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The Upside-Down World: Meetings with the Dutch Masters

Plunged into a strange land at twenty-five, Benjamin Moser began an obsessive, decades-long study of the Dutch Masters to set his world right again.

Arriving as a young writer in an ancient Dutch town, Benjamin Moser found himself visiting—casually at first, and then more and more obsessively—the country’s great museums. Inside these old buildings, he discovered the remains of the Dutch Golden Age and began to unearth the strange, inspiring, and terrifying stories of the artists who gave shape to one of the most luminous moments in the history of human creativity.

Beyond the sainted Rembrandt—who harbored a startling darkness—and the mysterious Vermeer, whose true subject, it turned out, was lurking in plain sight, Moser got to know a whole galaxy of geniuses: the doomed virtuoso Carel Fabritius, the anguished wunderkind Jan Lievens, the deaf prodigy Hendrik Avercamp. And through their artwork, he got to know their country, too: from the translucent churches of Pieter Saenredam to Paulus Potter’s muddy barnyards, and from Pieter de Hooch’s cozy hearths to Jacob van Ruisdael’s tragic trees.

Year after year, as he tried to make a life for himself in the Netherlands, Moser found friends among these centuries-dead artists. And he found that they, too, were struggling with the same questions that he was. Why do we make art? What even is art, anyway—and what is an artist? What does it mean to succeed as an artist, and what does it mean to fail? Is art a consolation—or a mortal danger?

The Upside-Down World is an invitation to ask these questions, and to turn them on their heads: to look, and then to look again. This is Holland and its great artists as we’ve never seen them before. And it’s a sumptuously illustrated, highly personal coming-of-age-story, twenty years in the making: a revealing self-portrait by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.

- Benjamin Moser
- 400 pages
- 6.3 inches W x 9.3 inches L
- Hardcover
- Liveright
- 2023
- Art History
- Item #: 978-1324092254