Baroque—Is It Too Pagan
Or Are We Moderns Too Puritanical ?
German Baroque Sculpture. By Sacheverell Sitwell and Antony Ayscough. (Duckworth, 21s.) Reviewed by JOAN MORRIS, S.P.
The importance of the German artist's role in the baroque period has been very largely overlooked in England; Sacheverell Sitwell fills up a lacuna in our art publications by bringing forward this treatise on German baroque sculpture. He gives us an historical introduction to the chief architects and sculptors in the towns of Southern Germany and Austria.
The major part of the book consists of a splendid collection of illustrations, beautifully reproduced, selected and photographed by Antony Ayscough, with interesting bibliographical notes by Nikolaus Pevsner. In the choice of examples, the best known have not been given, as the 'intention of the book is not to form a manuel of baroque but to throw light on hitherto less known works, giving rather the details than the whole composition. This is all to the advantage to the presentation of baroque, which in the general effect of overloaded decoration sometimes repels, whereas taken piece by piece reveals unsuspected qualities.
The book is written for the connoisseur and does not touch upon practical questions which would interest the Catholic artist such as whether the baroque is a form of religious expression to be imitated today. But the notes provide some interesting material from that point of view: " Only in rare cases did the adist evolve their own programmes. This was usually done by theologians or, for secular allegories, by some courtier expert on the mysteries of Iconology. Books were available on this eminently characteristic baroque subject, the most famous being Cesare Rim's Iconology."
Baroque art errs in being too pagan in spirit; still there is no doubt that German baroque artists did produce some very fine work. Much sacred art of our time errs in the other direction by being too puritanical, which is no lesser a' heresy and is inimical to visual expression almost to its extinction.