Item description for Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by H. R. Rookmaaker...
Overview Uses well known and lesser known paintings to show modern art's reflection of a dying culture and how Christian attitudes can create hope in current society.
This disturbing but illuminating classic is a brilliant perspective on the cultural turmoil of the radical sixties and its impact on today's world, especially as reflected in the art of the time. Rookmaaker's enduring analysis looks at modern art in a broad historical, social, and philosophical context, laying bare the despair and nihilism that pervade our era. He also shows the role Christian artists can play in proclaiming truth through their work.
Rookmaaker's brilliant articulation of faith and scholarship is insightful and inspiring. The book moves freely and with a sense of urgency between the worlds of high culture, popular art and music, and Christian faith.
This reissue makes his foundational work available to a new generation.
"A landmark book in the story of contemporary Christians in the arts." --Os Guinness, author of The American Hour
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H. R. ROOKMAAKER (1922-1977) grew up in the Dutch East Indies. As a young man in wartime Holland, he was interned for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets and became a Christian during that time. In 1948 a lifelong friendship with Francis Schaeffer began. In 1959 Rookmaaker published his doctoral thesis on the artist Gauguin, and in 1965 he was invited to the Chair of Art History at the Free University of Amsterdam. Rookmaaker was also highly respected as a jazz critic.
Reviews - What do customers think about Modern Art and the Death of a Culture?
Sobering Look at Modern Art Nov 25, 2006
Rookmaker uses words like existentialism, nihilism, anarchy, irrationality, and anti-art to describe a lot of what we call Modern Art. He has good reasons for saying this as he gives a great overview of art from medieval times, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment to now. The art started going downhill, in his view, from about the time of the Impressionists, when art became "non-thematic" or "art for art's sake". He sees Post-Impressionist Cezanne as the father of Modern Art who fostered movements such as cubism, abstract, expressionism, and fauvism; Picasso then picked up the artistic baton from him and greatly influenced the rest of 20th century art.
I liked the author's overview of art probably the best, followed by his philosophical take on what each phase means. It's an interesting debate as to the value of art for art's sake, which I personally like, even if it does give equal value to everything in a given painting and 'does not say anything'. I also still admire the clever imagination of the modern artists, while shuddering a little more at what they are trying to express after reading this book.
If you like art, and want a Christian take on what's really going on, you should read this book. But if you're like me, you'll still decide for yourself what you like and don't like about Modern Art, even if you don't agree with the world view. Besides, isn't it important for Christians to understand what the world stands for?
We are experiencing what this book predicts Jul 31, 2006
Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by Rookmaaker
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. I heard a lecture by Rookmaaker in Amsterdam in 1972. I thought a lecture on art would bore me to death. Instead I was on the edge of my seat even after an all night plane ride. The book shows through art how our culture has moved away from the concept of a transcendent God since the 1300s. It is an exciting read because it takes the words of the artists themselves right up the the 1970s to explain their art and their spiritual beliefs. It is very hard to put this book down even for someone like me who is not all that excited about art. It is ominous in its predictions of what impact this has on our present culture.
You can get it used [...]. I value it so much I don't even loan my copy out.
Showing the intersection of culture, philosophy, and theology - in an enjoyable read Apr 29, 2006
One of the joys of fathering a bunch of boys is taking them fishing. My oldest is only eight, so as of yet we have not had a lot of success actually catching fish! Nontheless, there is a lot of joy in teaching them about bobbers, hooks, bait, casting the line, etc. - there is truly an art and a science to the task. One of the difficulties that little hands have is pulling all the information together and using it properly.
Just as little children need a good teacher to help them integrate a lot of facts, so do we often find ourselves in the same condition. In writing Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, the late Hans Rookmaaker comes alongside us to explain how a lot of different topics intersect and interact with each other. Art, aesthetics, culture, theology, philosophy world history - these various areas are laid out on the table for discussion, and then integrated together to make a strong point.
Rookmaaker, a lifelong friend of Francis Schaeffer, provides us with a biblical perspective on the modern world, focusing specifically on the philosophical agenda behind modern art. Beginning his overview with the dawn of the Renaissance and Reformation, Rookmaaker quickly covers a lot of historical ground in the journey toward the modern era. In the end, he reveals the roots of modernity's despair. The autonomous reason of mankind put God outside of the box of the world, and as a result began the slow descent into subjective meaninglessness.
Don't let the topic of the book scare you. Even while addressing heavy themes, Rookmaaker writes with great skill and passion. He is not trying to impress you with ivory tower gibberish and a specialized insider's vocabulary. Although he knows his material exceedingly well, his aim is to edify Christians. He wants to teach you how to pull a lot of cultural data together in order that you understand the times in which you live. If you have ever been puzzled at the message, or lack thereof, of modern art, Rookmaaker will help you understand and discern what you are seeing. I highly recommend this work, and wish that many more works like this will be written that help Christians to understand the worlds of high culture, popular art, and music.
Note: This 1994 Crossway edition is actually a reprint of this classic work originally written in 1970, about seven years before the author's death.
Careful reading required Nov 21, 2000
I used to really like this book. Finding it at the Dales Bible Week in Harrogate was a stroke of exceptional good fortune. Together with various texts by Schaffer and Guinness, I found a good deal of clear explanation for the kinds of encounters with literature I had had in recent years.
However, I think that in later years I became somewhat anxious. Oddly enough there was the coincidence that nearly all the actual content of the Dales Bible week was suddenly coming under very close scrutiny and rightly being found wanting, I re-read quite a few of the texts I picked up in that period (which was the late 70's and early 80's), this included.
What passes for scholarship in this book is quite hard to resist, and requires the most detailed knowledge to refute. I have some friends who have tried to do this. It takes years to absorb the whole impact of 19th century machinations in the arts, and the 20th century is far more difficult. I found that Rookmaakers analysis still held up, though it is hard to rationalise how this book has now become the sole element in far too many arts and literature courses in Christian establishments. Not every stream of arts development led entirely to despair, and not every artist abrogated their responsibility to truth quite so wilfully as the author seems to suggest.
The book has become, in fact, far too embedded in the Christian subculture now. And this of course is a dreadful trap. In some institutions this form of criticism has become an alternative and if fact, vicarious alternative to real scholarship.
At the risk of being classed as a reckless fool, I would suggest it would be best if there was a concious attempt to point focus away from the L'abri fellowship for a while and to allow people to develop and sharpen real critical skills. This should never compromise real faith. Once again, what is happening in the real world is a loss of dialectic clarity among those who should be the salt and light.
Another concern is that now the arts are so degenerate, it is now almost certainly the case that the canary is now thoroughly dead, and very little, if anything is to be gained from it's postmortem. I suspect that far more is to be gained by shifting the focus of action to other spheres.
I'm afraid I must sound very critical of this - I don't mean to really. The book contains invaluable truth and should be read. However, things in the secular world are changing rapidly and it is important for us all to think on our feet.
Rookmaaker Reveals Art Feb 13, 2000
Christians weren't and aren't necessarily "right" when it comes to art. Often uninformed and bias, Christians tend to pigeon-hole art, making it have no place in the lives of humanity. This book takes a look at art through a historical and biblical viewing glass. Rookmaaker does not just say "sin is the problem" and leave it at that (though he speaks plenty on the root of the problem which is sin). Rather he looks to history, the artist's intentions of a particular "movement", and both Christian and secular mentalities that pervaded the times. Rookmaaker ends the book splendidly, answering questions that are left in the Christian's mind (concerning faith, morals and art, good and bad art, beauty, aesthetics, what is art, and more), calling Christians to take courage, and finally charging Christians with the responsibility to go out and make good art.