Studio: international art — 6.1896

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Reviews of Recent Publications


The History of Modern Painting.
By Richard Muther. With over
1300 Illustrations. Vol. I. Three vols. £2 15^.
(London : Henry & Co,)—The first impression
of the scheme of this work is that if adequately
carried out the result might be of the sort called
indispensable, and yet at the same time entirely
unreadable. A few minutes' study of its pages
suffices to dispose of the first doubt, for so far
as it goes it is more than adequately done. And
prolonged experience shows it to be not merely
readable but at times fascinating, with original
thought as well as collated facts. The author for
the most part displays a nice perception, coupled
with catholic appreciation. His attitude is ultra-
modern, but in the best sense. He has full vene-
ration for the old masters which never descends to
fetish-worship, and yet does not believe art stopped
short at any particular moment, but still is and
will go on producing new masterpieces in new ways.
The book is more than an impartial record of
various epochs of art; it balances the different
movements, and gives judgment with fairness and
very clear reasons. Even in the chaos of the nine-
teenth century, swayed as it has been by so many
conflicting moods, Dr. Muther gathers up the
golden threads from all the schools and weaves
them into a pattern which, if somewhat bizarre and
lawless, shows that beneath the apparent way-

wardness and arrogant individuality there are
certain definite features which shape the whole to
completeness. Doubtless, after some such fashion,
the critics of the future will discover its dominant
note, and so harmonise some details that still seem
discordant to contemporaries.

Mere facts piled together in encyclopaedic manner
have their value, but such storehouses are rather
for public convenience than for the edification of
the individual who cannot be expected to digest
the whole conglomeration, and it is wisest to reject
all 'rather than attempt so Gargantuan a meal.
When, however, such a perilously overweighted
cargo is duly classified and arranged, and the
medley of important and secondary items placed in
their right order, a cicerone, accomplished and
fluent, can explain it in detail, always in the light
of a full knowledge of the whole. This being
granted, the otherwise useless superabundance can
become of the highest educational value. That
Dr. Muther's book does not perfectly fulfil such a
programme is but proof that it is well-nigh beyond
the effort of a single person, even if he be a German

After a few chapters of Dr. Muther's summary
you feel that the book, although not an exhaustive
record, is indispensable for one's shelves of reference
and worth careful reading, for its easy narrative,
with constant illustrative examples, makes the task
a pleasure. When studying the growth of modern
painting, as it is here expounded, one is conscious
that the caprice of personality falls into part of the

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