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BOOKSHELF REVIEWS

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DEVON’S DRAMATIC coastlines and wild moorlands are appealingly familiar sights, to the extent that natural beauty has often taken precedence over man-made triumphs in the county.This book is a homage to Devon’s oft-overlooked built environment, using lush photography to uncover the shire’s cultural heritage and centuries of architectural endeavour.

The traditional seaside vistas are present, with shots of the curving terraces of Hesketh Crescent in Torquay’s English Riviera heartland, the cheery promenade of Paignton Pier and Sidmouth’s delicate cottages. However, also showcased are an enormous variety of unexpected structures — from the sublimely futuristic to more humble engineering.

Some of the most charming and quirky photographs capture ruinous limekilns, tiny dovecotes, and higgledy-piggledy villages built into steep hillsides, such as the delightfully chocolate box thatched cottages of Buckland-in-the-Moor in south Devon (pictured). Such varied examples illustrate how mankind has managed to embrace the natural fluidity of the terrain, rather than trying to force artificial engineering solutions onto the robust landscape.

This respect and affinity for the surrounding environment is also evident in more sophisticated buildings, like the wave-shaped roof and sea-bleached decking of Plymouth’s impressive National Marine Aquarium, more here. In contrast, the miniscule silhouette of Start Point lighthouse against a tempestuous sky and the slate-grey ocean serves as a reminder that the elements — rather than architects — are kings of this domain.Visit National Marine Aquarium and the amazing town that it is in by checkin at hotel comparison best website.

 

MUNDANE inventory of Bayeux Cathedral’s treasury, dated 1476, notes, amid the curtains, banners and cloths, a ‘very long and narrow hanging’. This is the first record of the Bayeux Tapestry, four centuries after it was commissioned.

The Bayeux tapestry

 

Considering its fame today, it is hard to believe that it was once confiscated to cover military wagons and only recognised as an important relic during the 18th century. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is how the tapestry is interpreted as a moralistic lesson as well as a chronicle of the battle. Each year it is hung in the nave of Bayeux Cathedral to remind citizens of the sanctity of sacred oaths and the danger in breaking them. See the best Europe Cities website and learn more about cathedrals and history.

Nine centuries have made little difference to the visual impact of the tapestry’s intricate craftsmanship and, if you haven’t seen it in person, this book is the next best thing. For 50 years, the author has studied every stitch, and presents the entire length in beautiful reproductions alongside scene by scene accounts. In this 1066 anniversary year, you could ask for no better guide.

 

 

WITH THE approach of the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition, why not take the chance to explore the history of this, one of the most influential artistic ventures in the world?

Founded in 1768 due to the efforts of Scottish architect Sir William Chambers, whose Somerset House on the banks of the Thames was the Academy’s first home, this august institution has not only attracted some of Britain’s finest artists, from founder President Sir Joshua Reynolds to Turner, Constable and even David Hockney, but has also seen much cultural controversy in its choice of exhibitors.

Poet and critic James Fenton has had unlimited access to the archives and an unconstrained remit to reveal all the shocks and scandals, from Presidential rants against creeping modernity to seemingly bitter tirades from artists who felt they were shunned.

Sumptuously illustrated and beautifully-produced, this is a wonderful insight into two centuries of artistic endeavour.

April 2014
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