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96 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY IN TARDY RECOGNITION: A HISTORY OF ENGLISH ART" G. S. VICKERS The conviction of Englishmen that their art may not be great but that it is their own has hitherto operated to prevent any searching study of it. For generations they have been faced with the dilemma of a cultivated taste for a Gothic ideal largely French and their own romantic feelings for their native medieval art. Foreign scholars have been wondering in print at this combination of modesty and possessiveness for some years: the "Oxford History of English Art" has at last provided the occasion to remedy the defect. The spacious plan of eleven volumes, the nearly official sponsorship of the Oxford Press, and the capable editing of T. S. R. Boase are at least partial guarantees of a success which is to be measured, as the editor sensibly concludes, if the series "leaves the subject in a more consistent form, better related to our history as a whole, the ground better prepared for the researches of the future." English Art, 1307-1461 is the fifth volume in the "History," but the first to appear. As the dates of the title suggest, the divisions chosen are of periods of general history; and it is into this framework of political and social development that the art of architecture, sculpture, and painting and all the allied crafts are fitted in Miss Evans's book. The author has had considerable experience in this type of comprehensive work, and it is as well, for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, particularly the fourteenth, provide in all European art save that of Italy a mass of data still but partly documented and poorly understood. There may be other periods equally obscure in the history of English art, but none are as encumbered with monuments as the fourteenth century. Miss Evans has adopted a threefold structure to guide her through her task-the time-honoured categories of English Gothic architecture, hence chapters on the Decorated style and the Perpendicular style; the great historical events and movements, Art after the Black Death, the Towns and Villages; and finally, and only occasionally, the reigns of kings who as personalities impressed their mark on English life and English art. Of the three systems, the first was originally limited to architecture and Miss Evans has made only fitful application of its definitions to the other arts, as when she labels the manuscripts of the first quarter of the fourteenth century Decorative. The second is *English Art, 1307-1461. By J OAN EVANS. The Oxford History of English Art, edited by T. S. R. BOASE. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press [Toronto : Oxford]. 1949. Pp. xxiv, 272, 96 plates. ($7.50) Religious Art from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century. By EMILE MALE. New York: Pantheon. 1949. Pp. 208) 48 plates. ($4.50) REVIEWS 97 apparently the more congenial to her and serves admirably to contain and organize the sections on Chantries and Colleges and that on Towns and Villages. The third system, that by the reigns of monarchs, is the most provocative and the most dangerous. Even if it were a partial truth only, the evidence of the influence of a king and his court would argue a centralizing and controlling role for Westminster much greater than that of any other contemporary royal court of Europe. It may be that Miss Evans has been led to this position by the recent writings of Maurice Hastings on St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster and J. H. Harvey's rather enthusiastic claims for the Plantagenet kings as patrons of art. It is in pursuance of this last method that she attempts to define the prevailing temper of each change as a reflection of the mood of the monarch and the conduct of his government and court. So the sombre majesty of the late years of Edward I is succeeded by the frivolous lightness of the court of Edward II and it by the chivalric brilliance of the first half of Edward Ill's reign. The method is not pushed to a travesty of history, however, and the excesses of J. H. Harvey's recent volumes on the same...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 96-100
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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