CHINESE AND ORIENTAL ART by Michael Batterberry


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It's easy to be dazzled by the apparent sumptuousness of this volume but what it amounts to is an aggregation of the arts of China, Korea, Japan and India during successive historical periods, not always worth looking at and never worth learning from. All of the plates are in color, which is not necessarily an advantage: the important (and numerous) Shang bronzes lose their strength and sharpness of detail, appeal only for their patina. In other cases the photograph is a distortion, a critical distortion in the case of the Metropolitan Kuan-yin (Plate 131) where the elegant twist of the torso is lost and the figure looks like a Buckingham Palace guard. Moreover, relative size is ignored throughout. Neither is the selection of examples indicative of artistic development: the disproportionate Kansas City horse should have been followed here, as it was in fact, by such accurately modelled figures as the famous Boston bears: Other notable examples are omitted, a weakness in an introduction to an unfamiliar field, but there is a more fundamental failure: the author makes only occasional and cursory distinction between greater and lesser works and periods, and his characterizations are facile when they're not false (T'ang art, marked by clear articulation of form, is here simply ""opulent and elegant,"" and there are other lapses). In short, the considerable section on Chinese art offers only a superficial, even spurious acquaintance, and the other briefer sections are no better.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1969
Publisher: McGraw-Hill