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-award-winning book, 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.
'The originality of Romantic Moderns is the extraordinary breadth of its focus … a joy to read'
The Sunday Times
'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'
'Teems with fascinating detail …Well researched, wide-ranging and generously illustrated, the book contains many delights and surprises'
'Brilliant, delightfully readable … thoroughly invigorating'
'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'
Times Literary Supplement