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Publishers Weekly, 2006-02-13 Having in a previous book filleted intellectuals, conservative historian Johnson happily embraces the canon in search of artistic heroes. In 13 biographical sketches covering six centuries, he describes the masters of literature (Shakespeare), painting (Durer), music (Bach) and adornment (Tiffany). His own efforts as a painter (mentioned with great modesty) add poignancy to his admiration for artists like Turner and Hokusai. Johnson emphasizes the rarity of truly visionary artists, but this is not a particularly polemical book: his enthusiasm for the creators overrides his tendency to play the gadfly. For Johnson, true genius resides not merely in native creativity but also in curiosity and industriousness. Many of his subjects were tremendously ambitious and prolific, with exceptions like Jane Austen serving to illustrate this all the more. Creation, says Johnson, is above all a vocation-but it's also a business. It's striking that several of his subjects became quite wealthy-he is particularly impressed with the riches Picasso amassed. Johnson's historical skills exceed his talents as a critic, but his approach is unfailingly generous, and his sections on Hamlet and Austen are genuinely revealing. (Apr. 1) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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