Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 12.01.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Mark Lamster

"Compelling" & "Important": The L.A. Times Praises Master of Shadows


moi

Good book reviews are rarities to be prized in these days of shuttered newspapers and diminished book coverage. By good I don't simply mean positive. Squibs that simply condense a publisher's press release, though appreciated, are a dime a dozen. What I mean by good is a considered, thoughtful, and fully developed examinations of a book. I am most grateful that Master of Shadows receives just that kind of review in today's Los Angeles Times. That it also happens to be overwhelmingly positive (though not without a few minor quibbles) is extremely satisfying, to say the least. The full review is available online — please click through to support and encourage this kind of coverage — but here are a few key passages:

Mark Lamster is a brave writer…his affection for his subject is so complete — and completely convincing — his style is so gracefully unpretentious and his research is so thorough that "Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens" manages to be engaging, instructive and thought-provoking, all at once. Lamster's contribution is to demonstrate so clearly the interplay between Rubens' diplomatic assignments and many of his important painterly commissions, a conjunction whose force in his career was much more consequential than other accounts of his life have allowed. Lamster does a nicely clear-headed job of sorting out the tangled politics of the low countries during what was a violently fraught and dynamic era. His history is judiciously free of judgments, something that's a bit of a feat when you're dealing with heroic regimes — at least by contemporary standards — such as the embryonic Dutch Republic and one of history's stock bad guys, Counter-Reformation Spain (with its fondness for a particularly authoritarian Catholicism backed up by the Inquisition). As he emerges in Lamster's account, Rubens manages to be simultaneously the man of the Spanish Court — and entirely his own.

The critic, Tim Rutten, does gently admonish me for occasionally speaking for characters in the book. I will say in response only that these moments were judiciously considered, and at all times based on correspondence and not made up out of whole cloth. But, as he writes, this minor cavil should not "detract from the important portrait Lamster provides of a major artistic master at a time when artists were still fully integrated into the intellectual, social and political affairs of their time." I should note also that the book recently received a generous review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design


The Incidental Pleasures of Street Art


Fairy Tale Architecture


The Deep Roots of Modernism


On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Mark Lamster is the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. A contributing editor to Architectural Review, he is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS