Interesting Radio 4 documentary: Pevsner: Through Outsider’s EyesPosted: August 5, 2016
When I first read Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Englishness of English Art I was really interested in his notion that Englishness could be defined as a set of characteristics, strongly related to climate, that affected the way the nation expressed itself in its art – as seen through the eyes of an incomer, a German.
An interesting radio documentary, recently broadcast on Radio 4 in the context of Britain’s recent ‘Brexit’ vote, revisits the Englishness seen through Pevsner’s eyes as an outsider, focusing on his work of the 1940s, when ideas of Britishness and Englishness faced another major crisis – war.
Pevsner, the programme explains, took a series of field trips around the highways and byways of England, perambulating around towns and villages in order to produce a pocket guide to the nation’s architecture and places in a style that could be carried around by schoolboys in their anoraks as a way of teaching them how to look and see. The programme points out that although Pevsner had very clear ideas of what was right and wrong, he considered it important to write about everywhere, however ordinary it may have seemed.
The programme features some insightful cameos, from Jonathan Meades to geographer David Matless and, at a time when questions of a common or shared national identity seem further away than ever, it evokes some interesting debates. Listen online at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07h2v3y.