> Skip to content
  • Published: 3 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446433331
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 928

Nikolaus Pevsner

The Life




The definitive and authorised biography, based on exclusive access to diaries and personal correspondence, as well as the professional archive and the working papers for Pevsner's landmark series, The Buildings of England.

Born Nikolai Pewsner into a Russian-Jewish family in Leipzig, in 1902, the young Nikolaus Pevsner lived through turbulent years in Germany. Despite early artistic ambitions, he began a promising career as a young academic in Dresden during the crisis years of the Weimar Republic, before his enforced move to England in 1933. Susie Harries explores the truth about his reported sympathies with elements of Nazi thought, his internment in England as an enemy alien, his mother's suicide in 1942 in a 'Jews' House' in Leipzig – and his return to occupied Germany – in a British uniform. On Pevsner's first visit to England, he had looked in vain for the kind of architectural guide he might have found in Germany. Years later, given the chance by Allen Lane at Penguin Books, he decided to write them himself, and so was born the defining moment of his career –The Buildings of England series – books that have made Pevsner's name synonymous with the exploration and enjoyment of English architecture. As a 'General Practitioner' of architectural history, Pevsner investigated an astonishing range of subjects in his writings, journalism and broadcasts, from Gothic cathedrals and Georgian coffee-houses to the Festival of Britain and Brutalist tower blocks. And as a renowned critic, academic and champion of Modernism, he became a central figure in the architectural consensus that accompanied post-war reconstruction. His career is a prism through which to view the evolution of art history (and its publishing) in Britain – while his life as an outsider/insider at the heart of English art history illuminated both the predicament and the prowess of the continental émigrés who did so much to shape British culture after 1945. This fascinating biography is the story of the man as much as the work, exploring Pevsner's religious beliefs, political views and his long, complicated, but resilient marriage.

  • Published: 3 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446433331
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 928

About the author

Susie Harries

Susie Harries is a writer specializing in culture, history and the arts.Born in 1951 in London, where she now lives with her husband Meirion and their two sons, she read classics and classical philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and St Anne's College, Oxford.She has co-authored seven books with her husband, including major works on twentieth-century arts:The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (1981), The War Artists (1983) and A Pilgrim Soul: a Life of Elisabeth Lutyens (1989).She has also written for the Independent and reviewed books on the arts for TheTimes Literary Supplement.

Praise for Nikolaus Pevsner

A biography almost as comprehensive as the BofE [Buildings of England] itself...It's been worth the 20 year wait

Matthew Bell, Independent on Sunday

What Harries brings to the table is the most intimate portrait of Pevsner yet

Hugh Pearman, Sunday Times

This is not just a fair-minded biography, but also an impressive and comprehensive one. An enormous one too... even the obsessives will discover new things

Harry Mount, Spectator

Magnificent...in Susie Harries's hands, Pevsner's story unlocks a vitally important chapter in 20th-century history...told with warmth, lucidity and wit

Art Quarterly

This is a biographical masterpiece that shows how the life of one man can become a prism through which can be read the stories of both England and Germany in the 20th century...[Harries] book is of infinite value

Alexandra Harris, New Statseman

Related titles