism that offered the widest platform to young Jewish composers. The post-Hitler purge of anything that was viewed as representing a Nazi aesthetic dismissed such tonal tendencies as conventional though the composers who were thereby most affected had seen themselves as agitating protagonists within German music’s unique particularity.

Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis

Why Jewish composers would place themselves into such a position of specifically German cultural continuity has many complex historical and social explanations. These remain fairly constant even when dealing with the one Jewish composer who did shape 20th Century Modernism: Arnold Schoenberg. According to his pupil Hanns Eisler, he unleashed a revolution in order to become a reactionary. The relative short period during which German and Austrian Jews were granted parity with their non-Jewish compatriots resulted in a progression that began with cautious convention and continued through to an exuberant creativity that with Mahler, finally broke through the barriers of mere imitation. If Mahler converted to Christianity in order to gain his justified place in the sun, his successor Arnold Schoenberg would re-convert to Judaism as an act of cultural defiance. Following the years of emancipation, (officially starting with the constitutions of 1867 in Austria-Hungary and 1871 in Germany, though the process subsequently dragged through courts and parliaments), assimilation brought a cultural self-confidence that lasted a mere three and a half decades. Yet during this period, Jewish musicians, composers and writers came to dominate German and Austrian music to the point that the Nazi dictatorship declared it the principal cultural front in their battle for German identity.

An assumption today is that the adjective ‘German’ has always meant someone or something that comes from Germany. This definition, however, has existed only since the fall of Hitler in 1945. The fight for and over German identity had been raging since the Congress of Vienna; suppressed throughout the Metternich ‘Biedermeier’ years while flaring up again with the Revolution of 1848. With the expulsion of Austria from the ‘German Federation’ in 1866, German-speaking Austrians found themselves outside Bismarck’s emerging German nation state. It resulted in much bitterness as they saw Austria-Hungary with its myriad of Slavic holdings as a betrayal to their German birth-right. This brooding on exclusion was exacerbated with the refusal of the conquering French, British and Americans to allow the rump of German-speaking Austrians to fuse with the German Republic in 1919. The sense of being left-out not only created the deadly fanaticism of Adolf Hitler, but a sense of pan-German identification amongst many Jewish Austrians as well.

Yet the premonition of doom in Vienna pre-First World War resulted in a unique creative dynamism. If Paris in 1900 gave us the belle époque, Vienna contrasted this with fin de siècle. The differences are telling. The Expressionist apocalyptic works of Schoenberg, foretold in music, visions of the end of time. With the fall of the German and Austrian empires in 1919, many of Vienna’s principal Jewish composers moved to Berlin where they shaped an emerging avant-garde. As ‘early adaptors’, they became participants within the new media movements of cinema and broadcast. Years of living in closed communities gave many a quirky view of society, making them naturals as writers and composers of parody, satire, cabaret, revue and operetta. Others became political activists and such was the persuasiveness of their fight songs that with the arrival of the III Reich, marches by the Communist Hanns Eisler were simply taken over by the Nazis and kitted-out with new texts.

One of Wagner’s principal charges against Jewish composers and musicians was that they took refuge in the past. He saw Mendelssohn’s interest in Bach or Hanslick’s interest in music-history as a replacement for having something original to say. Yet it was precisely this fascination with the past that resulted in Heinrich Schenker and Guido Adler becoming fathers of different aspects of musicology. Such reverence for history resulted in a number of composers seeking new developments by exploiting models previously used by Classicists or the Baroque as a launching pad for their own ideas. Two of these were Hans Gál and Egon Wellesz who had completed their doctorates under Guido Adler. In the case of Gál, he solidified classical foundations in order to erect a new super-structure that was not only individual, but conformed and grew out of the familiar. With Wellesz, the principal was the same, though his template stemmed from the pageantry of the Baroque, allowing him to create new formats within ballet and opera and expand into highly expressive, often dissonant, free-tonal music, while keeping to historic ideals.

The casual racism expressed prior to the defeat of Hitler was usually based on culture with no biological foundations beyond a conjectured extrapolation of Darwinian ideas. Yet it was a racism that was just as often cited by Jews themselves as can be found in countless articles by the Zionist Max Nordau or the musicologist Adolf Weißmann. The fight for the German soul was fought on the sacred ground of Wagnerian Romanticism. Yet Romanticism, like its nihilistic, 20th century variant, Expressionism, was innately irrational and often at odds with the more sober world-vision of newly assimilated Jews. Nevertheless, because it was ‘sacred ground’, many prominent Jewish composers gravitated towards it. Before arriving at its natural Hollywood home, it dominated pre-Hitler musical debates with Hans Pfitzner’s notorious ‘Musical Impotence’ pamphlet, a confused mixture of Romantic nostalgia and overt anti-Semitism, as only a single example of the increasing paranoia felt by traditionalists. Yet most Jewish composers from these years felt comfortable with diatonic tonality, and saw it as a tool for developing new ideas. The post- 1918 mood of ‘New Objectivity’ was sober and a reaction against the manipulative powers of ‘Teutonic’ Romanticism and the neurotic hysteria of Expressionism. It was an aesthetic Zeitgeist that not only accommodated trendy operas offering props, sets and accoutrements with radios, jazz bands, flappers and police sirens, but also veered towards the purely mechanical, robotic and unemotional. The same aesthetic mood resulted in didactic works offering political and social ‘instruction’. It even included kooky experiments with engines and propellers. Whatever the development, the dominant goals among composers was the need to communicate, enlighten and to educate.  It was what Alban Berg in a letter to Erwin Schulhoff referred to as ‘musical prose’ – direct communication without the obscurity of ‘musical poetry’.

From 1933, Nazi persecution of Jewish musicians and composers resulted in their re-ghettoization. They were forced into participating in Nazi societies and organisations that were founded in order to keep Jews from collecting unemployment benefits and out of non-Jewish, ‘Aryan’ venues. Emigration, exile and eventual self-reinvention resulted in a major break within the development of German music. It also caused irreparable damage to the development of many composers. New homelands rarely offered the receptive audiences of Germany and Austria and those who had made names for themselves before emigration were not usually in a position to regain the equivalent status abroad.

After the war, denazification resulted in compromises that left anti-Semites in positions of influence. It was impossible to rid the system of all of Hitler’s devotees without damaging the recovery of defeated nations already on their knees. Overt resentment, paranoia and fear for positions that had been held since the removal of Jewish colleagues, made full reconciliation impossible. Cold War politics also played a role, though to what extent is still debatable. It is certainly clear that the post-war avant-garde in the 1950s and 1960s had taken an unemotional and sobering turn similar to artistic developments post-1918. It was a development that excluded most Jewish composers who had enjoyed prominence prior to 1933. The denazification process of music reckoned atonality and dodecaphony as overt gestures of anti-fascist conviction, resulting in the unintended rejection of many of the most progressive Jewish voices prior to the arrival of the III Reich.

Yet the contributions that Jewish composers and musicians made to German music were ultimately very real and lasting. To state that Jewish cultural entitlement was delusional would chalk a victory up to Hitler. With the enforced exile of so many German standard-bearers, their inheritance has been spread across the globe and left unconsolidated and unrecognised. The intention with ‘Forbidden Music’ was therefore not to offer yet another book about the Nazis, but an examination of the music that was actually lost.

Michael Haas was producer of London/Decca’s recording series “Entartete Musik” and is presently research director of the Jewish Music Institute for Suppressed Music, SOAS, University of London. Forbidden Music is available now from Yale University Press, London, and will be published in North America in June 2013.

Unraveling Ravel

It will soon be the 100th anniversary of the famous first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris, the orchestral-ballet piece that incited a near riot in the crowds during its premiere. Upon seeing the unusual costumes, choreography and hearing the avante-garde music, the audience hissed and shouted so loudly they drowned out the orchestra. It was said that the choreographer had to shout, counting the beat to the dancers from backstage so they could continue. In the audience that night was a friend of Stravinsky, the composer Maurice Ravel. After the concert, Stravinsky apparently asserted “the only person in Paris who understood, completely and immediately, The Rite of Spring” was Ravel.

RavelIndeed, Ravel was a composer whose work was also innovative and challenging, yet his work was about much more than pushing boundaries. As Roger Nichols’ biography Ravel confirms, the composer’s work was a complex combination of precision, classicism, modernism and the new. It was likely the precision of his work that led Stravinsky to call him “the most perfect of Swiss clockmakers” – a comment with mixed connotations. Yet Nichols is not concerned if that makes Ravel sound obsessed with accuracy. After all, Stravinsky too “was no slouch when it came to putting meticulous order into his music.”

Nichols is also precise with his subject, preferring to present his careful research and let Ravel emerge for the reader. He acknowledges his subject was not a simple man, nor was his music. “If the man and his music reflect each other,” he writes, “then we should recognize that, like some of his music, Ravel the man had the capacity not merely to confuse people, but to antagonize and alienate them.”

Nichols dives deeply to enlighten the composer’s life, from his family origins to his relationships with contemporaries and friends. In one noteworthy anecdote, Ravel was surprised to find he was nominated as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. He wrote to a friend, complaining of the amount of correspondence he had yet to respond to, including a dossier related to the decoration, “‘my candidacy for the Légion d’Honneur having been submitted’ – by whom? Hurry up to congratulate me; you won’t get another chance.” The composer refused this decoration despite protests from friends and criticism from the press. “As to why…” writes Nichols, “there is still no universally accepted answer.” Yet Nichols gives the readers some suggestions, from antipathy toward the government, to resentment over being one of many nominated. In fact, Ravel accepted readily awards from foreign sources. Ravel was private man, and eludes simple analysis, yet Nichols gives the reader plenty to ponder.

Accordingly, Nichols does not attempt to reduce the composer’s character, nor his music to easy labels. He presents the views of Ravel’s contemporaries, often in their own words: those who loved him, hated him, or who vehemently disagreed with his artistic vision. “I was fond of Ravel,” writes Cocteau. “But we had to be rid of musical impressionism as soon as possible. Ravel had extracted all the sparkle out of that particular firework.” Of course, Ravel would have objected to the label “impressionism,” believing it to plainly refer to painting, but such indefinable debates come with this compelling subject.

Arthur Danto on What Art Is

What Art IsArthur Danto, the influential art critic and a professor emeritus of aesthetics and history at Columbia University, once famously declared the End of Art.

“In our narrative, at first only mimesis [imitation] was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story.”    

The definition of art has undergone frequent, violent revolutions since Socrates first defined art as imitation in Plato’s Republic.  The great movements of the 1960s—Fluxus, Pop Art, Minimalism Conceptual Art—brought with them the final revolution. The properties at various times and to various extents thought essential to art—beauty, taste, visual truth—no longer could be said to characterize what was now labeled art. In the absence of identifiable, universally shared features, art critics and aestheticians have suggested that art must forever remain an open concept.

The implications for accepting this theory, Danto tells us, are sweeping and devastating. If there are no standards according to which we can differentiate art from non-art, art is a vacuous concept. If everything can be art, nothing can be art. Art has come to an end.

In a provocative new work, What Art Is, Danto retracts his declaration that art has come to an end. Drawing heavily on the aesthetic theory found in Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit and Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Danto argues that we need not concede that “art” is an open container into which we are free to stuff any meaning at all. With renewed vigor, Danto takes up the once abandoned search for an overarching set of criteria for art.

At the outset of his ambitious quest, Danto draws an important distinction between the epistemology and ontology of art. The epistemology of art asks, how can one know that something is art? The ontology of art asks a more fundamental question, what does it mean to be art? In other words, the question is not how can the connoisseur recognize that Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes are art, but what makes Warhol’s Brillo boxes art and the identical factory-made Brillo boxes not-art?

My sense is that, is there are no visible differences, there had to have been invisible differences—not invisible like the Brillo pads packed in the Brillo boxes, but properties that were always invisible. I’ve proposed two such properties are invisible in their nature. In my first book on the philosophy of art I thought that works of art were about something, and I decided that works of art accordingly had meaning. We infer meaning or grasp meaning, but meanings are not at all material. I then thought that meanings were embodied in the object that had them. I then declared that works of art are embodied meanings.

For a work of art to be a work of art, then, it must embody meaning. Our task as viewers is to determine the meaning embodied in the art. From the many properties we can ascribe to a material object, we must discern which of those properties communicate meaning.

Danto‘s book is a short, beautifully written and provocative work that merits the attention of any reader curious about art and the challenges of defining it.


Jen Silverman named 2013 Winner of Yale Drama Series Prize

Yale Drama Series

Yale University Press is pleased to announce the winner of the 2013 Yale Drama Series.  Jen Silverman’s “Still,” was chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman out of 1,100 entries. Norman, in a recent interview, said:

The winner, Jen Silverman, wrote a play that, in both style and content, shook us to our bones. It is called Still, and will leave you sitting that way for quite a while. The other entries (over 1,000 of them) were by and large, bold and deeply felt. The ones I chose to honor as finalists are the ones whose craft and language distinguished them from the rest. They were also the ones that touched me deeply, that made me feel something that lasted beyond the reading of them.

Silverman’s play revolves around the lives of three women, each experiencing the trials and tribulations of childbirth. The play interweaves female narratives of unwanted pregnancy, stillborn children, and midwifery. Silverman said of the prize:

This award means so much to me, not only because it is an incredibly generous gift for any emerging playwright, but because it is recognition of a story that has often gone unheard, and a subject that is taboo.  Women’s bodies are such fraught objects in our current culture: territory to be negotiated and controlled.  Given that Still is a play about a mother grieving her stillborn child, a queer dominatrix, and a giant dead baby on a scavenger hunt, and given that it is in many ways a darkly comedic exploration of unsafe territory, this award is deeply meaningful to me in ways that are simultaneously personal and political.  I’m honored, excited, and deeply grateful to be the recipient of the Yale Drama Series Award.

Silverman‘s prize includes a staged reading at Lincoln Center and the David Charles Horn Prize, a $10,000 award. “Still” will also be published by Yale University Press.

Clarence Coo’s play Beautiful Province won the prize last year and will be available in September.

Announcing Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary App

Pevsner's Architectural Glossary App

The perfect way to check architectural terms when you are out and about, exploring buildings.

Just in time for National Landscape Architecture month, Yale University Press is pleased to announce the release of Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary app. Based on the 2010 publication of Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary, this iOS app will allow users to interactively engage with Pevsner’s vocabulary and knowledge base. With a glossary of architectural terms, explanatory line drawings, specific building maps, and beautiful color images, the app will allow both beginner students and expect scholars to explore Pevsner’s masterful understanding of the field.

Sally Salvesen, publisher of the Pevsner Guide Series said of the app, “This vocabulary is absolutely central to Pevsner’s famous survey of British architecture and the Glossary book has shown how keen people are to engage with it. We are excited to be taking this first step in digitizing Pevsner content…”

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-83), one of the most learned and stimulating twentieth-century writers on art and architecture, began his career in Germany. He later became Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck College (University of London), Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge and a Gold Medallist of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In addition to The Buildings of England, first published from 1951 to 1974, he was founding editor of The Pelican History of Art and of The Buildings of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Among his many publications are An Outline of European Architecture, Pioneers of Modern Design and A History of Building Types. See all available titles from the Pevsner Architectural Guides here.

The “Real” John Keats

John KeatsHistory has a funny way of romanticizing the past, blurring the lines between hard facts and fluffy representations. Painters, poets, actors — the public romanticizes their lives, creating narratives of inspiration and untouchability. This principle is even more drastic in studying and discussing Romantic poets, whose lives we associate with sensitivity, delicacy, and tragedy. But in his book, John Keats: A New Life, Nicholas Roe takes a more honest approach to the character at hand.

Roe’s text attempts to work out John Keats as a living and breathing person, not just a source of prolific writing. And as it turns out, the “real Keats” was a troubled individual. This meticulously-detailed text reveals Keats’ addiction to alcohol and opium. Roe explains, in a recent article how:

This explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure…That Keats was using opium to enhance what it meant to ‘fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget’ the world gives us a different Keats: a Keats whose struggle with life was more complex, and darker than we have previously thought.

Roe also writes of jealousy, disease, and sexual and professional frustration. At times, Keats sounds like a whiny teenager; later, he again is wise beyond his years. Roe’s undertaking is large in scale: define a man and the reasoning behind his great works, and the result is daunting. The story of John Keats may not be as tender and loving as we might imagine – filled with drug-induced stupors and bouts of rage – but it is human. And perhaps remembering that Keats was human is just as important as praising and studying his poetry.

Love Poetry Contest!

The Progress of Love

In celebration of National Poetry Month and the publication of The Progress of Love, we are holding a contest for all you devoted Yale ARTbooks blog followers! A collaborative project between the Menil Collection in Houston, Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, The Progress of Love invites a dazzling array of 30 contemporary artists from  across Africa, Europe, and the United States to converse with one other about manifold forces that shaping our understanding of love.

As a part of this exploration, Elias K. Bongmba details the various forms of love letters and poetry in African Culture in her contribution to the exhibition catalogue. In South Africa, for example, young Zulu women weave together colorful beads, each color weighted with symbolism, into patterns that express their feelings and intentions towards a prospective suitor. A pattern containing white, black and pink would communicate the woman’s purity and hope for a blossoming romance and warn the man not to flirt with other women or waste away his wealth on gambling.

Inspired by the Zulu Love Letter and the coming spring that always seems to bring with it the promise of new love, we at YUP are asking our readers to tweet us your favorite line of a love poem. Whether the poem awakened new love, fanned the flames of an old love, or consoled you during heartbreak, we want to hear from you! Whoever sends us the most creative, heart-rending, or downright funny line will win a free copy of The Progress of Love. Tweet us your favorite line at #YUPpoetrycontest by Wednesday, April 24. On Thursday, April 25, we will announce the winner!

The Progress of Love is an exquisitely illustrated cross cultural exploration of love, edited by Kristina Van Dyke, Director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis and Bisi Silva, director of the Centre for Contemporary  Art, Lagos. The Progress of Love is published by the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation of the Arts and distributed by Yale University Press.