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Sir Roy Colin Strong (born 23 August 1935) is an English art historian, museum curator, writer, broadcaster and landscape designer. He has been director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
What does it mean to be English? For centuries, Englishness was synonymous with Britishness, informed first by the political dominance of the English monarchs over the British isles - reaching its apogee in the rule of Elizabeth I - and later by the island's imperial might and expansion. But alongside that tradition, reaching back to medieval times, there has also been a vision of England as the rural arcadia celebrated by painters and poets. While the mythology of empire lingers on in the national psyche, Roy Strong argues that it is the rural tradition - combing aestheticism, pastoralism and patriotism - that offers an answer to the present crisis of English identity. National identity essentially resides in the mind: evolving over time it is inevitably selective in how it epitomizes the ideals and aspirations of a people. In this searching and deeply passionate book, Roy Strong reveals an iconography of England rooted in the cultural imagination. Rather than simply depicting reality, art and literature have often ennobled - and immortalised - reality in a way that has directly affected how we see ourselves. Today we view Suffolk through the eyes of Constable, the Lake District comes to life in the poetry of Wordsworth, and the country house seems to emerge from the novels of Evelyn Waugh. Free from nationalism, chauvinism and political bias, Roy Strong offers a vision of England that is inclusive and relevant for everybody living in the country today - an appreciation of the beauty of the English countryside, a love of nature and gardening, and a celebration of the dramas of Shakespeare, the paintings of Turner and the music of Elgar.
Appeared on “Hay-on-Sky” 28 May. In this eloquent, passionate and easy to read book Sir Roy Strong tells the dramatic story of the English parish church, from Anglo-Saxon times to its uncertain future in the twenty-first century. Anyone with the slightest interest in the life or history of the English parish church will be intrigued, informed and perhaps enchanted by this book.
THE CLASSIC HISTORY OF BRITAIN, FULLY UPDATED Roy Strong has written an exemplary introduction to the history of Britain, as first designated by the Romans. It is a brilliant and balanced account of successive ages bound together by a compelling narrative which answers the questions: 'Where do we come from?' and 'Where are we going?' Beginning with the earliest recorded Celtic times, and ending with the present day of Brexit Britain, it is a remarkable achievement. With his passion, enthusiasm and wide-ranging knowledge, he is the ideal narrator. His book should be read by anyone, anywhere, who cares about Britain's national past, national identity and national prospects.
Fifty years after his seminal Tate gallery London exhibition, 'The Elizabethan Image', leading authority Roy Strong returns with fresh eyes to the subject closest to his heart, The Virgin Queen, her court and our first Elizabethan age From celebrated portraits of the Queen and paintings of knights and courtiers, to works depicting an aspiring 'middle class', Strong presents a detailed and authoritative examination of one of the most fascinating periods of British art. Enriching previous perceptions and ways of seeing the Elizabethans in their world, he reveals an age parallel in many ways to our own-a country aspiring professionally and changing socially. The gaze is from the inside, capturing the knights, melancholy lovers, poets (including Sidney, Donne and Sir John Davies), court favourites and their 'Gloriana'-as they mirrored and made themselves. Beginning with the great portrait of the Queen in grand procession with her Garter Knights, Strong pinpoints the characters and key motifs that run through the rest of the book: chivalry, changes to the social order, emblems and imagery - the full richness of the Elizabethan imagination. These pictures were intimate-personal commissions by private individuals, and not necessarily for public view. As such they are a glimpse into private worlds and sentiments and speak eloquently for the people who paid for, painted and lived amongst them, reversing an academic tendency to treat the portraits as if they had a life of their own, not grounded by the real people who commissioned them. Roy Strong concludes this richly illustrated volume with the famous and complex Rainbow Portrait, unpicking the iconography of this final painting of an ageless Elizabeth in her 'Mask of Youth'. Within a year of its completion the queen was dead-her portraits increasingly demoted and replaced by Mary Stuart's-as the splendour of the Elizabethan age and 'the cult of the queen' made way for new monarch James VI, who was to rule over a united England and Scotland.
THE CLASSIC HISTORY OF BRITAIN, FULLY UPDATED Roy Strong has written an exemplary introduction to the history of Britain, as first designated by the Romans. It is a brilliant and balanced account of successive ages bound together by a compelling narrative which answers the questions: 'Where do we come from?' and 'Where are we going?' Beginning with the earliest recorded Celtic times, and ending with the present day of Brexit Britain, it is a remarkable achievement. With his passion, enthusiasm and wide-ranging knowledge, he is the ideal narrator. His book should be read by anyone, anywhere, who cares about Britain's national past, national identity and national prospects. Richly enjoyable, The Story of Britain will inform and enlighten readers as to how we arrived at where we are today - and why.
'The Alan Clark diaries of cultural politics' Sunday Times 'At every word a reputation dies' A. N. Wilson Roy Strong is best known as the flamboyant former director of two great cultural institutions - the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In his first volume of diaries, he takes the reader into the heart of his career, revealing himself to be not just a mercurial and brilliant administrator, but also a shrewd observer of the glittering and political milieu into which he was drawn. We encounter David Hockney in his studio, the poignant figure of Cecil Beaton in decline, Nureyev fizzing with ideas and the Philistine Mrs Thatcher among many others, including a bevy of the Royal Family. And throughout the diaries runs the thread of an exceptional marriage, following his elopement with the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman. Splendours and Miseries provides a unique panorama of the world of the arts, fashion and society, taking us from the outrageous Swinging Sixties to the hard-edged glitz of Thatcher's Britain.
Shakespeare's potent use of garden imagery has captivated successive generations of readers and inspired the making of gardens across the globe. Laced with quotations and abounding with illustrations drawn from sources including Elizabethan gardening books, embroidered fabrics and hand-coloured herbals, The Quest for Shakespeare's Garden tells the story of the Bard's own garden at New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon, revealing its place in garden history.
Beautifully illustrated narrative history of the English country church In his engaging account, Sir Roy Strong celebrates the life of the English parish church From the arrival of the missionaries from Ireland and Rome, to the beautiful architecture and rich spirituality of medieval Catholicism; from the cataclysm of the Reformation, to the gentrified cleric we meet in Jane Austen novels, Roy Strong takes us on a journey - historical, social and spiritual - to explore what men and women experienced through the age when they went to church on Sunday. `Anyone with the slightest interest in the English parish church, of its life today, or its history will be intrigued, informed and enchanted by this lucid, and occasionally provocative, account' Country Life
Roy Strong's next book The Elizabethan Image explores the Elizabethan aesthetic and its success, and will be published by Yale University Press in June 2019 This extraordinarily beautiful book gathers together and examines for the first time a delightful collection of English gardens rendered by artists from 1540 to the early nineteenth century, many of which are unknown. Sir Roy Strong, widely recognised for his expertise in both art history and garden history, surveys garden pictures ranging from Elizabethan miniatures to eighteenth-century alfresco conversation pieces, from suites of paintings of a single garden to amateur watercolours. He inquires into the origin of the English garden picture genre, its development prior to the invention of photography, its greatest exponents, its reliability as historical evidence of actual gardens, and its place within the larger European tradition of picturing the garden.
This is my central philosophy: one starts off with something as an academic study but from it stems a series of important things to say which must be got over to a greater audience in a variety of forms. So to some extent one foxes everyone by simultaneously being scholar and academic, populariser and communicator, and sticking to the belief that these are not incompatible. (Roy Strong, 1971). For almost forty years, Roy Strong has been in the public spotlight - as the director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as a broadcaster, consultant and lecturer, and as the author of many books on art, history, garden design and food. Published to celebrate Roy Strong's 70th birthday in August 2005, this collection of pieces showcases the wide range of his interests and passions: from a meditation on the nature of beauty and reflections on the English national character to the passionate defence of the importance of history and an assessment of the consequences of devolution. Along the way we learn about Sir Roy's first years at the National Portrait Gallery as a young assistant keeper, hear his personal recollections of the Queen Mother, and read his poignant and moving thoughts on the nature of grief and happiness. This collection will be cherished by the many people who have followed Sir Roy's long career with admiration and devotion; for others it will provide the perfect introduction to the life and work of this national treasure.
Toenails cut while dining, meals served to wax effigies of the dead, napkins concealing singing birds, dishes descending from the ceiling- these are just a few of the more exotic aspects of everyman at table. From the stupendous banquets of the Ancient Babylonians, Feast covers five millennia of formal eating. Sharing a meal, in particular a grand one, has always been a complex social mechanism for uniting and dividing people. Such an event could signal peace, a marriage, a victory, an alliance, a coming- of- age, a coronation or a funeral. The feast was a vehicle for display and ostentation, for the parade of rank and hierarchy, for flattering and influencing people as well as providing a theatre in which to exercise the art of conversation and the display of manners. FEAST offers a fascinating and, at times, a highly unusual mirror of society. It gathers together for the first time all the ingredients which contributed to the phenomenon of the celebratory meal- the people, the clothes, the food, the setting, the action and its circumstances. In an age which has virtually abolished the shared meal as a central feature of daily living, FEAST presents a revelatory picture of a world we have lost. Beautifully illustrated, it traces fashions in food and the etiquette of eating, taking the reader from the elegancies of the Roman villa to the austerities of the monastic refectory, from the splendours of the Renaissance banquet to the rigours of the Victorian dinner party.
The Spirit of Britain is a masterly survey of the country s artsliterature, music, poetry, painting, architecture, theater, and all the related subjects that, over the centuries, have given British intellectual and cultural life its unique character and vitality. Presented to the reader as a single unfolding narrative, from the Celts to the present day, the arts are set within a vivid panorama of the social, economic, political, and ideological forces that shaped them. 400 gorgeous photographs and works of art add immensely to the dramatic impact of this landmark work of cultural history.
When the eighteen-year-old Henry, Prince of Wales, died in November 1612, the hopes of a new generation had been dashed. For the Prince, eldest son of James I, and the brother of the future Charles I, epitomized the yearning of those who wished England to lead Protestant Europe in a great crusade against the might of Catholic Spain. He simultaneously embodied the aspirations of a new era in the arts, creating a court which would have rivalled those of the Medici grand dukes in Florence or that of Rudolf II in Prague. A complex, withdrawn yet assertive figure, the Prince, evoking the former glory of Elizabethan England, was the antithesis of his father. With their markedly different personalities and their sharply opposed views on the religious and political issues of pre-Civil War England, father and son inevitably clashed continually. James, moreover, found himself outshone by an heir whose far-ranging interests embraced not only the arts but also the Navy, equestrianism, garden design, festivals and the sciences. Had Henry become King rather than his brother Charles, England might well not only have found herself mobilizing her forces on the mainland of Europe in the Thirty Years' War, but also have been spared the consititutional crisis and civil war provoked by Charles I's disatrous rule. This is the first major study of 'Henry IX', using original documents and sources to have been written since 1760. Is is the story of a great renaissance tragically cut short.
This major publication is a book of great importance, and never more so than at the present time, when history is the subject of so much controversy and debate. Sir Roy Strong tells the story of Britain as cintinuous NARRATIVE, in chapters which give life, meaning and point to every period with which they deal, from the earliest recorded Celtic times to the era of Margaret Thatcher. The monarchy, Parliament, the law, the Church, all the great institutions whose fortunes are so much part of the fabric of our history, are here seen in perspective, affecting the everyday lives of ordinary people against an ever changing social, cultural and economic background. Roy Strong, with his passionate enthusiasm, is the ideal person to tell this great story.
A work of great learning and skilful synthesis, beautifully illustrated. SUNDAY TIMES The spectacular festivals mounted by the princes of the Renaissance were both a marriage of the arts and a complex and subtle expression of political theory. From the Renaissance festivals ballet, opera and even the proscenium arch theatre are derived. Festivals are therefore a vital part of European cultural history. Here Roy Strong provides a guide to their origins and purpose, and their lasting influence.
The great formal gardens of Tudor and Stuart England are a lost art form. This book sets out to evoke both the people and the ideas that led to the creation of the English Renaissance garden. The great formal gardens of Tudor and Stuart England are a totally lost art form. Swept away by the exponents of the landscape style in the 18th century, they are now seen in the form of Victorian re-creations around the ancient manor houses of England. But before Repton, Capability Brown and Henry Wise, England had been open to all the impulses that made the Renaissance garden. Up to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, the response had been some of the most legendary garden complexes of Renaissance Europe: Henry VIII's Hampton Court, Burgley's Theobalds, Lord Pembroke's Wilton. Intertwined with this story, which touches on the history of politics, art, architecture, literature and ideas, are some of the great figures of the age: Robert Cecil, Francis Bacon, Inigo Jones, Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford, Charles I and Henrietta Maria, John Evelyn and Andrew Marvell. The study includes some visual material in the form of plans, diagrams, views and engravings of the lost gardens of Tudor and Stuart England.