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As a brilliant art critic and historian, Laura Cumming has explored the importance of art in life and can give us a perspective on the time and place in which the artist worked. Now, through the lens of one dramatic event in 17th-century Holland, Cumming “has fashioned a book that combines memoir, art criticism, and history to illuminating effect” (The New York Times Book Review).

In 1654, the Thunderclap—an enormous explosion at a gunpowder store—devasted the city of Delft, killing hundreds of people, including the extraordinary painter Carel Fabritius, and injuring thousands more.

Framing the story around the life of Fabritius, Cumming illuminates this extraordinary moment in art history while also writing about her own father, a painter. Like Dutch art, the story gradually links country, city, town, street, house, interior—all the way to the bird on its perch, the blue and white tile, the smallest seed in a loaf of bread. The impact of a painting and how it can enter our thoughts, influence our view and understanding of the world is the heart of this book. Cumming has brought her unique eye to her most compelling subject yet.

Featuring beautiful full-color images of Dutch paintings throughout, this is “a glorious tribute to the two men who showed her the truth of the notion that paintings offer ‘a land in themselves, a society, a place to be’” (The Economist).