Publication Date: 13/08/2020 ISBN: 9780500252307 Category:

Spirit of Place

Susan Owens

Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
Publication Date: 13/08/2020 ISBN: 9780500252307 Category:


Out of stock


Shortlisted for the Apollo Awards Book of the Year 2020

When we look at the landscape, what do we see? Do we experience the view over a valley or dappled sunlight on a path in the same way as those who were there before us? We have altered the countryside in innumerable ways over the last thousand years, and never more so than in the last hundred. How are these changes reflected in – and affected by – art and literature?

English landscape painting is often said to be an 18th-century invention. But when we look for representations of the countryside in British art and literature, we find a story that begins with Old English poetry and treads a winding path up to the present day. Spirit of Place offers a panoramic view of the British landscape as seen through the eyes of writers and artists from Bede and the Gawain-poet to Gainsborough, Austen, Turner and Constable; from Paul Nash and Barbara Hepworth to Robert Macfarlane. Guided by these distinctive voices and imagery, and with a sharp eye for an anecdote, Susan Owens elucidates how the British landscape has been framed, reimagined and reshaped by generations. Each account, whether limned in a psalter, jotted down in a journal or constructed from sticks and stones, holds up a mirror to its maker and their world.

Publisher Review

'If you think you know the British landscape, think again. And think with your eyes and imagination. Susan Owens steps neatly between artists and writers, seascapes and treescapes, viewed under mythological, Italian, industrial, and eventually ecological light. This informative, elegant book wears its learning lightly, moving sympathetically through space and centuries and inviting us to become mental travellers, coming with open minds and eyes to the wonders of the British landscape' - Fiona Stafford, author of The Long, Long Life of Trees and The Brief Life of Flowers 'A wonderfully deft and varied study, full of voices, noticings, and contrasting ways of looking. Owens has a gift for making the past feel so close that we might be riding over a hill with Gerald of Wales or John Leland ... Drawing on her years as a curator, Owens brings a wealth of objects - painted hangings, murals, stage designs - to set alongside poems, paintings, maps and histories. Here is landscape as solace, nightmare, challenge, trap; landscape observed through centuries with worry and affection, distress and delight.' - Alexandra Harris

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