By IRIS CONLAY
THE ML ANIORPHOSIS OF THE GODS, by Andre Malraux (Seeker & Warburg. £7 I)s.).
REM BRANDT: paintings, drawings and etchinis, by H. Focillon & L. Goldscheider (Phaidon, 47s. 6d.).
MODERN PAINTING FROM MANET TO MONDRIAN, by J. E. Muller (Methuen, 84s.).
SOME art books should be regarded as picture books with text as captions; others as a text illustrated by pictures.
Andre Malraux's " Metamorphosis " is a book with pictures, not a picture book, although the superb quality, diversity and number of the illustrations tempts any reader to browse over the picture pages instead of concentrating on the text. And to get home with this book concentration is the first necessity.
lts thought may he involved poetic and intuitive thought often is but its translator had made the heaviest possible going of it.
THE central theme, I think, can be expressed simply (hut it never is). The reader is asked to plough through nearly 400 pages of excessively difficult syntax, playing a kind of "hunt the slipper" with meaning all the way, to arrive lacerated and bruised with the effort of extricating this truth-how man in his art lost sight of the things of eternity when he discovered the the things in his own imagination.
Malraux's work is a long description of the flow and ebb of sacred art from the beginning of time; from the east as well as from the west, up to the moment in time when the secular took over from the sacred which he puts in the 15th century when Botticelli's Venus "opened up a domain hitherto unknown to Christian art: that of the Unreal". The moment
when "for the first time a Christian artist dared to pit the images of his dreams against those of the world Of God".
Just how important Malraux's work is only time will tell. He speaks with the voice of his period. and what will the things he says now look like to another generation?
REMBRANDT has never lacked appreciative writers. This latest book of reproductions includes the texts of his three earliest biographers so that it may well claim to give the reader all that is known fur certain about the artist.
But beyond the facts is the feeling. and here Henri Focillon, in an introduction that gives us far more than the biographers, ignites such a flame that we who read him and warm our feeble imagination at his fire will never again look upon a
work of Rembrandt without being conscious of a deeper insight into the profundity of the artist's mind because of what we have read. For Focillon has given us the key to Rembrandt's world where "everything in nature is supernatural and all appearance is illusion".
Students in the early stages of their studies could not have a better guide than this welldocumented volume with its reproductions grouped to show whole pictures and details together. An imaginative piece of book production in the best Phaidon tradition.
THE writer of the text of "Modern Painting" points out that in the last fifty years art appears to have changed more swiftly than ever before and become more personal. more individualistic, and therefore more private and more difficult.
Without delving too deeply into the theories behind the movements of modern painting the writer tries to give a simple explanation of the directions artists have taken in our time, and his words are hacked up by more than a hundred well-chosen coloured reproductions. Not a profound, nor an important hook, but sound enough and most presentable to look at,