Art, Architecture & Photography Rome by Robert Hughes

Published on June 2nd, 2011


Rome by Robert Hughes

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Blurb: Art critic Robert Hughes traces the cultural history of Rome from its mythic foundation, through the Renaissance, to Fascism, Fellini and beyond. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012)

Jonathan Keates, Literary Review

We enjoy reading Hughes precisely because he avoids any of that corseted coyness which characterises too much art-historical writing nowadays. Thankfully not having to worry about securing professorial tenure at a university or gaining a coveted gallery curatorship, he can speak with the candour of a visceral enthusiasm, savaging mediocrity and rhapsodically defending excellence.

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Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times

If visiting Rome, you should certainly take this passionate, erudite bruiser’s Baedeker with you — a superbly rich blend of history, art and travelogue.

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Alastair Sooke, The Daily Telegraph

In general, Rome reads like an upmarket Rough Guide … In fairness, though, [it] is not designed to be a definitive work of scholarship. It is a piece of swashbuckling synthesis, regurgitating myriad sources, just as the builders of medieval and Renaissance Rome recycled the spoglie or “leftovers” of demolished ancient structures — and Hughes proves an entertaining and erudite guide.

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Ian Thomson, The Spectator

… Hughes is an entertaining, if at times highly opinionated critic (‘Most Italians are artistic illiterates’) … Though this book is not without errors (George Gissing’s By the Ionian Sea is emphatically not a novel), it provides an enduring portrait of the teeming metropolis.

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Michael Prodger, London’s Evening Standard

… informative and entertainingly opinionated … Indeed, there is something of the toga-clad republican about Hughes as he fires out bracing polemics on everything from why there will never be another Rubens to the horror of visiting the Sistine Chapel (“the most trying conditions under which I have ever looked at art”).

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Frederic Raphael, The Observer

Robert Hughes can slap on colour as boldly as a fresco painter, but too much of Rome seems to have been built in a day or two.


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Mary Beard, The Guardian

Reader, be warned. Skip the first 200 pages and start this book at chapter six, “The Renaissance”. By the time Hughes reaches this point, he is well in command of his material and is on characteristically cracking form … The first half of the book, especially the three chapters dealing with the early history of Rome, from Romulus to the end of pagan antiquity, is little short of a disgrace — to both author and publisher. It is riddled with errors and misunderstandings that will mislead the innocent and infuriate the specialist.

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Matthew Sturgis, The Sunday Telegraph

I am sure there are compelling commercial reasons for a brand-name author to produce a stout book titled Rome, but you do wonder why Hughes has allowed himself to be persuaded by them … Something briefer, more personal and particular, would — on the evidence of this volume — have been much more rewarding: more fun for him to write and for us to read.

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