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The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry
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The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  861 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
'To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.'

The Renaissance (1873) at once became the touchstone for the decadent imagination for a generation of Oxford undergraduates. Pater was shocked at the reaction his book inspired: 'I wish they would not call me a hedonist, it gives such a wrong impression to those who do not know Gree
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 17th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1873)
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The Prince by Niccolò MachiavelliThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingThe House of Medici by Christopher HibbertThe Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Renaissance
52nd out of 174 books — 101 voters
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilAgainst Nature by Joris-Karl HuysmansGustav Klimt by Gilles NéretLes Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire
Decadence & the Fin-de-Siècle
133rd out of 198 books — 158 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,193)
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Bill  Kerwin

If you wish to put only one 150 year old book of art essays on your reading list, this is the one I would recommend. It revolutionized British art criticism, inspired—and provided a philosophical basis for--the l'art pour l'art movement, and, most important (for me at least), it expressed a new sensibility in innovative and beautiful prose--lambent, melodious, sinuous, languid and yet capable of intellectual subtlety and moral force—prose which would influence English letters for decades to come
Feb 16, 2016 Kalliope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Books mark pathways. I arrived at this book from a quote encountered in Botticelli that I found very beautiful. It came from Pater’s essay on Botticelli and this may remains my favourite essay from this collection.

..he is a visionary painter, and in his visionariness he resembles Dante. Giotto, the tried companion of Dante, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio even, do but transcribe, with more or less refining, the outward image; they are dramatic, not visionary painters.. But the genius of which Botticelli
Jan 15, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”...the more liberal life we have been seeking so long, so near to us all the while. How mistaken and roundabout have been our efforts to reach it by mystic passion and religious reverie; how they have deflowered the flesh; how little they have emancipated us! Hermione melts from her stony posture, and the lost proportions of life right themselves.”

It’s amazing how thoroughly Pater’s study of the aesthetics of the Renaissance has been incorporated into our own modern attitude toward the subject;
Jul 09, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
This brought me back to college, when, under the sway of Sexual Personae, I expended an inordinate amount of youthful ardor reading, underlining, and reading over again key paragraphs in the prose manifestoes of aestheticism, particularly Baudelaire’s Salons and—my golden book—The Painter of Modern Life. Paglia’s suggestion of Pater led me to the famous “Conclusion” of The Renaissance. It struck me as something like an “English domestication of Symbolism,” “what minor talents are always apt to w ...more
Michael Young
Nov 07, 2011 Michael Young rated it it was amazing
Rereading Walter Pater

Rereading Walter Pater’s The Renaissance I’m struck how the sheer pleasure of reading the book breaks hard against the abundance of thought it provokes. It makes it difficult to decide if I should rhapsodize about the beauty of his prose or delight in the many connections his work has to other writers and thinkers both before and after him. Perhaps a little of both.

His aesthetic, as he describes it at the beginning of his essay on Giorgione, accounts for how he allowed him
Aug 26, 2012 Bruce rated it really liked it
After coming across an excerpt from The Renaissance in the Norton critical edition of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and read the whole work. Though Pater is often described as a proponent of art for art's sake (and thus one of the key figures in the late nineteenth century aestheticism caricatured by Wilde), I found him to be a relentless searcher for metaphysical meaning in the ineffable details of art, e.g. (from the chapter on the painter Giorgion ...more
Sep 11, 2009 S.D. rated it really liked it
A fine example of creative subversion. Ostensibly a collection of critical essays addressing subjects such as Da Vinci, Bottecelli, Pico della Mirandolla, and others, Pater uses them to demonstrate his own aesthetic philosophy in practice – a refined and subjective approach to the interpretation of creative expression. What Pater reveals, in addition to a delightful command of the written word, is not the supposed intent of the artists themselves, but rather what Pater himself sees in them. His ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Stavros rated it it was amazing
Η "Αναγέννηση" είναι ένα από τα πιο ρηξικέλευθα κείμενα φιλοσοφικής κριτικής του πολιτισμού που ενέπνευσε μοντέρνους συγγραφείς και ποιητές,όπως ο Προύστ,ο Τζόυς,ο Γέιτς,ο Πάουντ ή ο Καβάφης και επιζεί μέχρι της μέρες μας ώς ανεπανάληπτη έκφραση μιάς αισθητικής θεώρησης της ζωής.

"Tο βιβλίο που είχε μιά τόσο παράξενη επίδραση στη ζωή μου,αποτελεί την ΑΓΙΑ ΓΡΑΦΗ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΛΛΟΥΣ." -Όσκαρ Ουάιλντ
Sep 12, 2008 Diana rated it liked it
Recommends it for: English/art students
Recommended to Diana by: University of Birmingham
This won't hold much appeal for those who haven't studied art or English at university level, but it is nonetheless quite interesting. It's technically a tribute to famous Renaissance artists, but I see it is more a manifesto of the aesthetic movement of the fin de siecle (sorry I can't put the accent in). I particularly enjoyed Pater's description of the Mona Lisa (it is arguably the work's most famous passage), and if I had my book handy I would copy it here. Alternatively, I will relate the o ...more
Two Readers in Love
“The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us, — for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought. Let us begin with that which is without—our physical life. Fix upon it in one of its more exquisite intervals, the moment, for instance, of delicious recoil from the flood of water in summer heat. What is the whole physical life in that moment but a combination of natural elements to which science gives their names? But these elements, phosphorus and lime and de ...more
May 31, 2007 Wally rated it really liked it
Go to a bookstore. Grab this book. Turn to the last three pages. Read them. Enjoy the new sparkle upon your every moment that it will give you. Unfortunately for a small number of you it might just depress you that your moments are not gem-like flames. But it's worth a shot.
Jan 19, 2016 Marie rated it really liked it
A rather uneven yet rewarding little 19th-century book of art historical encomia that I would, in spite of my reservations - outlined below - consider buying (I read a library copy).
The book consists of a collection of previously published articles, which may ultimately have worked better had they remained independent pieces, rather than finding themselves doing duty as the chapters of a book. It isn't that a common motif is lacking, or even that the motif (the various incarnations of the Renai
Dan Crews
Feb 03, 2009 Dan Crews rated it it was amazing
The style, the style, the style....I have heard that much of the information is incorrect. I really don't care. What he brings up in your mind when savoring the language you just can find anywhere else. If you like this read Imaginary Portraits.
Anna Maria
Nov 27, 2009 Anna Maria rated it it was amazing
I defy anyone to read the Conclusion to this work and not feel the burning of a 'hard, gem-like flame'.
Aug 18, 2008 Rob rated it liked it
when academics still had (something like) a pulse.
Nov 04, 2012 matt rated it liked it

I'd only really known Pater through quotes and influence. I know he was a sacred text for the great Oscar and that there were a legion of louche, sybaritic Oxford undergrads back in the late-19th Century who venerated far, so good.

I finally decided to pick this one up because if you've been thinking about a guy's shorter blurbs for a long enough time it behooves you, I think, to tackle a larger, more comprehensive text.

So I entered Pater's Latinate labyrinth of prose expecting somet
Lucie García
Nov 11, 2014 Lucie García rated it it was amazing
I LOVED IT. Brilliantly written, contains insights on the most important artists from The Renaissance and also interesting theories on the movement being originated in France and not Italy. Easy to read, and The Conclusions are a new take (inspired by the lifes of the renaissance men) on the old "Carpe Diem" motto. Just, brilliant.
Mar 17, 2013 Alyson rated it really liked it
Philosophiren, says Novalis, ist dephlegmatisiren vivificiren. The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit is to rouse, to startle it into sharp and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us,—for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the en ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Meredith rated it it was ok
Though Pater has some moments of brilliance, it seems I just can't champion obscure literary theory, no matter how revolutionary or eloquent. His mixture of fact, hearsay, and creative imagining was interesting but challenging to follow and focus on.
The final chapter of this book, only a few pages long, is really all that I think I needed to know of it. Oscar Wilde loved this book and studied under Pater, but of course what spoke to me was what spoke to everyone that read it: "To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life." I think I'm going to have to head over to Marius the Epicurean instead for more of that particular genre of singular Decadent heroes that my thesis has evolved into.
Apr 02, 2009 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural-study
Pater’s book is a reading of the work of the artists of the Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, etc.); many, including writers William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, were admirers of Pater’s abilities as a prose stylist.
May 31, 2015 Paulmatthew rated it liked it
Pater is often blind to the religious motivations of those he studies.
Mark Fulk
Dec 17, 2015 Mark Fulk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best rereads I have done all semester!
C. Michael
Dec 14, 2012 C. Michael rated it it was ok
Pater presents some good insights but there's much overwrought writing and his overly effete manner made for some tedious reading. Much of what is asserted must be taken on the authority of the writer alone; apparently he was convinced that if he expressed himself cleverly enough, then what he said must be true. Doesn't work that way for me.
Aug 26, 2013 Merinde rated it really liked it
The writing is beautiful and I enjoyed most of it; some parts are however so obviously dated it wasn't that enjoyable anymore unless I read it as more of an inside view on 19th century ideas about art, or just for the beautiful prose than as a non-fiction work about Renaissance artists. I think that's probably the right way to read it anyway.
Off to a good start...this should count as literature, too. Botticelli is his favorite artist - epitome of Renaissance art - hmm...
Stephanie Kelley
"To burn always with this hard gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life"
Perhaps the finest book I've read all year; easily one of the finest books I've ever read.
The Renaissance by Walter Pater (no date)
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“To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” 46 likes
“The way to perfection is through a series of disgusts” 7 likes
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