The Significance of the Fine Arts

published under the auspices of the American Institute of Architects. Boston: Marshall Jones Co. 1923. 8vo. Illustrated. xxix+483 pp. $3.50 (Special edition $7.50).
THE Committee on Education of the American Institute of Architects, as part of the Institute’s ‘campaign for a better public understanding and appreciation of the Fine Arts,’ has caused this book to be written for ‘the Layman’ by ten wellknown architects and artists. The titles of the ten essays and their writers are: Classical Architecture, by C. Howard Walker; The Architecture of the Middle Ages, by Ralph Adams Cram; The Renaissance, by H. van Buren Magonigle; Modern Architecture, by Paul G. Cret; Sculpture, by Lorado Taft; Painting, by Bryson Burroughs; Landscape Design, by F. L. Olmsted; City-Planning, by Edward H. Bennett; The Industrial Arts, by Huger Elliott; and Music, by Thomas Whitney Surette. They occupy less than five hundred pages.
As this is one of the very few books of its kind and period that future historians of taste will find it necessary to consult, it is undoubtedly one of the most important books on art that has appeared in this country in a long time. The space allotted to each of the writers is so small and the ground to be covered by him so great, that taken together their essays constitute a body of opinions rather than a reasoned relation of facts about the several arts. For the true beginner it may be doubted whether it will have much value, but for the advanced student who has already enough acquaintance with the achievement of the past to think seriously about the performance of to-day it will prove not only interesting but extremely provocative of thought. Better than any other book with which the reviewer is acquainted, it represents and explains the conservative American taste of the present moment.
A critic of literary style or a student of the history of art would be amply justified in saying that the several papers vary greatly in merit and might be tempted to express his opinion about them severally, but auy such criticism would be aside from the point because each essay, and none so much as those dealing with things and problems which are now most alive, is a remarkably close reflection of our contemporary endeavor in the subject with which it deals. The verbose and poorly written essays, and there are several of them, adequately represent in word and thought the American attitude toward those arts in which modern American achievement is weakest or with which it has least to do; a closely written and carefully thought out account deals with the particular art in which popular taste is most academic; and the easy witty and convincing statement is that about the one art in which competent judges believe us to be most successful. Looked at in this way even the poorest of these essays is as noteworthy as the best of them, its very defects an integral part of its value and its interest.
The reviewer’s only regret is that Mr. Paul Cret’s brilliant paper on modern architecture does not open the book, as it supplies a key to the understanding of most of the others, and that it is not followed by Mr. Burroughs’s excellent résumé of the history of painting, for had the volume been arranged in this way its great significance would have been more immediately apparent to the reader.
WILLIAM M. IVINS, JR.