Golding, a British painter and teacher, culls from three decades of essays and lectures to provide a personable overview of Europe's early Modernist art. For Golding, ``modern'' refers not to contemporary art, but to Europe's aesthetically strident movements of the early 20th century: Fauvism, Cubism, Suprematism, Surrealism, etc. An accomplished painter and teacher (at the Courtauld Institute in London), Golding writes in a chatty and effusive fan's manner, adding only subtle tweaks to the existing historical record, not trendy revisionism. These essays, which first ran in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere, are nonetheless marked by their cogent and specific art-historical insights. Writers Guillaume Apollinaire and AndrÇ Breton, for example, are shown to have had concrete influence on the artists they knew. Throughout, French art is celebrated. Courbet, Golding states, ``had the ability to handle paint as if he were touching human flesh.'' In the canvases of Matisse the author senses ``a euphoric and paradisiac air.'' Picasso and Gris are analyzed as co-developers of the language of Cubism—``cool, lucid and balanced.'' A major section is devoted to Duchamp's The Large Glass, a Dada masterwork that acts as a paradigm for the collective French Modernist tradition. In a postscript interview with philosopher Richard Wollheim, Golding talks about his own delicate concerns as a painter. Overall, a caring and tender appreciation of the early great figures of Modernism summoned with scrupulous scholarship.
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