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The Light Of Distant Skies

May 2018

by James Thomas Flexner. Harcourt, Brace & Company. 306 pp. $10.

Mr. Flexner, who has the gift of making art and artists spring to life in his writing, has now produced the second in a projected many-volume history of American painting. First Flowers of Our Wilderness (1947) dealt with the beginnings, while the new book covers the Revolutionary period and its aftermath, the years to 1835, when the headquarters of American art shifted to England, following Copley, Stuart and Trumbull to what seemed more hospitable and appreciative shores. West, Peale, Morse, Vanderlyn, Allston and others are subjects of well developed studies in what is certainly an important book. The only flaw is that none of the hundred plates in the book is in color—which one might reasonably expect in a work on painting. There was a day, only a few years ago, when four-color engravings might be made for less than a prince’s ransom.