Art: The Enduring Smile

One of the difficulties that the Western eye has with the ancient Buddhist art of South Asia is its apparent sameness. With Buddha, as with the Cheshire cat, the form recedes from us but the smile remains. That august smile of calm and benediction, traced on a thousand metal faces, is one of the obsessive presences of Buddhist sculpture, and has given rise to some of André Malraux's most excited dithyrambs on the absolute.

The sense of monotony, however, is more a question of culture than of nature. No doubt the differences between one constructivist painting and another would seem just...

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