Page 6, 31st May 1940

31st May 1940
Page 6
Page 6, 31st May 1940 — ART WITHOUT THE UNITY OF VISION OF CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY
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ART WITHOUT THE UNITY OF VISION OF CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY

The Greater English Church. By Harry Batsford and Charles Fry. (Batsford, 73. 6d.) Holy Images. By Edwyn Bevan. (George Allen and Unwin, 7s. ed.) Byzantine Art in Ron mania. By Marcu Beza. (Batsford, 21s.) The Life of a Painter. By Sir John Lavery. (Cassell, 18s.) Reviewed by JOAN MORRIS.

THERE are many different kinds of art books published ; they may be historical and archeological, philosophical, biographical or purely practical and technical. The greater number of art books brought out in England to-day seem to be historical. It is the fashion for them to be written in a very cut and dried style. Objectivity is essential, but, never theless there must be a unity of vision. That this is often missing is no doubt due to a lack of true perspective of life in general, resulting from a non-Christian philosophy.

Nearly every art publication is tainted in a more or less degree with nonChristian thought, even though not intentionally biased. The more one reads the more one realises the importance of having Catholic publishers of art.

AA WELL illustrated yet inexpensive book on the cathedrals of England was much called for, and this book, The Greater English Church, has filled that need.

Chapters III, IV and V, entitled " How It Was Planned," " How It Was Designed," a n d " How It Was Furnished," give a lot of information in a small space. Although the material has been summarised nothing has been skipped, and one could not ask for a more competent survey from the technical point of view.

Chapter I could well have been put as an appendix; it is an account of how the money was raised for the building. It is a point of considerable interest, but it does not come first. The conception and desire of having a place of worship is prior to any financial question, and should have been given the first place.

Instead a rather lugubrious light is thrown over the whole subject by the recording of unedifying means by which money was collected. The relics of saints are looked upon as mere baits arranged by the clergy to encourage, pilgrims to give alms, and the inevitable indulgence money is given prominence. Even if these things were sometimes profited by unjustly they do not help to explain from what source of inspiration these marvellous constructions were brought into being.

Chapter II, " How It Was Used," would have made a better Introductory chapter. But here again the writers Speak of the ceremonies of the Church as a dead letter—something that still can be found on the Continent in places. Reading this book as I did during Easter week, just after having followed fully all the Holy Week ceremonies, it was rather funny to see them alluded to as something altogether-antique and just picturesque and as no longer functioning in England at all.

THE book Hoty Images consists of four lectures given at the University of Edinburgh. It is not, strictly speaking, a book on art, but is a treatise on the use of carved and painted images in religion. It starts by a study of image worship in the pagan world and then passes to the Iconoclast question and to the later Protestant point of view. It is on the

whole an unbiased account, and the Catholic Church has not an unfair treatment. In the last lecture Bevan admits that it would be easier for the Protestant case if the handkerchief brought from the body of St. Paul and the shadow of St. Peter did not exist in the gospels.

He then brings forward a completely new argument against sacred images; that is, he grants the use as permissible but holds them unhelpful to devotion, and still further, even deterrent. He does not want to see Christ depicted unless he can nave the true physical and photographic likeness. He finds the artist's fancy misleading.

It is the artist rather than the theologian who can best answer that point. It is, in fact, a misconception of art itself. Edwyn Bevan looks upon art as of purely photographic value dealing only with the more material aspect of Christ. But art has not the function of a photograph. Art is the significant form of an intellectual concept Therefore when we represent Christ as Christ the King it is His Kingship, not His physical appearance, that we are aiming at. It is the confusion of art with photography that has led Bevan to put forward this argument, and that it can be seriously considered at all only shows how pictorial art has fallen into the status of a forgotten lenguage.

THE value of Byzantine Art in Roumania lies in the splendid reproductions of Roumanian Byzantine art hitherto unpublished. They have been taken from works in various collections, chiefly from the Holy Sepulchre Treasury at Jerusalem and from the Sinai Monastery. There are twenty-two plates in colour and forty nine in monochrome printed on the finest of art papers. Among the most Interesting of the reproductions are the liturgical fans made at the Zographou Monastery of Mount Athos in 1488.

The foreword is written by the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, and the aim of the book le to attain a rapprochement between the Anglican and Roumanian Churches through the understanding of each other's art, worship and devotion. If it is true as reported that the Roumanian Church is possibly returning to union with the Holy See it may be hoped that this book will also constitute a stepping stone for Anglicans in the same direction.

I HAD built my house upon sand ";

these are the concluding words of Sir John Lavery to his autobiography. One is inclined to agree. He does not paint himself in glowing colours; they are indeed hard : he succeeds in making one dislike him pretty heartily at the start. From the time he meets Lady Lavery the whole tone alters; she must have had a very refining effect upon him. The chapter on " Ireland and the Treaty," showing the work that Lady Lavery and he did in trying to bring about the reunion of Northern and Southern Ireland, is among the most interesting.

Lavery terms himself a " Belfast Catholic," and as he combined the Catholicism of the South with the blood of the North, it was Lady Lavery's hope that he might be effective in uniting the two opposing parties. One gets a lot of history in autobiographies that one never gets in history books. They did not succeed in their project. Lavery was not a great lover of Belfast, nor was

he a keen Catholic. By some of the irrelevant remarks on religion in the book, one would say that Lavery had not ever studied the question much since childhood.

From an artist's point of view there are many interesting details in Lavery's acquaintance with well-known painters such as Whistler, Rodin and many others. His chapter on " Some of My Sitters " is amusing, and every portrait painter has had similar experiences. His paintings are clever and slick, but like the artist himself they lack profundity. He never found the "rock" on which to build.




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