Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H.R. Rookmaaker

December 01, 2005

by William Edgar

He taught me how to see. Quite literally. Once our dear friend Hans Rookmaaker was visiting us in Connecticut, and as we drove around in our car he would tell us to pause in front of a certain building. “This one is the real thing,” he would declare. What he meant was that the particular home before us dated back to the 17th century, using the First Period English style of the Cape Cod house, based on the building practices of late medieval Britain, but adapted to New England’s stormy weather, and its natural resources. Rookmaaker abhorred the Colonial Revival fashion, so popular at the time. For him, it was nouveau riche and lacked the simple, rugged contours of the older style. That does not mean old was always better. He embraced Georges Rouault’s tragic heroes, and accepted the beauty of Jackson Pollock’s abstraction. True, he hated the preachy attitude of many of the revolutionary pioneers of modern art, from Picasso, to Mondrian, to the Happenings of the 1960s. But they came out of a serious decline, the “death of a culture,” as he would describe it in his best-known book. He loved authenticity, however it may emerge. And he taught many of us to see these things, whether in the car, or in lectures with slides, or in his famous museum visits.

This quality, and many others about this mentor to a generation, are wonderfully captured in Laurel Gasque’s timely biography of Henderik Roelof Rookmaaker (known by the family’s nickname as “Hans,” or, to many, simply as “Rooky”).

continue reading on Reformation 21.

William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

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