Gothic Wonder Art, Artifice and the Decorated Style, 1290-1350 Paul Binski

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Publication date:
27 Nov 2014
448 pages: 279 x 216 x 36mm
175 colour images + 100 b/w illustrations

In this wide-ranging, eloquent book, Paul Binski sheds new light on one of the greatest periods of English art and architecture, offering ground-breaking arguments about the role of invention and the powers of Gothic art. His richly documented study locates what became known as the Decorated Style within patterns of commissioning, designing, and imagining whose origins lay in pre-Gothic art. By examining notions of what was extraordinary, re-evaluating medieval ideas of authorship, and restoring economic considerations to the debate, Binski sets English visual art of the early 14th century in a broad European context and also within the aesthetic discourses of the medieval period. The author, stressing the continuum between art and architecture, challenges understandings about agency, modernity, hierarchy, and marginality. His book makes a powerful case for the restoration of the category of the aesthetic to the understanding of medieval art. Generously illustrated with hundreds of images, Gothic Wonder traces the impact of English art in Continental Europe, ending with the Black Death and the literary uses of the architectural in works by Geoffrey Chaucer and other writers.

Paul Binski is professor of the history of medieval art, Cambridge University.

'This closely argued and wide-ranging study will be required reading for anyone interested in the period.'—Apollo Magazine

‘Paul Binski’s Gothic Wonder superbly places English visual art (including illuminated manuscripts) firmly within the broader European context, emphasising aesthetics, themes and motifs that recur.’—James Stevens Curl, THES.

‘Gothic Wonder is the third major study of medieval architecture by Paul Binski, and the biggest… the author’s careful tracing of architectural developments provides the context for a very much more wide-ranging discussion, which here reaches not only into other artistic genres, manuscript illumination and embroidery, but also into the question of Medieval aesthetics.’—Rosemary Horrox, Art Newspaper

‘Aesthetic qualities and ways of thinking about their power to persuade are at the heart of Paul Binski’s new book… Gothic Wonder is beautifully produced and well-illustrated’—Tim Ayers, History Today

‘This beautiful and highly illustrated book focuses on the decorated Gothic  style dominant in England from 1290 to 1350… Professor Binksi is immensely knowledgeable in the building, the architecture and all the decorative arts of the period and it is a joy to go on the journey with him.’—Janet Gough, SPAB Magazine

Winner of the 2015 Historians of British Art Book Prize for a single-author work relating to a period before 1800.

“The book does indeed fulfill the promise of its title, setting the decorated style of English Gothic architecture within the context of a wide-ranging exploration of the role of art in the Middle Ages.”—Stephen Murray, Speculum