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Blighted Plain

Jonathan Meades: Wiltshire’s Multitudes, 6 January 2022

The Buildings of England: Wiltshire 
by Julian Orbach, Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry.
Yale, 828 pp., £45, June 2021, 978 0 300 25120 3
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... In​ his introduction to the first edition of The Buildings of England: Wiltshire (1963), Nikolaus Pevsner wrote with barely contained anger thatWiltshire would be as wonderful as it must have been in Hardy’s, in Hudson’s and in Jefferies’s days, if the army, and more recently the air force, had not got hold of it ...

At Sotheby’s

Rosemary Hill: Debo’s Bibelots , 17 March 2016

... albeit afflicted with ‘hideously elongated debased Italianate windows’, which upset Nikolaus Pevsner. It was no palace. The sale was chiefly about its subtitle: Debo as sixth, youngest and last of the Mitford sisters. Between them they spanned the entire range of upper-class extremism, from Decca the ‘ballroom communist’ to ...

Lola did the driving

Inigo Thomas: Pevsner’s Suffolk, 5 May 2016

Suffolk: East, The Buildings of England 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 677 pp., £35, April 2015, 978 0 300 19654 2
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... NikolausPevsner took an interest in cars. He considered them a form of industrial art. ‘It is only the taking of risks which makes life worth living,’ he said in the 1930s, maligning British car designers for their insufficient daring. But appreciation is one thing, driving another, and no matter how admiring or critical he was of cars and their design, Pevsner was always hopeless at the wheel ...

In the City

Peter Campbell: Public sculpture, 22 May 2003

... does for public sculpture (but not sculpture inside churches or galleries) what Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner do for the buildings the sculpture is on (or near) in The Buildings of England volume on The City of London. In a way it does more. While buildings have to be interesting in themselves to get into ...

See the Sights!

Gillian Darley: Rediscovering Essex, 1 November 2007

The Buildings of England: Essex 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 939 pp., £29.95, May 2007, 978 0 300 11614 4
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... when they do, the scenery is pretty inconsequential. Surprisingly, Essex is rather self-effacing. Nikolaus Pevsner’s introduction to his Buildings of England volume for Essex made it clear that he considered the county tainted by association. Who, he wondered in 1954, would ever want to go ‘touring and sightseeing’ there, after experiencing the ...


P.N. Furbank, 18 November 1982

The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... poets, and between flattering Frenchmen (like André Maurois) and the bluff English. I revere Nikolaus Pevsner, but he will have to forgive me if I detect a touch of flirtatiousness in The Englishness of Art. One could labour the point, and offer reasons why no such concept could be valid, but I hardly think it is necessary. It is recognised when ...


Jonathan Meades: Archigram’s Ghost, 21 May 2020

Archigram: The Book 
edited by Dennis Crompton.
Circa, 300 pp., £95, November 2018, 978 1 911422 04 4
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... to the purity of the white orthogonal architecture of the 1920s and early 1930s championed by Nikolaus Pevsner, the most conservative of progressives, who described English architecture of the 1950s as ‘not the functionally best solution, nor an economically justifiable solution, nor acceptable in terms of townscape’. Early on, conventionally ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire, 2 January 2020

... The volumes​ of the Buildings of England series initiated by Nikolaus Pevsner unsurprisingly confine themselves to buildings and their settings, but it’s tempting to be distracted by what you already know about a place, about Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, for instance, the latest county to have its volume revised and expanded by Yale ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... Staffordshire, was published in 1974, on the eve of the miners’ strike and the three-day week. Nikolaus Pevsner, begetter, editor and principal author of the series, had travelled thousands of miles over those years. England and its buildings had also come a long way. To read the first editions as they were never meant to be read, chronologically, is ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... C.S. Lewis, had been in post since his youth, but new figures continually joined them. One was Nikolaus Pevsner, who by some quirk of mandarin humour was knighted the same year as Betjeman. Hillier struggles, unconvincingly, to find the roots of Betjeman’s unflinching hatred for the ‘Herr-Professor-Doktor’. In fact Hillier, and those he ...

Bypass Variegated

Rosemary Hill: Osbert Lancaster, 21 January 2016

Osbert Lancaster’s Cartoons, Columns and Curlicues: ‘Pillar to Post’, ‘Homes Sweet Homes’, ‘Drayneflete Revealed’ 
by Osbert Lancaster.
Pimpernel, 304 pp., £40, October 2015, 978 1 910258 37 8
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... unalloyed pleasure’. It was an approach to architecture and to life very different from anything Nikolaus Pevsner had experienced in Göttingen and when, having left Germany in 1933, he joined the editorial team of the Architectural Review, he was not a natural fit. A division developed between the side of the magazine which espoused the International ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... more cut off from the world than those in Manhattan. The previous year a naturalised immigrant, Nikolaus Pevsner, had sought to define ‘the Englishness of English art’ in his Reith Lectures ‘None of the other nations of Europe has so abject an inferiority complex about its own aesthetic capabilities,’ ...


Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse, 4 June 1998

The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... style, is obvious: we still tend to enjoy the Englishness of English Art, a formula projected by Nikolaus Pevsner, a naturalised German, under pressure of an international art history of the modern movement that is no longer fashionable. The return to the vernacular in architecture is the most marked consequence, but the effects can be sensed in ...


Hal Foster: Reyner Banham, 9 May 2002

Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future 
by Nigel Whiteley.
MIT, 494 pp., £27.50, January 2002, 0 262 23216 2
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... years as a local art critic, he left for London in 1949, soon to study architectural history under Nikolaus Pevsner at the Courtauld. In short order Banham became an assistant editor at Architectural Review and a charter member of the Independent Group, the extraordinary band of young artists, architects and critics (including Richard Hamilton, Peter and ...

Victorian Piles

David Cannadine, 18 March 1982

The Albert Memorial: The Monument in its Social and Architectural Context 
by Stephen Bayley.
Scholar Press, 160 pp., £18.50, September 1981, 0 85967 594 7
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Victorian and Edwardian Town Halls 
by Colin Cunningham.
Routledge, 315 pp., £25, July 1981, 9780710007230
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... shied away from both the architectural and the symbolic aspects of the subject, leaving only Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in a brief and beguiling chapter in his History of Building Types (1976), to suggest some important lines of inquiry. Now, however, that omission is authoritatively repaired. The most flamboyant and familiar feature of the Victorian ...

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