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Blog // Images // Thoughts
February 2, 2008

Creators

Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney is Paul Johnson‚Äôs follow-up to the excellent Intellectuals. In Intellectuals, Johnson explored a unifying them; that intellectuals are people who care more about ideas than people. This involved looking at the tension between the outward persona (and ideals) and the personal lives of some key thinkers. […]

Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney is Paul Johnson’s follow-up to the excellent Intellectuals. In Intellectuals, Johnson explored a unifying them; that intellectuals are people who care more about ideas than people. This involved looking at the tension between the outward persona (and ideals) and the personal lives of some key thinkers. It’s a formidable and challenging book and one which really should be compulsory reading for anyone considering a “career” in public thought (especially ministers and theologians in training).

Unfortunately Creators lacks such a unifying theme and this may be because Johnson remains somewhat vague about the creative process itself and often doesn’t go into detail about the ways his subjects worked in an everyday sense. If anything, Creators looks more into the ways highly creative, or to put it more acutely, high creative, influential and productive people both shape and reflect the culture around them through their work Рin the arts, design, theatre, literature, fashion and music.

So, although Creators is less stimulating than Intellectuals, it still merits attention and rewards the reader with some thoughtful (albeit cold and detached) pen-portraits. What the studies lack in detail about creative processes, they more than make up for in historical context and discussion of the impact of the works over time. On a few occasions, Creators does start to read like a study guide, which is perhaps why it is at its best not when discussing well known artists like Shakespeare, Austen and Eliot, but when bringing forward sometimes overlooked creators like Pugin, Tiffany and Balenciaga.

Overall, Creators is a rewarding read. There’s a lot here that will inspire anyone seeking to be creative and original in their work and quite a bit that will chasten those prone to laziness or procrastination in the pursuit of the their artistic goals.

[tags] Creators, Paul Johnson [/tags]

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