24 JANUARY 1936, Page 34


By W. R. Agard

Functionalist tendencies carried to their extreme point have almost expelled sculpture from 'architecture altogether, leaving structure in a figleafless nakedness. In The New Architectural Sculpture (Humphrey Milford, 10s. 6d.) Mr. Agard puts in a plea for a return to dress of some sort, not to the puffed shoulders and bustles. of Victorian days, but to a sensible kind of dress which shall allow the underlying forms to be visible and not disturb the proper functioning of the body which they ornament. That is to say sculpture c•an be used to decorate architecture, provided it is prepared to make the necesssary sacrifices and fit in with- the com- pelling conditions of architecture. This is all Terfectly good in theory, and Mr. Agard establishes a thesis with which almost everyone will sympathise, though his ideas are sometimes clouded by vague phraseology. But, when it conies to showing examples of what has actually been achieved in this way in recent architecture, the result is rather disappointing. By way of compensation, however, it would look as though the best of such work is being done in England. To judge by the 42 plates in this book, no one has much improved on Bourdelle's decorations on the Theatre des Champs-Elysées, but Epstein and Gill have at any rate developed the genre and kept it ;fresh. Mr.- Agard seems to be surprised that church decoration, once so progressive, is now so conservative. It would seem more reasonable to be surprised to find that the church, once so progressive now so conservative, could still produce anything as lively as the church at Eltham or the sculptures at Obermenzing.