Published August 7th, 2012
Author of The Fatal Shore (A Longitude Favorite), an essential portrait of Barcelona, the gorgeously written, personal Rome (published just last year) among his many books on history and art, Robert Hughes died yesterday in the Bronx at age 74 after a long illness. Originally from Australia (you could tell in his speech after all these years), the cantankerous, famously opinionated and irrepressible Hughes lived in New York City for many years. A man of the world, he also lived in London and Italy. For those of interested in place, he will be remembered not for his television appearances, scathing art criticism, long stint at Time magazine — nor even his boundless curiosity— but rather his epic histories, which have enriched the experiences of so many. Photograph above from The Guardian (click to read the full obituary).
The Fatal Shore. A celebrated social history, both scholarly and entertaining. Hughes traces the fate of those who were transported to the penal colonies of Australia between 1787 and 1868 in this engaging popular account, drawn from the experiences of the colonists themselves. A precursor to the gulags and prison camps of the 20th century, the British penal colonies in Australia are an oft-forgotten experiment in 19th century social reform and colonization. While the colonies were concentrated mainly in small coastal sections of New South Wales and Tasmania, the book helps elucidate how this first chapter in their history was the most vital factor in defining the early Australian character.
This masterful cultural history of Barcelona (the very first book we added to our recommendations for the city) examines the city’s architecture, art, religion and literature from its days as a Roman outpost to the present. Thoroughly enjoyable and illustrated with 180 mostly black-and-white photographs, it’s a Longitude favorite.
Opening with his own arrival in Rome in 1958 as a wide-eyed young Australian, the prolific art critic Robert Hughes covers not just art, architecture, sculpture and painting but the whole cultural and social history of Rome, including memorable portraits of important characters from Caesar to Cicero, Mussolini and Fellini.