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Distributed for Reaktion Books

From the Shadows

The Architecture and Afterlife of Nicholas Hawksmoor

Distributed for Reaktion Books

From the Shadows

The Architecture and Afterlife of Nicholas Hawksmoor

Nicholas Hawksmoor (1662–1736) is one of English history’s greatest architects, outshone only by Christopher Wren, under whom he served as an apprentice. A major figure in his own time, he was involved in nearly all the grandest architectural projects of his age, and he is best known for his London churches, six of which still stand today.
Hawksmoor wasn’t always appreciated, however: for decades after his death, he was seen as at best a second-rate talent. From the Shadows tells the story of the resurrection of his reputation, showing how over the years his work was ignored, abused, and altered—and, finally, recovered and celebrated. It is a story of the triumph of talent and of the power of appreciative admirers like T. S. Eliot, James Stirling, Robert Venturi, and Peter Ackroyd, all of whom played a role in the twentieth-century recovery of Hawksmoor’s reputation.

304 pages | 10 color plates, 80 halftones | 6 3/4 x 8 2/3 | © 2015

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

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“Hopkins’s From the Shadows is the liveliest account yet of Nicholas Hawksmoor, the amazing baroque architect of the early 18th century. Had he but known it, Hawksmoor was a proto-brutalist, his un-pretty and confronting forms being an inspiration to British architects in the mid-twentieth century.”

Rowan Moore | Observer, "Best Architecture Books of 2015"

“Hopkins’s From the Shadows puts the Hawksmoor myth into proper historical perspective. . . . This is a biography that goes beyond the usual limits—it is really, and sensibly, a biography of Hawksmoor’s reputation. . . . The architectural message this book conveys is that perfection is boring: well-behaved buildings are rarely memorable. Artists must break the bonds of taste to be in with a shot at eternity. Hawksmoor’s trajectory was never straight, but he got there all the same.”


“Hopkins’s book is fascinating in this reconstruction of Hawksmoor’s reputational afterlife. . . . It confirms the verdict that while Wren incised a bright, intellectual stateliness on London’s skyline, Hawksmoor—a great architectural tragedian—gave it its mood music, its architectural emotion.”

Evening Standard

“In the conclusion to his very substantial study of England’s least known and most misunderstood Baroque architect, Hopkins discusses some of the modern folklore that has developed around Nicholas Hawksmoor over the past forty years, showing how swiftly a myth can capture the public imagination. . . . From the Shadows dispels those myths while taking admirable pains to describe the reality of its subject’s rich and idiosyncratic career. . . . Hopkins rescues Hawksmoor from the shadows of Wren and Vanburgh and gives him the prominence he deserves.”

Michael Moorcock | Spectator

“The twentieth century saw the revival of Hawksmoor’s reputation after he was championed by the likes of T. S. Eliot and Peter Ackroyd. This timely reappraisal explores the architect’s achievement and his emergence from the margins of history.”


“A fine addition to the literature on Hawksmoor.”


“A valuable new chart of Hawksmoor’s potent and mysterious creations. Its originality lies in the way Owen Hopkins traces the influence of the great Baroque architect on our present moment. Written with the verve of an enthusiast and the rigour of a scholar.”

Iain Sinclair, author of London Orbital, Lights Out for the Territory, American Smoke and Lud Heat.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Man and the Myth 
1. Emergence 
2. Achievement 
3. Falling into Shadow 
4. Neglect and Rehabilitation 
5. Into the Light 
6. Rebirth 
7. Hawksmoor Today 
Select Bibliography 
Photo Acknowledgements 

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