4 JANUARY 1930, Page 30

Mostly Italian

An Introduction to Italian Painting. By Sir Charles Holmes. With forty plates. (Cassell. 10s. 6d.) The Italian Masters : a Survey and a Guide. By Horace

BOTH Sir Charles Holmes and Mr. Shipp associate their volumes with the Italian Exhibition in Burlington House, and both in doing so have had the same public in mind. It is for the untrained visitor, the beginner in the galleries, that they write. Mr. Shipp modestly represents himself as such an one, who has compiled this survey and guide for his own better equip- ment of knowledge. He has imagined himself thrust into the complexity of the present Royal Academy rooms, and stranded for lack of charts through their maze: "Neither-historian

nor theologian, politician nor scientist," he desired and required some simple instruction as to the relation of these Italian painters with the movements of thought in their times, in order to quicken the rapture to be derived from their works, and give it the support of basic fact. Failing to find it in existing books, he has fashioned this one for himself which adequately supplies his assumed needs. With the full weight of his authority as an expert, again, Sir Charles Holmes has achieved no less excellently, if a little differently, the stand- point of the unlearned. His volume essays nothing novel, and avoiding complicated gradations presents with admirable clarity, and a broad perception and statement of its pro- gressive stages, the main lines of Italian painting, which is also Mr. Shipp's theme.

By comparing the Indexes of the two volumes you can see how far both authors have covered the same ground, and each adopts a similar plan of survey even to the use of different sized capitals for the names of major and minor figures. Apart from its greater assurance of authority, recognized in many passages of prescient summary, Sir Charles Holmes's is the more comprehensive, and therein is better proportioned. Mr. Shipp lingers among the Primitives, and at the other end of his story huddles the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into an Epilogue of four pages in which Tiepolo and Canaletto go unmentioned. Even Moretto and Moroni of the sixteenth century are names absent from his volume. Sir Charles's survey runs from Cimabue to Guardi, and even takes in Segantini, and he adjusts his comment throughout by a rigorous criterion of values. He justifies a relative brevity about primitive painting when he says : "The specialist, the collector, or the historian will naturally see in it the reflection of the greatness from which it is derived, or to which it leads up. The beginner must be careful that he does not mistake that reflection for a reality. He will, there- fore, be wise to make acquaintance with the central figures and the central period of Italian art, before he devotes muCh time either ta its old age or to its extreme infancy." His criticism also, as was to be expected, has a stricter regard to painting conditions, more to the form of pictures and less to their content, than has Mr. Shipp's, yet he does not abstain from general excursions, as when he writes of Moroni : He is commonly underestimated ; perhaps because he makes no open appeal, either to our admiration, our reverence, our curiosity, or our pity—except in so far as all humanity, when stripped of its trappings, looks just a little pitiful. But both books satisfactorily fulfil their special purpose, and both are significantly illustrated, Mr. Shipp's plates anticipating some examples contributed by Italy to the present Exhibition.

Mr. Short also, incidentally, but yet in much detail, goes over this ground of Italian painting, and his comments on the greater names, and some less great as well,-are not less useful and suggestive for the lay reader because they are tinged with the general idea running through the whole scheme of his volume. That is to present pictorial art and its practitioners, in all stages of its history from the earliest cave drawings to the contents of to-day's shows, in relation to the time-spirit. It is a heroic task, even given 450 pages for its accomplishment. So comprehensive an aim inevitably involves some sacrifice of proportion, shown especially in the section of the moderns, among whom " Time " has not yet shaken out reputations. But even there Mr. Short pursues his inquiry with consistency of intention, backed by an always individual judgment, while his industry in equipping himself to compile so excellently informative a volume—one copiously and well illustrated also —is beyond praise. It, too, can be commended as useful reading for the visitor to Burlington House.