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Review

Author(s): George Heard Hamilton


Review by: George Heard Hamilton
Source: College Art Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Autumn, 1949), pp. 87-89
Published by: College Art Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/773100
Accessed: 10-11-2015 07:13 UTC

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BOOK

REVIEWS

art fall, in Berenson'sanalysis,into two


categories-decoration and representation. Tactile values and movementare
the two principal attributesof decoration-proportion, arrangement, space
composition,and even color being lesser
considerations.It is largely because of
inadequatetactile values, for example,
that most abstract art cannot stand
Berenson's test, and he condemns it
without mercy. Even if a work of art
has the requisitetactilevaluesand movement, it may fail as illustration.Ideated
identificationwith it cannot be lifeenhancing if, for example, the representation awakensa feeling of disgust;
the effectis then quite the opposite,lifediminishing.
With these requirementsas a touchstone, the critic can recognize among
the remains of all ages and all places
the productionsthat have most value
for our civilization, and the art historian can classify them and chart their
fluctuatingappeal to successivegenerations. He can study,too, the development
of styles and the influenceof one upon
another,always centeringhis attention,
if he be wise, upon those currentsthat
have contributed most richly to our
western civilization.
Perhapsthe most subtle influence of
art, the author points out, is upon our
vision of nature.Even people who think
themselvesignorantof art see the human
form according to the canons formulated by artists and fashion designers;
and we tend to see hill and dale, tree
and flower in the patternsfurnishedus
by art. Finally, if our associationwith
art is sufficientlyclose, we may hope
to become our own artists, so that we
"see in any given object, say a flower,
a tree, an animal-a quality of art that
no work of art representingthe same
object rivals."
Berenson'sbook is not addressedto
any one class of readers.His definitions
and explanationsare clear and simple;
yet there is never a hint of condescension. It is merely that the matter is so

87

clear and precise in his own mind that


simple language most naturally expresses it. And then what a wealth of
literature, mythology and history is
stored in his memory, to yield at any
momentthe most illuminatinganalogy!
What could be more apt than his descriptionof form as "like a robe thrown
aroundshapes,not a consumingone like
the mantleof Nessus but a vivifyingone
like the robe of Isis, provided you do
not lift it; for in art appearanceis the
only reality."The book is most welcome,
the reader will feel throughout, not
only for the light it casts on problems
of aesthetics and history but also for
the view it gives us of the "House of
Life" built for himself by one of the
most cultivatedmen of our age.
FERNRUSK SHAPLEY
National Gallery of Art
SAMUEL HAzzARD CROSS, Mediaeval
Russian Churches, edited by Kenneth

John Conant,95 p., 114 ill. + map.


CambridgeIMass.), 1949, The Mediaeval Academy of America. $7.50.
For the analysis of problemsin Russian art historysurelywe have the right

to require the most scrupulous regard


for historical accuracy and critical integrity. The truth, at the least, may
help us to reach decisions undistorted by
ignorance and prejudice. In this respect
we have not always been well served
by recent publications in English which,
too frequently compiled in haste from
standard sources, repeat the conventional
summaries of the familiar texts and reproduce the usual monuments with a

dearth of fresh interpretation.In this


connection the state of our present knowledge of Russian art history is reflected
in the few short sentences on Malevich
and Archipenko, whose works are certainly not the most characteristic witnesses to Russian art, which are the only
references to the subject in the recent
History of World Art by Upjohn, Wingert and Mahler. Neither art, history,
nor truth is advanced by such exclusion.

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88

COLLEGE

ART

Therefore it is good to welcome to the


small shelf of books in English on Russian art this brief account of mediaeval
Russian church architecture. Professor
Cross's untimely death in 1946 abruptly
terminated his distinguished career of
teaching and research in Slavic languages and literatures at Harvard. His in.

terest in mediaevalarchitecture,encouraged by his friendship with Professor


Conant, who in his introduction confesses that his own interest in Russian
church architecture was awakened by Dr.
Cross, found public expression in a
series of lectures delivered at Harvard
in 1933. The four lectures, which comprise the text of this volume, follow
the course of the historical development
of Russian architecture from the tenth
through the seventeenth centuries, with
one chapter devoted to each of the regions of Kiev and Chernigov, Novgorod
and Pskov, Vladimir-Suzdal and Moscow. The argument is supported by
114 carefully selected illustrations, many
familiar to the readers of Grabar, Reau
and Alpatov, but with several less common views taken from the more recent works of the Soviet historians
Nekrasov and Zabello. The book inevitably invites comparison with D. R.
Buxton's Russian Mediaeval Architecture,
published in England in 1934. Except
that Buxton continued his work with
"an account of the Transcaucasian styles
and their influence in the West" the
two are comparable in length and number of illustrations. Cross, however, devoted more time and care to establishing
the bases for an understanding of the
historical circumstances which prompted
the development of a peculiarly Russian
architecture. In this respect his first two
chapters are perhaps more valuable than
the last two where the historical background of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries is inferred rather than recounted. Where Buxton attempted to
distinguish the larger developments of
architectural types, Cross analyzed in
more detail the peculiar characteristics

JOURNAL

of individual structures.His position


was well taken since the illustrations,
sometimesa bit gritty from too frequent
re-reproduction,lack the clarityof Buxton's brighter half-tones. But this text
has the advantageof ProfessorConant's
exquisite drawings of his conjectural
restorationsof the churchof the Desyatinnaya in Kiev and of the cathedrals
of St. Sophia in Kiev and Novgorod.
It is worth observing,too, how appropriately the discussion of mediaeval
mural painting is related to the earlier
architectureof Kiev and Novgorod; one
misses the more any reference to the
interestinglater paintingof the Moscow
churchesof the sixteenth century.
One may hope that this clear and
useful book will be so widely read as
to require additional printings. If this
should occur perhaps the editor will
clarify an important problem in the
roofing of mediaevalRussian churches.
The four-slopedroof of the Novgorod
church of the later middle ages is not,
as Cross inadvertentlyimplied (page
36), the original covering. At a later
date it replaced the eight-sloped roof,
itself a simplificationof the first mediaeval roofs which followed, in a succession of curves, the externalsurfacesof
the vaults. The distinctioncan be seen
by comparing the illustrations of St.
Theodore Stratilatesin Novgorod (fig.
36) with those St. Sergiusand St. Basil
in Pskov (figs. 40 and 41). Technologically the substitutionwas assisted and
imposedby the changein the seventeenth
century from malleable lead to rigid
iron sheets, as Cross himself inferred
in his account of the later Moscow
Baroque (p. 97).
Any criticism of Russian art introduces unavoidableproblemsin interpretation.Shall the monumentsbe criticized
for their likenessor unlikenessto Western Europeanarchitecture,with which
the readeris supposedlymore familiar?
Or shall specificcriteriabe advancedfor
the criticismof Russianart in terms of
its own particulardevelopment?These

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BOOK

REVIEWS

questionscannot be answeredhere; the


difficultyof any dogmaticresolutionis
apparent when the multiplicity of exchanges of artistic ideas with Western
Europe is considered.Within the compass of his four lecturesDr. Cross may
well have felt that the specificallyRussian characterof the churcheswas best
conveyedto his audiencesby describing
them in terms of familiar objects.Thus
the statement,"the monumentsof (the
Vladimir-Suzdal)region and epoch represent the Russian variant of Western
EuropeanRomanesquestyle expressedin
white stone and combined with traditional Russo-Byzantinefeatures,"might
be taken to weight the issue, if at all,
in favor of the interpretationof Russian
art as a minor variation of a broader
Europeanmovement.Again, his admirable and succinctformal analysisof the
extravagantchurchof St. Basil in Moscow is introducedby the descriptionof
the effect of the church as "neurasthenic," an adjectivewhich needs more
extended elucidation of the historical
conditionsof the sixteenthcenturythan
can be inferredfrom an anecdote.
Professor Conant has wisely brought
the bibliographyup to date by including
not only Buxton's work but also the
interesting discussions by the Soviet
historians Nekrasov, Voronin and Zabello. It would have been interestingto
have had their attitudestowardthe same
material summarizedin a note, especially the results of Voronin'sexcavations
and restorations at Bogolyubovo and
Suzdal. Since Professor Conant's modesty preventedhim, it is a pleasurefor
this reviewerto add to the bibliography
Conant's "Novgorod, Constantinople,
and Kiev in Old RussianChurchArchitecture" (The Slavonic and East Euro-

pean Review, May 1944), and his and


Dr. Cross's "EarliestMediaeval Churches of Kiev" (Speculum, October,
1936), so importantfor their analysis
of the monuments and the texts in
conjunctionwith the work of the Ukranian historian H. V. Morgilevski.With

89

these articles and the present volume


Cross and Conant have equipped the
Americanstudentwith admirableinstruments with which to commence his
studies of this significant and unduly
neglectedperiod of architecturalhistory.
GEORGEHEARDHAMILTON
Yale University
EDMUND AND JULES DE GONCOURT,
French Eighteenth Century Painters:
Watteau, Boucher, Chardin, LaTour,
Greuze, Fragonard, xvi + 318 p., 104

pl. (4 in color). New York, 1949,


Oxford University Press (Phaidon).
$2.50.
Six of the dozen or so essays that
make up the Goncourts' Art of the
Eighteenth Century are printed here, in

a translationby Robin Ironside. Notes


identifying the more obscure persons
mentioned have been added, properly
distinguished from the authors' own
notes. Some of the latter are omitted,
as well as the lists of engravedworks
and exhibitions,and althoughwe must
regret this in principle, little harm is
done in this case. Actually, few of the
notes are missing, and the general
reader or student will hardly need the
lists. A group of illustrations,selected
by Ludwig Goldscheider,is bound in
at the back,and to him is due also the
design of the book. The format is the
small handy size used before in this
series; the text is nicely printed; and
the book is decoratedwith motifs selected from eighteenth century books,
which, printed in chocolate color on
an attractiveyellow cloth, make a very
pretty little volume--not inappropriate
to one of the most dazzlingproductions
of the older criticism.The Goncourts,
as creative writers, members of the
group of realistic or naturalisticnovelists of the latter nineteenth century,
took an active part in developing the
prose style of the time towardrichness,
color, accuracyof expression, particularly of physicaland visual qualities,of
things seen; active collectors,they were

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