THIS book is an introduction to a vast subject which has been neglected far too long. It is written by a firm believer in artistic patriotism. Cosmopolitanism has never grown, and probably will never grow, from the core of a nation, and as our country is exceedingly gifted there is no need for her to draw the waters of art from foreign wells and springs.
Through sixty years and more many and varied attempts have been made by artists and critics to impose foreign ideas and styles on their own country, and now the British people, retaliating, decline to invest money in the ever-changing tides of art's wayward fashions. Sir Joseph Duveen's letter to the Prime Minister has caused a great deal of public talk, and some writers in a hurry have accused our country of being inartistic, though through several centuries she has collected more works of art than any other nation in Europe. Foreign artists by the score have sought her patronage, seldom in vain, and, misled by cosmopolitan ideas, she has shown no continuity of hearty encouragement to her own native art-workers.
But as every positive action invites an equal and opposite reaction, there have been periodical revolts against foreign fashions in British painting, sculpture, and architecture. The facts noted by Sir Joseph Duveen mark one of these revolts, and draw attention to the need of artistic patriotism. How can a nation's Life and Art be united, when artists and their critics wish to see, and feel and think as foreigners?
These matters are worth debating, and I have tried in this book to review them in a sufficient number of phases to illustrate my thesis.