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Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2011
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From Robert Hughes, one of the greatest art and cultural critics of our time, comes a sprawling, comprehensive, and deeply personal history of Rome—as city, as empire, and, crucially, as an origin of Western art and civilization, two subjects about which Hughes has spent his life writing and thinking.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From that exhilarating portrait, he takes us back more than two thousand years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries.
From the beginning, Rome was a hotbed of power, overweening ambition, desire, political genius, and corruption. Hughes details the turbulent years that saw the formation of empire and the establishment of the sociopolitical system, along the way providing colorful portraits of all the major figures, both political (Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula) and cultural (Cicero, Martial, Virgil), to name just a few. For almost a thousand years, Rome would remain the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world.
From the formation of empire, Hughes moves on to the rise of early Christianity, his own antipathy toward religion providing rich and lively context for the brutality of the early Church, and eventually the Crusades. The brutality had the desired effect—the Church consolidated and outlasted the power of empire, and Rome would be the capital of the Papal States until its annexation into the newly united kingdom of Italy in 1870.
As one would expect, Hughes lavishes plenty of critical attention on the Renaissance, providing a full survey of the architecture, painting, and sculpture that blossomed in Rome over the course of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, and shedding new light on old masters in the process. Having established itself as the artistic and spiritual center of the world, Rome in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries saw artists (and, eventually, wealthy tourists) from all over Europe converging on the bustling city, even while it was caught up in the nationalistic turmoils of the Italian independence struggle and war against France.
Hughes keeps the momentum going right into the twentieth century, when Rome witnessed the rise and fall of Italian Fascism and Mussolini, and took on yet another identity in the postwar years as the fashionable city of "La Dolce Vita." This is the Rome Hughes himself first encountered, and it's one he contends, perhaps controversially, has been lost in the half century since, as the cult of mass tourism has slowly ruined the dazzling city he loved so much. Equal parts idolizing, blasphemous, outraged, and awestruck, Rome is a portrait of the Eternal City as only Robert Hughes could paint it.
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Street Date:
11/01/2011
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307700582
ASIN:
B005O1BY7I
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APA Citation (style guide)

Robert Hughes. (2011). Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Robert Hughes. 2011. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Robert Hughes, Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011.

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Robert Hughes. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938. Since 1970 he has lived and worked in the United States, where until 2001 he was chief art critic for Time, to which he still contributes. His books include The Shock of the New, The Fatal Shore, Nothing If Not Critical, Barcelona, Goya, and Things I Didn't Know. He is the recipient of a number of awards and prizes for his work.
      • name: Robert Hughes
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title
Rome
fullDescription
From Robert Hughes, one of the greatest art and cultural critics of our time, comes a sprawling, comprehensive, and deeply personal history of Rome—as city, as empire, and, crucially, as an origin of Western art and civilization, two subjects about which Hughes has spent his life writing and thinking.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From that exhilarating portrait, he takes us back more than two thousand years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries.
From the beginning, Rome was a hotbed of power, overweening ambition, desire, political genius, and corruption. Hughes details the turbulent years that saw the formation of empire and the establishment of the sociopolitical system, along the way providing colorful portraits of all the major figures, both political (Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula) and cultural (Cicero, Martial, Virgil), to name just a few. For almost a thousand years, Rome would remain the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world.
From the formation of empire, Hughes moves on to the rise of early Christianity, his own antipathy toward religion providing rich and lively context for the brutality of the early Church, and eventually the Crusades. The brutality had the desired effect—the Church consolidated and outlasted the power of empire, and Rome would be the capital of the Papal States until its annexation into the newly united kingdom of Italy in 1870.
As one would expect, Hughes lavishes plenty of critical attention on the Renaissance, providing a full survey of the architecture, painting, and sculpture that blossomed in Rome over the course of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, and shedding new light on old masters in the process. Having established itself as the artistic and spiritual center of the world, Rome in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries saw artists (and, eventually, wealthy tourists) from all over Europe converging on the bustling city, even while it was caught up in the nationalistic turmoils of the Italian independence struggle and war against France.
Hughes keeps the momentum going right into the twentieth century, when Rome witnessed the rise and fall of Italian Fascism and Mussolini, and took on yet another identity in the postwar years as the fashionable city of "La Dolce Vita." This is the Rome Hughes himself first encountered, and it's one he contends, perhaps controversially, has been lost in the half century since, as the cult of mass tourism has slowly ruined the dazzling city he loved so much. Equal parts idolizing, blasphemous, outraged, and awestruck, Rome is a portrait of the Eternal City as only Robert Hughes could paint it.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
      • content:

        "In his engrossing, passionately written new book, Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, Robert Hughes, the former art critic for Time magazine and the author of critically acclaimed works like The Fatal Shore, gives us a guided tour through the city in its many incarnations, excavating the geologic layers of its cultural past and creating an indelible portrait of a city in love with spectacle and power . . . The reader need not agree with Mr. Hughes's acerbic assessments or even be interested in Rome as a destination on the map to relish this volume, so captivating is his narrative. Although his book is a biography of Rome, it is also an acutely written historical essay informed by his wide-ranging knowledge of art, architecture and classical literature, and a thought-provoking meditation on how gifted artists (like Bernini and Michelangelo) and powerful politicians and church leaders (like Augustus, Mussolini and Pope Sixtus V) can reshape the...

      • premium: False
      • source: Stephen Heyman, New York Times Magazine blog
      • content: "A fascinating personal history of the Italian capital, "Rome" begins with an exegesis on the founding myth of Romulus and Remus and ends with a rant about how the city has lost its "Dolce Vita"-era glory."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from July 25, 2011
        With elegance and beauty, Hughes, who for three decades was Time's chief art critic, majestically conducts us through the rich history of Rome, a city he discovered as a young man, which for him gave physical form to the ideal of art and "turned art, and history, into reality.” From its foundation to the modern world, Hughes points out the wealth of Rome's art and its influence on Roman history. For example, propaganda statues in ancient Rome perpetuated the power of leaders; the statue of the emperor Augustus, for instance, has few equals as an image of "calm, self-sufficient power.” Hughes characterizes 19th-century Rome as a movement between orthodoxy and modernism, and reflects artists' commitment to or rejection of Italian unification. During this period, Rome was also swarming with foreign artists, notably a group of young Germans dubbed the Nazarenes for their demonstrative piety. Hughes bemoans the rampant tourism that has turned Rome into a kind of Disney World for the art set; yet the glories of the past remain. In a delightful guide, Hughes—whose The Shock of the New was recently named by Britain's Guardian one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century—provides a sometimes cantankerous but always captivating tour through the remarkable depth and breadth of the ancient city.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        August 15, 2011

        In the spirit of his Barcelona (1992), the art critic and cultural historian zooms through Roman history, from Romulus and Remus to today.

        Hughes' (Things I Didn't Know, 2006, etc.) subtitle is a bit misleading—"personal history" composes but a nail or two in the impressive edifice he has erected—but few readers will complain about anything else. Though his focus is principally on architecture, painting and sculpture, he pauses occasionally to provide historical context, offer portraits of key personalities and grouse about popular culture. Hughes eviscerates The Da Vinci Code ("wretchedly ill-written"), religious fundamentalists (who, he says, have created no art above the level of "drive-in megachurches"), the belief in the virginity of Mary and the noisy crowds in the Sistine Chapel ("just shut the fuck up, please, pretty please, if you can, if you don't mind, if you won't burst"). He also raves about artists and artistic works he loves, injecting his text with heavy doses of superlatives: The Pantheon is "certainly the greatest of all surviving structures of ancient Rome"; the Sistine ceiling is "one of the world's supreme sights." (Hughes also gives a grand account of the debate about the recent cleaning of Michelangelo's masterwork.) The author's knowledge about individual artists and works—and about Roman history—is prodigious, but he is never is pedantic or dull. There are a couple of strange moments—do readers need to be told what Schadenfreude means? Isn't it a stretch to say that Keats and Shelley were friends?—but mostly there are moments of delight and surprise. We learn that on the Grand Tour, Horace Walpole saw his dog eaten by a wolf in the Alps; we smell the streets of ancient Rome; we discover that hippos were among the animals that fought in the Colosseum.

        An appealing mixture of erudition about high culture and curmudgeonly complaints about low.

         

        (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2011

        Longtime art critic for Time, Hughes is the right man to tell us about the glory that remains Rome. He doesn't stop with painting, sculpture, and architecture but covers Rome's entire history, using as a framework his discovery of the city starting in 1958, when he arrived as a young student. I'm betting on this one. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

        Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        October 15, 2011
        From Etruscan statuary to Fascist-era buildings, Rome's artistic and architectural inventory comes under Hughes' incisive review of everything that an informed visitor would wish to see there. Hughes' commentary eschews art-history jargon and adopts direct diction to interpret for readers what an object says in aesthetic terms and in relation to the historical moment in which it was created. Monumentality being a Roman habit through the ages, the Pantheon, Saint Peter's Basilica, and the Victor Emmanuel memorial arrest the eyes and a few of Hughes' paragraphs, but his most impassioned passages render verdicts on paintings, sculptures, and smaller structures, accompanied by opinions of those who commissioned and those who crafted them. The latter, of course, include immortals like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bellini. The less immortal names of their patrons earn Hughes' equal attention for being exponents of the money, power, and beliefs that engendered their artworks. Distilling a lifetime of visiting and contemplating Rome's history and heritage, Hughes stands stoutly independent as a critic, richly repaying the reading of any visitor to Rome in actuality or in imagination.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

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From Robert Hughes, one of the greatest art and cultural critics of our time, comes a sprawling, comprehensive, and deeply personal history of Rome—as city, as empire, and, crucially, as an origin of Western art and civilization, two subjects about which Hughes has spent his life writing and thinking.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From that exhilarating portrait, he takes us back more than two thousand years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries.
From the beginning, Rome was a hotbed of power, overweening ambition, desire, political genius, and corruption. Hughes details the turbulent years that saw the formation of empire and the establishment of the sociopolitical system, along the way providing colorful portraits of all the major figures, both political (Julius Caesar, Marcus...
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