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A History of art, by H.B. Cotterill

A History of art, by H.B. Cotterill


THE scheme of this volume differs from that of its predecessor in so far as each Part deals with a single nation, whereas in the former volume the subject was divided not so much according to nations as to eras, such as the pre-Hellenic, Hellenic, Hellenistic, Roman, Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic.

The reason will be apparent if one remembers that in the first volume the time covered was more than four thousand years, and that during those forty centuries one people succeeded another as a great world-power, whereas the period here treated is only about four centuries, and by the beginning of this period the chief nations of Europe, although all more or less directly inheritors of the same Hellenic art, had begun to develop distinct characteristics, artistic as well as political.

It is true that during these four centuries several waves of influence, of which that of the Italian Renaissance was perhaps the most important, spread over the greater part of Europe; but they reached the various nations by no means simultaneously, and they gave rise in each to varieties of art more diverse than any that arose in the Hellenic, the Roman, the Byzantine, or even the Gothic era. It also seemed advisable to adopt in this volume a national classification in order to differentiate as distinctly as possible the multitudinous artists whom one is bound to mention far more multitudinous than are the ancient and medieval artists whose names have been handed down to us.

In this connexion I should perhaps ask my readers to remember that when I undertook to trace the course of art from its early beginnings down to modern days I felt obliged to select only a certain number of great and characteristic specimens of architecture, painting, and sculpture, and to relate the lives of their makers only so far as these help us to appreciate more fully their works. There are, of course, not a few works of art that under such conditions a writer might select without any danger of contradiction, but he must be prepared to find that some of his inclusions and omissions do not win universal approval.

Having found it impossible, in consequence of ill health, to complete this volume for publication within the time anticipated, I availed myself of the friendly and efficient aid of Mr Stewart Dick, one of the official lecturers at the National Gallery, London, who has supplied the text for Part VII and is responsible for the chapters on Oriental art with which the volume concludes. As we have worked quite independently it is possible that slight differences of opinion on points of minor importance may exist.

H. B. C.
December 1923


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