A History of Gothic Art in England

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In the vast field of archæology, which opens widely before the historian of Gothic Art, the author admits his many disabilities, many ignorances, and much of his knowledge to be superficial or second-hand. Still, his aim has been less to tabulate the conclusions of archæology than to exhibit the broad impulses of design as being the vital expressions of English Gothic; and for this purpose he has gone rather to the buildings themselves than to the experts of archæological detail. In two points only has he attempted something more than generalization: First, in the distinction of the English style, as a true line of Gothic creation, native in its origin and in its progress, and separate by its qualities from the continental styles; Secondly, as to the existence in the English art of local schools and centres of craft, which made distinct sub-styles in their districts. His survey of the cathedrals and most of the monastic remains and larger parish churches of England has given him opinions which, on the one hand, are at variance with the assertion of the great French architecture being the mother of all the Gothics, sending her children into all the countries of north-west Europe; and, on the other, with the idea of a central Masonic Guild, whose organization monopolized the arts of design for all the centuries of mediæval church-building. He has found rather national and local variation than European solidarity in Gothic, and would wish to point to the constant English tradition as proof, since the Conquest, of a native craftsmanship, free alike from continental importation and Masonic dictation. His survey of English examples has, however, brought him face to face with the obliterations of this national and local history in our art that have come from the methods of the Gothic Revival during the last sixty years. Very often it has been necessary to correct present-day appearances by the evidence of prints and drawings made before "restoration." Among such he must express his especial indebtedness to the collections of measured and other drawings of architectural students, published in the sketch-books of the Architectural Association, and in those which bear the name of Spring Gardens and John of Gaunt.

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